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Yakitori Zai

has Yakitori Zai officially opened yet? If so, does anyone have any reports?

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  1. I don't think it has yet. I thought it could be open by this week or next, but I guess it's not quite ready.

    1. As I reported earlier on the Openings/Closings thread, I walked by last Saturday night and saw them doing what looked to be a friends and family evening.


      1. Anyone seen a menu yet? It is not posted on their website yet.
        I am sincerely hoping that there will be many grilled nasty bits on sticks. I'm tired of driving to New York just to get good Yakitori.....

        1. I have not seen a menu, but I have seen the cooks practicing for hours every night lately.


          1. Being a frequent traveler to Japan I am really hoping this place is authentic and not just an Americanized version of yakitori which usually ends up being just chicken breast or thighs with teriayaki sauce. As stated by Cork, I too hope there are some "nasty bits" too which make for a truely memorbale dining experience.

            17 Replies
                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  Yep: hearts, guts, gizzards, cartilage, tail meat, skin. I'll be surprised if they offer a lot of that, but you never know!


                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    I asked the guy who looked like he was the owner when I "accidentally" popped in last week and he told me that it's gonna be "very authentic." Hopefully this translates to nasty bits. I recently had chicken knee cartilage yakitori... Was so good.

                    Last week he said he was aiming to open sometime this week.

                    1. re: Mike5966

                      Ok, now you have piqued my curiosity - what about that is good exactly?
                      It sounds like I would be chewing and chewing and chewing....

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                        Ever had chicken feet at dim sum? Lots of cartilage, not super-chewy. Chicken tail is nice and fatty. Hearts you may have tried at a churrascaria: tasty in a slightly liverish way. Ditto gizzards, which I most recently had at Casa B.

                        Skin is easy, right? Chicken skin teriyaki is all over Chinatown (had some lovely skewers of it at Dumpling Cafe recently); see also: Buffalo wings. I have not tried chicken intestines yet.

                        Some nice photos here: http://shizuokagourmet.com/2009/08/28... Don't forget chicken meatballs and livers! Not hard to imagine chasing these with some icy lager or sake.


                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                          Knee cartilage is chewy in a good way. You definitely don't have to chew for ages. I'd tried it in a place called Nojo in San Francisco.

                        2. re: Mike5966

                          What did you ask? If it was going to be authentic?

                          1. re: Gabatta

                            I just asked him when they were opening. We ended up chatting about yakitori in general when he volunteered the line about his plans to make Zai authentic on his own.

                            1. re: Mike5966

                              Cool. Looking forward to checking it out.

                      2. re: Bob Dobalina

                        If you want to get really down with it, neck skin is preferable to other skin. One of my favorite parts is the oyster, or the thigh meat which is a that little ball of meat you glide your hand against every time you reach into suit pant pockets. Held together with some skin, it is tasty like leg, but even softer than correctly cooked breast. Best of both worlds, especially with some crispy skin.

                        If they don't get in whole chickens and butcher themselves, it just won't be worth it for me, personally. I'm sure they won't, due to cost. It is likely that enough clamoring from CH'ers for all parts of the chicken to be used will be listened to.

                        1. re: tatsu

                          The cultural classes listed on their website do inspire some confidence that they have a serious appreciation for the art and craft. And in that neighbourhood, perhaps they can still cover their margins while importing high-quality Jidori birds, binchotan, and a lifelong yakitori master (hey we'll buy a $20 taco in that nabe!). But, like ramen, everybody makes it, few actually make it well. Expectations, adjusted. Optimism, cautious.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Heh. Looks I should've consulted the El Centro menu first. I may have been off 4-fold, but those tacos are worth 4-fold less than what they are ! I keed. Sorta. They should charge negative 5 dollars.

                            2. re: Nab

                              Can anyone who has seen them test grilling actually confirm they got approval to use charcoal? That hasn't been reported and while Coppa's wood oven gives me hope, solid fuels in Boston are very rare. While you are at it Nab, instead of importing why don't they raise the birds and make their own charcoal... right in the South End. :-)

                              I do think there is a balance between assuming they will grill chicken breast on a stick and super-high chowhound expectations of focusing on the most obscure of chicken bits. While they aren't necessarily "chewy," some of the other bits take a fair amount of skill and good product to do right particularly if you are only using dry heat and knife skills (eg MC Slim JB's gizzards weren't likely done over charcoal, nor are Chinatown chicken feet). I hope they start off with what they do well and sell enough to keep locals coming back, while doing other bits and doing them well for us food geeks.

                              Update: And please stay open late!

                              1. re: Nab

                                Serious question: I assume as with most meats, chicken is best medium rare, which would not be so bio-problematic in Japan where chickens are raised very differently than the US. (the natural e.Coli infection rate for chickens is around 6%, whereas due to stack-farming, in the US the rate is around 85%.)

                                But unless the chicken is imported at ridiculous prices, or incredibly expensively locally sourced, medium rare chicken is unsafe for a US yakitori joint. So I'd assumed I would never find fantastic yakitori in the US.

                                So assuming that at any US yakitori joint, the chicken must be heated to well-done temperatures for safety (165), which is far higher than the termperature at which protein squeezes out all the juices (110).

                                Yet smart people here are expecting a non-dry product. What am I missing?

                                I could imagine pre-cooking the meat sous-vide at 145 and then flashing it over the grill. Given the small size of the pieces, you could pasteurize the meat to the core before it got too mushy. But if that were the case, I assume YZ wouldn't be talking about "authentic" so much, and neither would CH.

                                1. re: enhF94

                                  bump. asking about yakitori in the US.

                        2. I've often said that among Japanese foods that Boston lacks the most are a good Yakitori-ya and a good ramen place. I'm really hoping that the new Yakitori-Zai fills one of the voids. Granted that most Americans are not familiar with the more esoteric offerings of an authentic yakitori-ya but I think there are enough of us around who are to make this place a big hit. I agree with Itaunas that unless they grill over real charcoal it will be a disappoinment.

                          1. I asked a neighbor to pop in and ask. Good news: charcoal! 11pm closing, 11:30p weekends.


                            5 Replies
                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I know Boston tried at one point to limit sleeping out to get tickets for concert events (which sox fans and black friday yahoos obviously do), but I wonder what the South End residents association might think about hounds sleeping out to be the first in line at Yakitori Zai. :-)

                              1. re: itaunas

                                Is it opened yet? I don't wanna have to go to NYC for yakitori again but I will.

                                  1. re: joebloe

                                    I was down in the South End last night and walked by. They still look far from open (Did I hear they already had Friends/Family night?). Signs on the windows looking for staff, and seemed like there was still a decent amount of interior work to do.

                                    1. re: joebloe

                                      I stopped by on Friday night (6/8), thinking they were doing their soft open per intel from Urban Daddy. They told me they expect to be open in 10 days.

                                1. Here's a link to their website, didn't see it posted here, food and drink menus but no prices:


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: steinpilz

                                    they apparently don't have all items on their online menu available yet (such as fish, chicken nanban, ss crab). they are also closed Mondays (their website doesn't specify that yet)

                                  2. I stopped in last night with some friends. At $4-10 a skewer, we had high hopes. They were out of skin (the main reason I wanted to go) and were running low on the other offal offerings. Apparently if you want them, you need to show up very early.

                                    Service was some of the worst I've had even at a new opening. We waited fifteen minutes for water and then for beers. Our waitress didn't know what was offered on the combination. It took another ten minutes for her to check. When we finally ordered, we realized we all had different menus (none were the menu offered online). There was only one beef offering, so we opted for just chicken and vegetables. After we ordered, our server never checked in again. We would've ordered more food, but we weren't given the chance. We couldn't even flag her down for water as she completely disappeared.

                                    The food was decent, but the portions were ridiculously small. The wasabi skewer was dry and flavorless. The Sot-l’y-laisse (thigh oyster) was good, but only came with three pieces for $8. Both the zucchini and eggplant were undercooked and over-miso'ed. I love miso, but all I could taste was salt. We also got the jako salad (fried sardines and tomatoes). The tomatoes were mealy, so I let my hungry brother-in-law eat all but a bite.

                                    I doubt we'll be back. All four of us really wanted to love it as we eat a ton of yakitori in New York and Japan. We spent more than when we go to Yakitori Totto and way more than Yakitori Taisho in NYC and left the South End utterly disappointed. We ended up hitting up Amsterdam Falafel and splitting two regulars and some fries.

                                    7 Replies
                                      1. re: iluvbacon

                                        i wonder what the next place to replace this at this location will be?

                                        1. re: iluvbacon

                                          Thanks for saving me the money. I'll head to NYC this weekend instead.

                                          1. re: iluvbacon

                                            Sorry you had to take one for the team but really appreciate it; i'll stay away. How was Amst.Falafel ? we've not had any reports yet. What toppings did you like?

                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                              I should do another post for it. We loved it (we went two days in a row and my brother-in-law went again for lunch yesterday). It was a bit slow during the dinner rush, but mostly due to people taking their time loading on the toppings. The falafel and fries were fried perfectly. I liked the garlic cream, tzatziki, the two types of cucumber salad, and the spicy parsley (kind of like tabouli but with a serious kick). For the fries, we stuck to the dutch mayo and curry ketchup. My friends are still talking about how great the curry ketchup is. After writing this, I may go back for lunch.

                                              1. re: iluvbacon

                                                Swankalicious started a post for Amsterdam Falafel a couple days ago.

                                            2. re: iluvbacon

                                              Stopped in for a snack. Not being a yakitori aficionado/connoisseur, the finer points of charcoal etc were above my head, but I tried the chicken thigh ($4) and wagyu tataki ($20),both seemed ok although not life changing. I actually enjoyed the chicken karaage (in a crunchy rice batter $12 iirc) and a small simple bowl of ramen soup ($7) more. Service was good.

                                            3. I went to Yakitori Zai last night. The food was good but the portions were insultingly small and the price was absolutely ridiculously high for what you get. I would look forward to going if they quadrupled their portions but I would never want to go again the way they have it now. Unless this place changes their portions sizes or prices, I think they will be gone very very soon.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: unamuno200

                                                Would you mind providing a bit more detail in terms of portion and price, since the menu on the website provides neither?

                                                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                  Most things are priced between $6 to $15. For portions you get one tiny skewer with 3 tiny bites . I was with 2 other people last night. We got about 8 or 9 things and the bill was $100 for a couple of bites of food. We left and ate somewhere else because we thought it would not be possible to be satisfied.

                                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                    chicken skewers of various types $4-$9
                                                    beef $20
                                                    vegetable skewers $4-$5
                                                    small dishes $9-$15

                                                2. I went tonight and really enjoyed the meal. They were out of chicken gizzard and duck, but chicken thigh, oyster, diaphram and knee were all excellent. (I was a little confused that they call the chicken diaphram "harami" because I thought that referred to beef, but whatever they called it, that was my favorite). The knee cartilage was so crunchy and chewy at the same time --- just terrific.

                                                  I also enjoyed the complimentary edamame, and also the shitake mushroom, the Japanese fried chicken (coated with sticky rice and then deep fried), and especially the almond panna cotta for dessert (although it's called Annin Tofu on the menu, and has the consistency of silken tofu, there is no tofu in the dessert, which makes me really perplexed about its name). Complimentary green tea with the dessert was a nice touch.

                                                  Did not enjoy the salmon sashimi, which was very fishy (although the wasabi was excellent), or the beef "kalbi" skewer, which was tough and tasteless. I enjoyed the chicken "oyster" although my DC thought it could have used a brush of the sauce that they put on the other chicken skewers, instead of just lemon juice. I agree.

                                                  Service was good, although I was frankly a little surprised to see the kalbi skewer still on the bill, after we each had a bite, left the rest, and asked the waitress to clear it, saying that it was the only skewer we didn't enjoy. I didn't press it though.

                                                  No Saranac ginger beer (as on the on-line menu), only Canada Dry ginger ale. For the record, Saranac ginger beer is one of my most favorite light ginger sodas --- more like a strong ginger ale, than a Jamaican style ginger beer, but it is sharp, refreshing and delicious, just not very spicy.

                                                  Sorry I didn't get to take pictures, but the presentation of each dish was very nice.

                                                  As to the prices, I'm a little confused. I seem to recall prices at Yakitori Totto in New York as being about $3/skewer for chicken, and Taisho being even cheaper, more like $2/skewer. Here the cheapest are $4 and most are more like $6, including the offal, which you might think would be cheaper. Yakitori Totto is not cheap. And yet we escaped at about $55/per person, including tax and tip, which is as little as I've ever paid at Totto. I think the portions on each skewer are a little larger here, but it is still a little more expensive. The side dishes are reasonably priced. On the other hand, there is a seven skewer combination (5 chicken skewers and two vegetables) for $30, which is close to $4/skewer, but you don't get to the choose which skewers, although they tell you in advance. It is also the only game in town for authentic robata-yaki, and worlds better than the horrid skewers at Basho. If there were more competition in Boston, perhaps there would be downward pressure on their prices. I should go back a few more times before saying this more definitively, but I think it's better than Totto or Taisho as well.

                                                  I enjoyed sitting at the bar and watching the charcoal turn raw chicken into deliciousness right in front of me. I had experienced a rotten day up until dinner, and this meal made my day better. So I wish it were a little less expensive, but I don't think the prices are out of bounds for what they're offering, and I'll be back again to see if it's as good the second time.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                    1. re: lipoff

                                                      Yakitori Totto is cheaper than zai for sure, but their meat isnt fresh. Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori in cali is the best, beats all the yakitori places in NYC and boston

                                                      1. re: lala010addict

                                                        ...and only $1.50 per skewer on Mon/Tue happy hour at Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori. I went nuts and ordered way too much; still only came out $85 total with beer for four people.

                                                    2. wayyyyyy toooo expensive! the raw chicken with avocado, i liked it

                                                      2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Taralli

                                                          yep, didnt get sick still alive. it tasted like tuna sashimi, pretty tasty. it's called Sasami Tartar.

                                                      1. We went at 6:30 on a Thursday and were the only ones there; by the time we left, there were two other couples. Service was great but not sure if it was because we were the first one there.

                                                        I thought Yakitori Zai provides a great blend of authentic charcoal grilled chicken with a touch of fusion and ambiance for those looking for traditional (every chicken part) along with new styles of presentation (cherry tomatoes with cheese, scallops with a mild vinagrette). We also got the agedashi tofu and the agedashi mochi (redundant a bit but worth it) which we would have loved even more if it had been hotter. As other posters have noted, for us the only downside would be price, though we ate whatever we wanted to try, which included:
                                                        momo with negi - with a bit of tare
                                                        mune with yuzu kosho - my favorite
                                                        2 teba
                                                        bonjiri - husband's favorite
                                                        enoki mushrooms with bacon - probably our 2nd most favorite dish
                                                        omakase vegetable - that night was zucchini, tomatoes, shiitake (which I wanted to order again ala carte), okra, corn (could have had a bit more grill and shoyu)
                                                        jako salad - tomatoes were succulent that night
                                                        yaki-onigiri - just right amount of crisp and aroma
                                                        including 2 beers, and were stuffed. Total was about $120 not including tip. Would consider it in the occasional-going-out type of place. Menu on their website doesn't include the seafood and a couple more chicken options. We'll be back there for another special occasion.

                                                        1. I will not skewer them. While it's a far cry from your Ojiisan's izakaya it ain't no chicken on a stick neither. Somewhere between the preciousness of the area and the overhead is a very neat soulful, sincere and still signless yaki bar finding it's own place and welcome. (Union Park and Shawmut). Years back there was a riotous yaki bar in Allston which dissolved into the charcoal, meat and good cheer vapor of victuals past. I have missed that animated and inebriated Chef who brought such a uniquely Japanese intersection. At Yakitori Zai the food and drink were thoughful, I did not wince when my partner in dine picked up the checkzu (okanjou). Perhaps when the company is good, the conversation animated and the fare provocative we can get by the sticker shock of importing the people's food and upscaling. Crazy to venture the day after a love note review from the Daily Bugle yet we are brave and flexible. So what went down? Seishi Ichisima sake in a wooden box was like crisp cold rain followed by Koshi-Hikari Echigo, crafty microbrau (malty, yet light and complex), better than it should have a right to be. Old friends chattered and ate up the charred fava beans. Then the meatsicles: crunchy fatty kawa (skin), wickedly tasty and impecably gritless Sunazura (gizzard), Nankotsu (cartilage), Seseri (neck) and oishiiest of all, minced organic chicken w/shio on a toungue impresser ( flat stick) a big wooden spoon and a dreamy soft cooked egg), a do it yourself moment that will be memorable. It would be wrong not to mention the yaki onigiri attentively toasted rice balls painted with shouyu (yes on sticks) that were worth waiting for. This was really good. We rolled up on Zai at 7:45 and were served drinks immediately waiting a scant twenty for a key place at the bar to watch em work. Portions are a bit "doll house" but the attention was spot on. Service was animated and knowledgeable with sadly only one omission which was a rare to find and raw to eat chicken Sasami tartare dish. Something left on the bone for later when we should all go back. I'm told items online on Yakitori Zai's menu will include liver and heart of the chicken. The beef tongue is on the tip of my next time list as well. Soon.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: EATTV

                                                            Thankfully you provided awesome photos, cause i have no idea what you said!

                                                          2. I popped in on Wednesday with a friend. Quick little report: the chicken oysters thighs and wings were best in show for technique and cookery. Whereas the neck skin was my favorite because who doesn't love chicken skin? It is expensive. But it's very nice to have a legit izakaya in our midst. I would encourage all hounds to go just try a skewer to see what you think. Your investment will be $6 and you can add to the database for this place. Me, I'm excited to go back.

                                                            14 Replies
                                                            1. re: yumyum

                                                              Just adding that we also had cartilage (yummy crunchy goodness!) and the chicken sashimi. The sashimi dish was lovely if a little too soy/sesame forward. I think this place is worth a look from us hounds. Despite the abnoxious price point.

                                                              1. re: yumyum

                                                                I liked the chicken sashimi, too, but Mrs. MC would not go there. It is a challenging concept even to my raw-egg-cocktail-drinking self.


                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                  I had the chicken sashimi at yakitori totto in manhattan and this seemed far less challenging to me. Really I think it's a matter of getting over the mental ooglies about eating raw chicken.

                                                              2. re: yumyum

                                                                I'm pulling for this place to succeed, and I agree that some dishes (like those chicken oysters) are special, but I worry about the prices. My last meal there ran about $180 for two with a pretty modest sake and beer tab, and we're not exactly trenchermen. That's special-occasion prices to me, not a great neighborhood option. I walk by it a lot, and it seems like 90% of the trade is still Asian-Americans; I don't see a lot of the crowd I recognize from the South End places that are popular with locals dining there.

                                                                Another charcoal-grilling place (Korean/Japanese, in this case) is supposed to be going into that space in Brookline Village that has changed hands every two or three years since it was a gas station: http://bostonrestaurants.blogspot.com... I wonder if that will help build enthusiasm for the concept, or hurt Zai.


                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                  .. and following the link to Hiddenboston's site it sounds like the spot could have already changed hands to become a day care center (update provided in 7/12)? Was there any confirmation that "Charcoal" in the name meant charcoal grilling? "Charcoal Guido's" in Waltham, which is also uncertain at this point, only disclosed "brick oven pizza" which means a lot of things most not being solid fuel.

                                                                  1. re: itaunas

                                                                    All I know is that if there's a location with "snake-bitten" written all over it, it's that one. The notion that it would become a daycare center is utterly unsurprising to me, a final acknowledgement that the restaurant gods just hate that space. Can anyone name a place that changed hands more frequently in the last 20 years?


                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                      It is currently a day care. It was once Pizzeria Regina. The space inside is too small and oddly divided into 2 rooms.

                                                                      1. re: lergnom

                                                                        But are they charcoal-grilling little kids and at what pricepoint ?

                                                                        1. re: lergnom

                                                                          That's a different space than I thought it was going in. I was thinking of the space at the corner of Harvard and School Street, which was home to Minsok, Shalom Hunan, Choe's, Zoe's, Shalom Beijing, Orchid Garden, Pier 9, and some Greek place that I can't remember the name of. The Regina was on the other side of Harvard, closer to Stop and Shop #1.


                                                                    2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                      But if the Asian-American trade is sufficient to sustain the business, what's the problem?

                                                                      1. re: Aromatherapy

                                                                        I don't necessarily see it as a problem, but I tend to think that very small restaurants like Zai, especially in residential as opposed to touristy neighborhoods, have a better chance of making a long-term go of it if they can cultivate some local trade, the kind of people who walk in when the weather is terrible, on Monday nights, and so on.


                                                                      2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                        I would be surprised if anybody knocked the goods on their own. They are doing yakitori right no doubt about it, but they're biz model is what it is when you're footin that build out bill and the cost of goods they have chosen. Which i appreciate. Particularly when i am dining solo.

                                                                        But i agree, we could also use a low-rent boozy budget option for yakitori to build our market first.

                                                                      3. re: yumyum

                                                                        I took my adventurous 9 year old a couple of weeks ago there for dinner. Everything we sampled was great, but as everyone has clearly posted, it is a bit pricey for the amount of food. My only other concern were the missing nasty bits - no hearts, no livers etc, and we were there early on a Thursday evening so I do not think that they had already run out.

                                                                        The chicken neck and oysters were great. We each had our own skewer of chicken butts (seriously the bestest fattiest yummiest piece of meat on the bird) - these were grilled perfectly. We had gizzards and knee cartilage - not for the faint of heart when it comes to odd textures - the gizzards were better and I think demonstrate their culinary abilities - no grittiness and grilled well.

                                                                        Would have liked to have seen a couple of larger sized skewers of relatively simpler selections so one could actually feel as if they had eaten a meal which I would gladly supplement with odder bits.


                                                                        1. re: Cork

                                                                          For what it's worth the "omakase" is something like seven-skewers of the more normal chicken meats, and even though they are the same size, that is about 2/3rds of the price per skewer. You could supplement that with a few skewers of the more interesting meats.

                                                                          I've been back a couple times now, and I agree that the price is a little steep, although I've been impressed by the quality. They also ran out of a couple types of chicken last time, although that doesn't bother me --- it suggests they have fresh deliveries each day.