I may be out of the loop in the sense that others may already know this and, if so, I apologize, but I saw today that TOSCANO is opening soon in Harvard Square, BON CHON just opened there, and YAKITORI ZAI recently opened in the South End. This is really exciting, I think. TOSCANO's menu is reasonably priced, the food is delicious, and the cuisine is driven by region rather than the so-called inventiveness of a chef. Similarly, BON CHON serves exceptionally great fried Korean chicken that is spicy without drowning out the bird. Great service, too. And YAKITORI ZAI? It's the real thing: Sure, it's expensive, but yakitori in Japan is, too, and can range from $90 a person at Birdland in Tokyo for nine sticks and a few cups of sake to $50 a person at Hitomi in Kyoto for about six sticks and two beers. I hope each of these restaurants is successful. They deserve it. www.shrinkinthekitchen.com
I think it's a little misleading to compare restaurant prices in Tokyo and Boston apples to apples, but Birdland is acclaimed as one of the very best yakitori joints in the city, and its more modest omakase is 6000 yen, about US$75. Even considering how much more expensive it is to eat in Tokyo, that meal consists of 12 or 13 courses, with each of eight skewers at least three times the size of a corresponding YZ one, adding up to way more food than the $60 worth of yakitori I had recently at Yakitori Zai, at presumably equal (likelier much higher) quality. I like Yakitori Zai, but its prices are indeed punishing. I frankly wasn't expecting a yakitori joint to yield special-occasion prices.
I did not love Toscano on my few visits there some time back. I haven't returned lately.
I share the generally gaga attitude on this board about BonChon Chicken, though I haven't been to the Harvard Square outlet yet.
re: MC Slim JB
I was at Birdland last week. They don't only serve omakase; we ordered a la carte as did most locals. Nor do they typically serve courses--you order parts of the chicken you like until you're satisfied; the pieces come out one after another, rapidly. Each skewer cost less than Boston: between $4-6 each, and they were all smaller than YZ. But ordering a bunch of sticks with the beer came to about $90 per person. I think you're right: I didn't mean to compare Tokyo to Boston. I meant to say that the prices at Zai are reasonable. Certainly as reasonable as Yakitoro Tonno or Yakitori Tori Shin in NYC. Good yakitori is expensive, unfortunately.
And eating in Tokyo, by the way, is cheaper than in the US for certain meals because of the huge competition, tips rolled in, and lower food tax: Soba and unagi, for example.
I like the pasta at Toscano and its commitment to regional cooking.
In other restaurant news: ASTA is opening soon in Bak Bay. That should be fun.