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May 8, 2013 08:21 AM

yakitori theme park in tokyo

Zenyaren, created by the Zenya National Yakitori Association, is a massive food court/theme park that opened March 22 in Otemachi. They serve chicken skewers (and some pork skewers) from seven distinguished yakitoriya from around Japan.

I thought it was a fun experience, although it was maybe less impressive than expected because I had had fantastic yakitori a few nights earlier at Kokekokko in Nishi-Shinjuku. Still though, I did enjoy several very good skewers and side dishes in a fun setting.

The menu is large and confusing - there are two full pages devoted to each of the seven shops, each of which offers a best-of combination platter as well as individual skewers and side dishes a la carte. There's also a 15-skewer assortment representing all the shops, and several pages of vegetable dishes and other side items. We ordered one of the 15-skewer general assortment, one combo platter from an individual shop, a few side dishes, and several different sakes.

The first item to arrive, a rather bland and pale tsukune, was fairly undistinguished, but things picked up quickly from there. Some of the skewers were fantastic and some were just okay, but it was hard to keep track of what was what in our two assorted platters. Highlights included a very good negima, a couple of different variations on pork belly, and a bowl of very crispy charcoal-grilled chicken skin with negi. The Kyoto-style pickles were very good, as were the warm vegetables with a sesame-based dipping sauce.

Even more than ramen theme parks, this seems like the kind of place where advance research would pay off; alternatively repeat visits to find one's favorite shops might also be worthwhile. They take advance reservations but also save some space for walk-ins.

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  1. You know you're in Japan when the chicken on a stick sellers have their own trade promotion group...

    1. Pretty cool and pretty cheap. And looks like you can tack on 1500 YEN for 2-hour all-u-can-drink deals as well.

      1. We visited Zenyaren a few hours after landing in Tokyo, in October 2013.

        It was a nice way to try yakitori from all around Japan and a good option for a group of friends, as we were.

        I really loved the minced chicken balls we were served with the drinks - they had fantastic crunchy cartilage minced in, and were savoury and tasty.

        Thanks for the reco!

        More images and details here:

        4 Replies
        1. re: Kavey

          I tried to go here near the end of the year but they were closed....but I did see a drunk homeless guy with a smashed bottle of shochu being roused by the cops outside the place.

          1. re: Silverjay

            "Closed" as in shut up shop or just not open that day?

            And gosh, two floors down into the basement is an odd place for drunk guy, I guess a member of staff probably called them...?

            1. re: Kavey

              Not open that day... It was chilly outdoors.