I really love yakitori. I tend to go to the Inner Richmond’s Halu, a family-run restaurant that has the feel of some place in Japan. I’ve been to Japan twice, and every time I go, I hit all the yakitori bars. It’s not just chicken on a stick. Each part of the chicken is cooked separately over hardwood charcoal, and it’s just so focused. They’ve achieved mastery.
My favorite is chicken heart yakitori. I also like chicken liver yakitori, which Halu does really well. Here, you don’t see as many different chicken parts as you do in Japan, where it’s easy to find skewers of skin, gizzard, or chicken oysters, those nuggets of meat on the back of the bird. The meat isn’t usually marinated. It’s just seasoned with salt and pepper, and that’s it. That is what I love—it’s so simple.
So even though Halu is a trek, I’ll go out there after work for a few skewers and some sake. Yakitori joints in Japan only sell yakitori, but at Halu, it’s part of a menu that also includes ramen and other stuff. It’s too bad the Japanese model can’t survive here because it makes restaurant hopping really fun. You can hit a few places in a night, sampling the one signature dish at each. In America, restaurants try to have a little something for everyone. But if you do too many things, it becomes unfocused.
Another place that just opened that I really like for yakitori is Chotto in the Marina. Check it out.
Halu, 312 8th Ave., 415-221-9165
Chotto, 3317 Steiner St., 415-441-2223
*Published in the February 2011 issue of 7x7. Subscribe to 7x7 magazine here.