I'm always after a authentic experience. And anything that is slightly seedy but good and busy always peaks my interest I am almost embarrassed to admit. So when I read about Yurakucho's Yakitori alley, a small alleyway underneath a train line where commuters and Japanese congregate under rickety stalls that look slightly patched together, I knew we had to visit. It's small, packed and absolutely fascinating.
It's hard to find, we find the Lonely Planet's map lacking essential details (grrr!) and we get lost during the way. We finally find it and the telltale red lanterns and smokey grill aroma tells us that we have finally arrived at the right place. There are 3 stallholders here each serving their own Yakitori dishes with their own tables. On the walls there are a multitude of Japanese signs, none in English at all, so we ask for an English menu and take a seat at one of the stalls.
We order the: roast Chicken skewer, Chicken meatball skewer, gizzard skewer, pork skewer, nankotsu (bone cartilage) skewer and heart skewer (all Y160 per skewer). We then ask what the waitress recommends and she points at an item on the Japanese specials menu of pork and miso Y460 and also suggests a potato salad Y420. We always get good recommendations when we ask the staff what is good so I always make a point to ask.
The potato is a typical Japanese potato salad although it is a very good version of it. There are two ice cream scoops of creamy potato salad, which is a combination of a slightly sweet mashed potato with carrot and spring onions as well as small potato chunks.
The heart skewer is...Im sorry to say unpalatable. I tried to take one bite and released it from my teeth and passed it to my husband. If you happen to like rubbery tough organs, this may be your thing. My husband ate it but more because it was there and has was hungry after we got lost.
The Gizzard Skewer suffers a similar fate. I don't even know why I ordered it. I think more to try something odd but when push came to shove, I couldn't eat it.
The pork skewer is slightly better, although the pork pieces are also quite chewy and not quite as tender as I'd like.
The second plate is more successful, the roast chicken skewer is good, especially when the pieces are removed from the stick and dunked into the sauce. The chicken meatball skewer is also good and slightly crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. I've had better nankotsu with the bone cartilage being softer, this nankotsu is hard and quite hard to chew.
The mystery pork skewers with miso are however perfection. Softly tender and juicy pieces of pork are marinated in a miso sauce which complements it perfectly. If only I could have ordered 6 serves of this, I would have been inordinately pleased.
We leave just as the smoke level rises as more grilled skewers are pressed to the grill. The pork and miso skewers were definitely worth the search.
Yurakcuho Yakitori Alley
Under JR train line near Hibiya station
Tel +81 (03) 3508 9454