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Tsukasa (司) yatai, Fukuoka/Hakata


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Tsukasa (司) yatai, Fukuoka/Hakata

E Eto | | Dec 13, 2006 05:48 PM

Fukuoka is all about eating at a yatai (or outdoor stall). There’s something very comforting about sitting at a yatai with friendly strangers on a cold autumn/winter night. But rather than the typical yakitori, oden, or ramen yatai, I wanted something a little more unique to Fukuoka, and I’ve read a lot about Tsukasa, which is located on the north bank of the Nakasu river, along with a dozen other yatais. The food is prepared by one woman (you see her in all the photos) and she has a few helpers. Besides tending to the tempura fryer and the grill, she’s slicing, preparing, and pleasantly mingling with all the customers.

On a cool night after a rainy day, we found our way to Tsukasa, and snagged what I thought were the two best seats of the stand, right next to the matron of the yatai. We had a bird’s eye view of her operation, and got a chance to see what everyone else was ordering and based many of our orders off of what we saw her preparing. The mentaiko (spiced cod roe) tempura is one of the specialties. These are made by wrapping a slice of good quality local mentaiko (Fukuoka is famous for mentaiko) in a shiso leaf, then dipping it in tempura batter and lightly frying. At 900 yen for 3 little pieces, it ain’t cheap, but a real taste sensation. Another specialty of Fukuoka is iwashi-mentaiko, or anchovies stuffed with mentaiko, which are served grilled. One thing we wouldn’t have ordered if we weren’t sitting where we were is the tsukune (chicken meatball) spread on a flat skewer and grilled. I’ve had tsukune at various yakitori joints, but this one may have been the best one ever. There was something just a little tangy and sweet that I couldn’t identify, which added complexity to the tsukune, but again, a really wonderful rendition of a classic. Another dish that we liked was the sagari steak (sagari seems to be a cut similar to a flatiron steak near the blade, I think—the yakitori master at a place in Hiroshima pointed to the area near the shoulder), which is sauced with a ponzu dressing, and garnished with grated daikon. Another hit. I wanted to go through more of the menu, but we were saving our appetites for other yatais, or some other Fukuoka experiences.

Here's a photo:

Here’s Tsukasa’s website:
Here’s a website with some good photos (Tsukasa is the first set of photos):
And another website with some info:

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