It's been about a year since a fire ravaged the yakitori house Sumiya and it decamped from San Jose to Santa Clara. It's still one of the top places in the Bay Area to get charcoal-grilled Japanese food, although it can be inconsistent—ideally, your skewered meats should be a bit charred and smoky tasting.
Definitely start off with the crispy chicken skin dip, which is sort of like a version of chips-and-salsa, with pieces of golden-brown fried chicken skin and a dipping sauce studded with chewy bits of octopus. When it's skewer time, there are various flavoring options such as the usual salt (shio) and soy, plus yuzu, ume, and wasabi. The light, fluffy, housemade chicken meatballs (tsukune) are perfect with the house sauce, while the minimalism of teba (chicken wings) shio shows off the flavor of the chicken and the skill of the griller.
The magic of the grill isn't limited to chicken, either—the grilled rice balls have "a wonderful smoky char," says ChewChew. Sweet, tender Monterey squid is also delicious with that edge of char.
Kurobuta pork sausage may not be what you'd expect in a Japanese house of chicken, but it's "deliciously complex," Melanie Wong says. "I loved the sauerkraut and mustard accompaniments and would gladly take these Kurobuta sausages over a Top Dog any day."
Sumiya recently started serving lunch, and while the yakitori items aren't available, there's an expanded ramen menu that includes "two well-crafted, pork-free ramen offerings," the chicken-based miso and shio, Melanie Wong says.
The tori miso ramen is amped up with cashew, ground chicken and "a couple slices of psychedelic fish cake," Melanie says. "The soup's flavor spectrum ranged from roast chicken to salty miso richness, then toasted nuts and garlic, and circled back to minerally chicken bones, shoyu, and roasted vegetables. While a pork-based stock might be deeper, this intensely umami, lighter version should satisfy any ramen craving."
Shio ramen is a more delicate affair of "crystalline clean flavors," Melanie says. It's perfect if you've been gorging on the salty, smoky goodness that is Sumiya's other offerings, but if you want a little more richness, add some of the butter that's served on the side.
Sumiya [South Bay]
2634 Homestead Road, Santa Clara