When I was researching restaurants in Auckland I was surprised by the number of Japanese restaurants and even more so by the number of yakatori places. To my knowledge, there are no specific yakatori restaurants in Melbourne and I have been craving it ever since coming back from Tokyo in August.
Ken Yakatori on Anzac is just outside of the CBD of Auckland and an easy walk. Walking in it smells like a yakatori place, the heady mixture of chicken fat and charcoal. There are about 10 bar side seats (always where you want to be in a yakatori joint) and about 8 other tables. In true Japanese style there is a picture menu to help you choose. There are the regular Japanese standards of edamame, sashimi, karaage chicken … but why order that when you are at a yakatori-ya? I got there early, about 6:15 and the place filled up very quickly around me (mainly with Japanese ex-pats). Luckily, I was able to get my hefty order in first; beef tongue, chicken liver, chicken heart, chicken thigh with plum miso, chicken gizzard and pork belly with onion. I was given a little starter of snapper sashimi and mushroom soup. It was an odd number, the mushroom soup had a lovely deep mushroom flavour but was thick like undiluted Campbell’s mushroom soup?! It was delicious, just a little difficult to eat. We are not talking top end yakatori here (like Birdland Ginza or Fuku) but good flavoured, correctly seasoned, authentic, well cooked yakatori. The fat in the tongue, belly, thigh and liver was perfect and the highly textured gizzard and hearts were soft.
All washed down with a couple of Yebisu, it came to the grand price of $38NZD (that’s $28AUD). With food and prices like this, I’d love to have a Ken’s in Fitzroy!