Monday, October 6, 2008

Chicken Tail Anyone? (Yakitori Totto, New York)

This was the start of another trade show in New York. One of the only reasons I enjoy coming to New York is for the food. The quality and diversity of food in New York in unparalleled anywhere in the US. This was only the second time dining at Yakitori Totto and I have yet to be disappointed, a bit frustrated...perhaps. Due to the limited seating and popularity of Yakitori Totto, you're most likely going to have to wait a little while to get seated. I'm not the most patient person, especially when it comes to waiting in line, but I some how manage to endure the arduous wait ^_^ The food here is definitely worth the wait.

My love affair with yakitori all started when I lived in Japan for a short time Years ago. Ever since that time, I've been aimlessly wandering for some good yakitori and luckily we found this place a couple of years ago. The first time we dined here, we met up with my cousin and her husband who live in the Washington D.C area but fly up to spend their weekends in New York (I people, makes me sick ^_^ ) , but luckily she is fluent in Japanese and was able to read the small wooden planks that adorn any yakitori joint. She saw a sign that stated that there were a few items that were special and very limited. Naturally.... we snatched the remaining items up. My apologies if you were one the diners that evening and you were not able to order some of the items. The one that stood out the most was the Bonchiri (chicken tail). Yeah, you read it right and I wrote it right.... Chicken Tail. It was simply amazing. Keeps me wanting to come back!

Zucchini Tempura
We actually saw the table next us eating this dish and so we just had to order it. WOWWW!!!!! The zucchini tempura actually did not have your typical batter, instead it had these little fried mochi balls (rice cake) which was served as the outer crust. The zucchini was absolutely delicious and unlike any other tempura I've ever had. And I can't forget the Okinawan sea salt which accompanied the tempura. That too was mind blowing good. We actually saved the remaining salt to eat with other dishes that came out later. That's how good the salt was. In this dish, I might have found my new favorite dish at Yakitori Totto.

Enoki Wrapped Bacon
I thought this was a very clever way to utilize enoki mushrooms. The whole bunch of enoki mushrooms are gathered up and then wrapped in bacon. I don't particularly care for enoki, but when you add bacon to it...that's another story.

Fried Tofu
I would have to say this dish was a little of let down. Seemingly everything that is fried usually tastes really good. I've had deep fried tofu plenty of times and it usually is pretty good. Not to say that Yakitori Totto's version tasted bad, it is definitely serviceable, but it just lacked that special something.

Typically I don't order gyoza at restaurants because there is no comparison to my mom's gyoza. It's like comparing apples to oranges. I'll have to post my mom's gyoza soon! But the gyoza here was actually one of the better gyoza that I have ever had at a restaurant. Most restaurants have a tendency to skimp on the meat and typically resemble a vegetarian gyoza. Yakitori Totto had a perfect balance between the portion of meat and vegetables and was flavored very nicely.

Jidori Karaage
I couldn't help but chuckle when I heard a description of Jidori chicken (Japanese free range chicken) as being the Kobe Beef of chicken. It's like Kurobuta (black pork) is commonly referred to as the Kobe Beef of pork. What is the fascination of having to come up with fancy analogies for food. I have to admit though...I do prefer all of the so called "Kobe" versions of meats. So to say that I was excited to eat the Jidori Karaage, was an understatement. One of my favorite foods happen to be karaage so when I saw this on the menu I was thoroughly excited. Unfortunately I was let down. It lacked the flavoring of your typical karaage. The chicken itself was juicy and succulent but lacked seasoning. :(

Yaki Nasu Miso Denkaku
The Yaki Nasu Miso Denkaku is a grilled eggplant served with a miso paste. The flavoring of this particular dish was quite nice. I personally found that there was too much miso paste. I found it a bit overpowering and the flavor of the nasubi (eggplant) was lost.

Totto Tokusei Morioka Stlye Reimen
This was another "special" item that is served at Yakitori Totto. The waitress informed us that they only serve 5 servings of this dish a night. That alone made this very enticing and intriguing. Luckily we went there when they opened and we were able to secure one of these dishes. Reimen is similar to the more famous ramen, but it is cold noodles. The Morioka style reimen is served with kimchee (Korean seasoned vegetables), boiled egg, apples, chicken, and cucumber. I don't care for kimchee, but I had to at least sample this dish because it was so limited.

This is another one of the limited items at Yakitori Totto. The bonchiri (chicken tails) is one the main reasons I love this place! This item seems like it should be on some episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. I never knew that chickens have tails let alone that they are edible. Leave it to us Japanese....we eat every damn part of the chicken and everything in the sea. I know it sounds gross, but the chicken tail is really tasty. They are very fatty and juicy. When you bite into them you get a nice pop. An explosion of flavor and juiciness. The flavor is almost like eating chicken skin. This is an absolute must!

Speaking of chicken skin. Whenever I dine at a yakitori establishment I always order kawa (chicken skin). I can't help myself, I love fatty foods that are really bad for me. My motto is that if it taste good than its got to be bad for you. Unfortunately the kawa here was not executed very good. The skin could have been a little more crispy and the seasoning could have been more flavorful.

Kobe Beef Gyutan
I just recently started to eat beef tongue. I remember as a kid my parents used try to trick me to eat tongue. They always say "oh yes, that's beef" and then I would bite into and instantly know that they had tricked me. But now I am starting to appreciate it. Here's that term again...."Kobe Beef" So when I saw that this was Kobe beef gyutan (tongue), I knew I had to give it a try. I've kind of grown accustomed to eating gyutan (tongue) that is thinly sliced so when this came out and it was thick chunks I was taken aback. But nonetheless it was delicious.

Teba (chicken wings) is another staple that I always order when I go to yakitori restaurants. To be honest, there was nothing to write home about. The chicken wings were seasoned well and they were nicely cooked. The teba was ordinary, nothing spectacular.

Pirikara Mune Niku
This dish sounded much better than it actually was. The Pirikara Mune Niku which is breast meat topped with a spicy sauce was actually too dry for my taste and the spicy sauce was not all that flavorful. Perhaps if the chicken breast was actually marinated in this sauce it might have tasted better, but this dish was just not doing anything for me.

Miso Dare Mune Niku
This was probably my favorite mune niku dishes (chicken breast) of the night. The flavor of the special miso sauce was really tasty. I know that breast meat usually tends to get a little dry, but this skewer actually was executed very nicely and was cooked just right.

Tori Negi Don
I love the concept of this dish especially because we were eating this dish at a yakitori restaurant. This donburi (rice bowl dish) was served with charbroiled chicken on top of the rice and then a raw egg was cracked on top and then mixed. I love that this dish incorporated the two different stages of the chicken: from egg to chicken. I just wish I took the picture before we mixed it all up :(

Shishito Tsukune
Another dish that I've grown to like recently is tsukune (chicken meatball). This dish is one that I have never seen before. Tsukune married with one of my all time favorite peppers; the shishito pepper. Wow!!! This was fantastic. The balance of flavors between the sweetness of the sauce on the tsukune with the tanginess/spiciness of the shishito was wonderful.

Yawaraka Annin Tofu
This dessert was a creamy tofu apricot pudding. Sounded much more intriguing than it actually was. If you're into desserts that are Very light in flavor, this is the dessert for you.

Mochi Ice Cream
Well we were a little skeptical of this dessert when we saw it on the menu. We were thinking that the Mochi Ice Cream was going to be like the ones you can go out and buy at the supermarket, but when our waitress informed us that they make there own mochi (rice cakes) we were all over it like white on rice. white on mochi. The mochi was abosolutely delectable and delicate. There was no doubt the mochi was freshly made and the kinako powder (soybean powder) on top of the mochi ice cream was excellent. Hands down the BEST mochi ice cream EVER!!!!!

Yakitori Totto
251 West 55nd Street 2nd Floor
New York, NY. 10019

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