Top Four Places to Eat Yakitori in Kawasaki
Squished between the two massive megalopolises of Tokyo and Yokohama, but not quite as attractive as the touristic areas of Kamakura or Hakone, lies the city of Kawasaki. Nevertheless, when crossing the Tama River that forms a natural border between Tokyo and Kawasaki, the wide river itself, surrounded by vast green grass on all sides, feels like you're entering into an unknown paradise.
If you do make the trip to Kawasaki and take a walk around the train station, you'll find that it is a city bustling with charming people working at local mom-and-pop stores, offices and factories. The east exit of the train station boasts a fancy glass wall entrance worthy of a theme park, although the old iron bridge of the Keikyu line just a few meters away is an unfortunate letdown. Well, that's been the case for a long time anyway. Past the bridge is the entrance to Nakamise Street, recognizable with its man-drinking-from-the-bottle statue on the entrance gate.
Today, let's visit a few restaurants and try out what could be called Kawasaki comfort food—yakiniku.
Toritei (east exit of Kawasaki Station)
For many years, Ginryugai has been the most animated district of Kawasaki.
However, it is not a touristic destination. After a short time walking through these estranged streets, outsiders may be taken over by a faint sense of alienation. That said, the welcoming lights of this restaurant is sure to be of some comfort to us non-locals.
A bunch of ojisan ("middle-aged men" in Japanese) are already "lifting elbows" at the counter.
It seems that customers come in early here. The place has only just opened for the day but the counter, table and tatami seats are already filled up.
Yakiniku restaurants are usually smoky, but the kitchen here is very clean. You can see the menu handwritten on Japanese paper swaying in the gentle breeze from the air conditioner. This place is an ojisan's heaven.
I overhear the master saying to the person sitting next to me that there would be no meaning in coming here if I didn't try their "seseri." Tempted, I decide to order the seseri, which I know is relatively rare as far as chicken cuts go.
It's actually a tiny piece of meat from the back of the chicken's neck. Playing the important role of linking the chicken's head to its back, this muscular meat is chewy and flavorful.
As expected, the seseri that I am served is consistently tasty. A true ojisan delicacy. I also order some octopus sashimi, which is firm, almost crunchy in texture.
When leaving the restaurant, the master kindly suggests we try his duck and tofu dish the next time we visit.
The ojisan's paradise—Toritei. But regardless of whether you're an ojisan or not, make sure to try the seseri here when you visit Kawasaki.
Torihiko (east exit of Kawasaki station)
Deep inside Nakamise Street is the meeting place of Kawasaki's thirsty souls and yakiniku lovers—Torihiko. Opened in the Showa era, this yakiniku store has been feeding the local ojisans for more than 50 years.
In the kitchen, you can see the cooks prepare each skewer with great care. Quality chicken from Tottori prefecture, Oyama chicken, is used to make plump, juicy yakitori. The current master is the third generation to manage this venue, and works together with his mother.
Shura Shushushu (Musashi-Kosugi)
A short ride on the Nambu Line from Kawasaki Station will take you to Musashi-Kosugi Station. In a short period of time, department stores and tall apartments have risen up around the station.
A few steps away from the trendy station, we find Shura Shushushu, a former house that was converted into a restaurant. The interior looks like the ideal hideout to spend an animated evening.
The selling point of this restaurant is the "electric cooking." This is a cooking technique that enhances chicken's flavor to make unique, juicy yakiniku. The resulting yakiniku has a distinctive taste, different from the usual charcoal-grilled yakiniku.
The regulars here are fond of the liver yakiniku, which is cooked with great dexterity by the chef. To anyone who is not fond of chicken liver—come and try it here!
Finally, let's hop on the Toyoko Line and head to Motosumiyoshi, which is just one station away from Musashi-Kosugi. Right at the end of the shopping street, you'll see a restaurant with a wooden signboard: Keita.
The yakitori here is made of Oyama chicken grilled with a salt blend of rock salt and Uji salt. The toasted liver is one of the popular yakiniku here. Also, limited to only 10 skewers a day, are their soft-boiled quail eggs—another Keita signature dish. No second helpings allowed!
The master, a saké sommelier, has chosen the best local sakés and shochu to accompany his yakitori.