Article By Jin and Francis
No.18, Tai Yang Miao Men, Bao Ji Alley
Average Price per Person /人均消费: 120RMB
A humble restaurant that punches well above its weight
As summer arrives and Xi’an starts heating up, the restaurant scene in Xi’an is clearly trying to keep pace with the rising temperatures. There are so many new restaurants and each new location turns up the heat.
For no restaurant is this truer than Yakitori, opened this May. Literally meaning “grilled bird,” yakitori is a Japanese type of skewer cuisine, usually chicken barbecue over charcoal and seasoned with a tare sauce (a kind of sweetened and/or thickened soy sauce) or salt. And this is exactly what is on offer here. As you walk through the door, it’s hard to say what you notice first – the large grill and exhaust hood, or the wash of mouth-watering aromas.
The first thing we noted is that despite the grill in the middle of the restaurant, the space is immaculate. I would hate to be the one in charge of cleaning surfaces, but whoever is responsible does a great job keeping the place spotless. Moreover, it’s almost as if the restaurant knows that its customers will be seeking relief from the summer heat – the small foyer area is dominated by a large container filled with beverages covered in ice, including sodas, beers, and Calpis – Jin’s beverage of choice. They also have Asahi on tap, which Francis enjoyed ice cold.
We sat down, and after a palate-cleansing teaser amuse-bouche of vegetables in sweetened vinegar, we were bombarded with a slew of skewers of chicken. The first was an incredibly juicy chicken breast, topped with dots of fresh wasabi. Something unexpected was that because the restaurant is confident in the quality of its chicken, they even give customers a range of options in doneness. We went with “5”, the chef’s recommendation.
Here we are going to take a slight detour in the review, because we realized we weren’t eating just any chicken. We confirmed that Yakitori takes its birds seriously: they only serve a limited number of same-day slaughtered birds. They source meat from a farm that raises chickens on high quality feed and, most importantly, slaughter their chicken the morning of the day it is to be served. While some other meats survive well flash-frozen (fish for sushi), frozen chicken can suffer significantly due to the formation of particularly destructive ice crystals which tear the meat cells apart. This releases water, resulting in a dry, rubbery texture. If you have never intentionally eaten fresh chicken before, it is our humble opinion that there is no better place in Xi’an to try it. Yakitori doesn’t mess around.
And back to the food. Next was the classic chicken and green onion skewers. These were the heftiest skewers and were topped with katsuobushi (Bonito flakes, or flakes of dried smoked tuna). This was followed by lightly salted chicken skin and fatty chicken meat (a cut from next to the chicken heart). Next was chicken stomach topped with sliced spring onion. This was followed by a series of vegetable skewers cooked to crunchy perfection, including shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, and okra. We also got to try some steak skewers, eel skewers (freshly fileted), chicken rice, shrimp skewers, and spicy ramen. We finished off with a deep-fried fig skewer, which was divine. If you can’t eat as much as we can, just stick with the chicken. But make no mistake, none of these other dishes disappointed and each can hold their own.
A final note – because the restaurant serves a limited amount of chicken each day, we recommend making a reservation and showing up on time. After all, the early bird gets the worm.
If you give this a try, let us know about your experience by messaging us at email@example.com.
Jin and Francis are both teachers in Xi’an and love exploring food. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com