.. “yaki” means “grill” and “tori” means “fowl”.
Yet, don’t take the name of this Japanese eatery Bincho Yakitori on London’s gayest street too literally. The place specialises in skewer grilled chickens but there are other items to branch out too. I was seated at the grill counter. Pungent aroma of the charcoal. Of course there was something transcultural about charcoal grill. We hear of Turkish ocakbasi, of Spanish asador, of Japanese Rotaba, and so on. The Japanese grilled birds are more special, as I was witnessing my yaki mistress vehemently painting my skewers with a kind of sticky sauce.. which as far as Goolg-ing goes is known as Tare sauce. A sweet gravy combo of Mirin, soy sauce, sake and sugar.
And there yer go. Stereotype shattered? The Japanese DO HAVE other kinds of sauce apart from soy. And they do eat other kinds of food apart from sushi (which means anything on rice, not just raw fish!). Bincho Yakitori, along with its neighbouring Udon restaurant Koya, has already set to open up Londoners’ taste bud.
At Bincho, half of the menu is devoted to chicken, a kind of beck-to-tail eating, and the other features a medley of assorted meat and vegetable. There is a minimum order of two skewers for one kind of meat or vegetable, but it usually only costs £3-5 for two. Bigger than nibbles. Good value. My many rounds of skewers arrived promptly. Chicken meatballs. Light and lovely. Pork belly. Joyfully smoky aroma but not ideally melting in my mouth. Unagi (eel) was stellar. Neat pieces, nearly square in shape. Depth from the appetisingly sweet sauce especially made for the eel. Pancetta-wrapped quail’s eggs were very good. Served sans sauce. Crackling pancetta skin encased creamy pearl of miniature eggs. Eringi mushrooms were minimally season with salt and arrived with a wedge of lime. Nothing to write home about.
The winner skewers for me were these two. Chicken liver. A little bite on the skin led to this astoundingly buttery texture. The presumed offal-y aroma was toned down by pleasant smell of the charcoal. Chicken oysters – the best end of chicken meat between the body and the thighs – were served with skin. Heavenly juxtaposition of tender meat and explosively juicy fat. All were grilled and instantaneously smoked to perfection.
The other bib’s side of Garlic Fried Rice would have been amazing if it had not come with burnt garlic slices, leaving awkwardly charred aftertaste. My grilled rice – Yaki- Onikiri – was very special. A crusty triangle of benighly seasoned rice was slowly grilled and pedantically glazed with shoyu. Tasted brilliant with the crisp of the nori sheet.
Bincho Yakitori was not special but it was solidly good and good value for money, too. My relatively heavy lunch for two with drinks came down to £40. There were some slight hiccups in the cooking. And perhaps a risky thought of many things tasting all similarly sweet and sticky. .. nope that is another stereotyping, not entirely true. What I tasted off these skewers was beautiful ingredients with their raw flavours enhanced and smeared with depth.
It was a pleasure..
For offal lovers, you may want to eye for tips from GT’s off-menu offal-ing at Bincho here.
I will surely return for ….. more!
My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.
16 Old Compton Street
Tel. 020 7287 9111