Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chicken Omakase at Gallus

I couldn't believe when I asked the hotel concierge to help book a seat at Torishiki, a Michelin one-starred Yakitori restaurant in Meguro, they came back and told me the place's fully booked until the end of the year (note it's only early November at that time). As an alternative, they suggested Gallus, a new restaurant opened late last year by the same owner, located just across the street.

I went there on my day of arrival in Tokyo for week-long trip. The restaurant - only 5 minutes away from the Meguro JR station - features a modern decor with an open kitchen and bar seats, plus a few tables for groups.

Gallus only open for dinner and run a prix-fixe omakase menu with chicken being the main theme that ran from start to end (well, except dessert, obviously). What they tried to do is integrate traditional yakitori dishes into western-style menu to attract a younger crowd - it's more like a hybrid cuisine than fusion, and it works very well. For 4500 yen (around HKD$350 or USD$45), I got an appetizer platter, 3 pieces of yakitori, a soup course, a chicken main course, 3 more pieces of yakitori and to conclude with either rice or sandwich and dessert. This is certainly of great value.

I started with an impressive warm appetizer platter with five different parts of chicken cooked five different ways - breast meat with cucumber and Chinese style dressing, grilled heart with cilantro, chicken neck with sauteed mushroom and white wine, cartilages with bell peppers and paprika, and in the middle was chicken thigh matched with apples. All of those garnished with a light splash of extra virgin olive oil. It's simple yet marvelously done, and something you wouldn't normally see in a yakitori restaurant.

After that we moved back to traditional skewers, served one after another. Chef at Gallus came directly from Torishiki so I would say their skewer items were of great quality, both the ingredients and cooking. Three different types were served in the first round - bonjiri (tail), sunagimo (gizzard) and pumpkin. Surprisingly I found the pumpkin the most interesting among the three - it's shaped like a traditional dango with mashed pumpkin and either a pumpkin seed or almond in the middle, with the outside slow roasted to a slightly crispy texture and soft inside, then served with a mixture of mayo and sweet balsamic reduction. I loved this almost savory sweet taste which formed a fine balance with the other two dishes.

Before the "main course", I was served a small cup of soup made of seasonal vegetables and chicken broth. It's a negi cream soup made of leeks - I suppose you could think of it as a vichyssoise served hot. The main course was chicken thigh with tare sauce - if you are into Japanese style western food you would love this, but I personally found the dish a bit too sweet to my liking. Well, the thigh meat was wonderful though - the meat was tender and the skin was charred to the perfect crispness.

After that, I got three more yakitori courses - kashiwa (breast and thigh), reba (liver) and tsukune (minced chicken meatball) - they were all decent. It may be a little too raw for some but I reckon the liver was cooked just to the right doneness with the soft texture and good flavor from that of the sauce. The tsukune was more on the firm side but inside it's juicy and flavorful. Adventurous this place might be, they still managed to do the classic items right.

The last course was either a sandwich with deep-fried chicken cutlet or curry chicken rice. The curry was not like those typical sweet Japanese type but one with strong flavor and a spicy kick. It's mostly meat from chicken leg but also with giblets which gave it some texture. This was my favorite dish of the evening actually.

If you are a fundamentalist looking for an authentic izakaya, Gallus may not be for you; But if you are a chicken lover and looking for somewhere different with a more laid-back atmosphere, this place is worth a try. After all, there were other ways to cook chicken other than yakitori.

Where? Gallus, 3-3-4 Kami-Osaki, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
東京都品川区上大崎3-3-4 MIYUKI HOUSE 1F
Menu highlights? Curry with Chicken and Rice

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