Thursday, February 15, 2018

Chicken Two Ways

If Ramen and Motsunabe were the Top 2 dishes best representative of Fukuoka, Yakitori is perhaps a close third. There’s no lack of choices for top Yakitori, or chicken skewers, restaurant in the city, my only problem was the lack of time to try them all. This time I happened to stumble across one near to my ryokan specializing in grilled chicken skin.

Torikawa Suikyo (とりかわ 粋恭) is about a quick 10 minute walk from Yakuin metro station on a side alley. I was there one late evening after my dinner for some quick snacks and drinks before heading to bed, and it was surprisingly subdued, with the ground floor counter seats around half full with more people in the rooms upstairs. Behind the long wooden counter was the open kitchen with the open charcoal fire grill. They have a long menu of various chicken parts served on skewers along with other usual bar food dishes, and all of them were very reasonably priced.

They gave me an awkward look when I asked for a few skewers to start off with – I quickly found out why as most people ordered in the multiple of 5s and 10s for each type even if they were eating alone. So after my first round arrived I did the same and ordered a few more, because it’s really irresistible. Torikawa/Chicken skin is their signature skewer and it’s served with the skin folded into the long wooden skewer and grilled crisp and slightly charred. It didn’t taste oily or fatty at all and just made you want more and more – I ended up having five more after.

They also got the other usual ones – like the tsukune (chicken meatball mixed with cartilage), wings, or the quail egg wrapped with bacon, and some of the offals and rarer cuts like liver and heart, or the neck. And I finished with a small cup of chicken soup – especially hearty in this kind of weather with flurries slowing flying across all night. This is the place you can order like crazy, be completely satisfied and still wouldn’t break your bank. It was a pity that I couldn’t eat much after a big motsunabe dinner and ran out of time to go back again – otherwise I would definitely get more of their food.

When? January 8 2018
Where? Torikawa Suikyo, 1-11-15 Yakuin, Chuocho, Fukuoka, Japan
とりかわ 粋恭 薬院店 福岡県福岡市中央区薬院1-11-15
Menu Highlights? Torikawa (Chicken Skin)

A few days later down in Kagoshima, I had another fabulous chicken dish, this time at an old-school izakaya a couple blocks down from Tenmonkan district. Yakitori Maruman was unlike the usual Yakitori restaurant that one might see elsewhere. From the store front to the interior, you felt like the shop didn’t change a bit from 50 years ago when they first opened, and I was pretty sure their menu didn’t change all that much as well. The restaurant specializes in one dish only – Momoyaki, or grilled chicken leg, which was the traditional way of cooking in the nearby Miyazaki area famous for their jidori (local chicken). They had a limited choice of drinks as well – cold beer, or shochu oyuwari, which was mixed with hot water served directly off the pot on the stove right behind the counter.

They have a special way of grilling as well. The chicken leg was marinated with vinegar for the extra flavor and for tenderize the meat, then the meat was sliced to the bone (without detaching) and put on the charcoal fire-grill. But instead of cooking it all the way through, it’s served rare – almost to the point of being completely raw near to the bone. So you got this chewy chicken leg with the smoky skin and the tough, but tasty sashimi-like meat underneath, that you are supposed to eat by your hand, and strong jaw muscle for a bit of the chewing action.

It was quite unlike any chicken dish I had before. It’s another accidental find for me and what an unique dining experience.

When? January 11 2018
Where? Maruman Ganso Yakitori, 12-31 Yamanokuchi-cho, Kagoshima, Japan
丸万元祖焼鳥 鹿児島県鹿児島市山之口町12-31
Menu Highlights? Tori Momoyaki

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