Yaki-tori is a simple food, it takes a very blistering hot fire, fired by bincho-sumi, a black coal that holds heat and radiates a consistent aura of heat. It is not as easy as it looks even if the choices are chicken and chicken to keep it simple. There isn’t a part of the bird that is missed and each part is equally as good. I surprise myself as a novice and I always think to myself, “no way I can eat that” but I do and it is delectable.
When you look beyond the fixation of a chef working with one food, one life, it is pretty incredible. The work requires concentration and accuracy, a cooking perfection and fanning of the fire to keep the right heat radiating to cook to a perfectness.
It looks simply, the chef is see-sawing left and right to get ingredients and have full control. The fire reflects and flashes heat to his face, and he controls every step, even his sweat.
His helper only helps and does not touch any part of the cooking process except preparing the wasabi and other more mechanical jobs. The chef, an excellent person, and I know for many years. Only no “gaijiin” and not because he has any problem with foreigners. It is just that this restaurant is 30 minutes away from the city center, if the traffic is light.
One of the elements p[articular to his work is the preparation of the lemon paste, he mashes it to add a dimension of sweet and tangy-ness, a contrast to the flavorful chicken. This is often combined with daikon grated or just by itself. A great touch!