I always keep a few restaurants on my “to try” list but often find it difficult to either find the time or pull myself away from my usual favorites. Yakitori Totto is one of those restaurants that has been on my list for quite a while. Yakitori means grilled (yaki) chicken (tori) in Japanese, and by definition the chicken should be served on skewers. However, recently I’ve noticed that the word yakitori is often used for other types of skewered items (whether it is a protein or vegetables) when eating in a traditional “yakitori” establishment.
Yakitori Totto only takes reservations at 5:30 pm which is a little too early for me to eat dinner. But an opportunity arose when I had friends visiting from Texas and we were seeing an 8:00 performance at nearby Lincoln Center. Surprisingly, a line of about 20 people deep was already formed when I arrived at 5:15 – but we managed to get the last available table. Otherwise it would have been quite a wait. As soon as we got settled and had a chance to review the expansive menu, I ordered a few yakitori options to get started. Momo (pieces of chicken thigh), Nume (chicken breast), Tebasaki (wing) and Tsukune (chicken meatballs) would be what I consider to be the “standard” for a yakitori selection.
Needless to say all yakitori selections exceeded our expectations, and the Tsukune was my personal favorite – very tender and juicy compared to traditional meatballs. One difference is that normally in Japan we would dip the meatball in a beaten raw egg. But here we had a delicious teriyaki-style sauce (tare) which we all loved . . . so much so that we each ordered a second portion! We then ordered several side dishes from a nice izakaya menu. We chose Agedashi tofu (a simple Japanese way to serve hot tofu), edamame, Buta Kakuni (tender simmered pork), and some pickles to share.
Everything was so oishii! We wanted to order more but had to leave for the show. When we left the restaurant around 7:15 or so, the line to get in was even longer that when we arrived!
Price: $50 per person including tip, several beers and a medium bottle of sake
Neighborhood: Hell’s Kitchen
Dress code: Smart casual
Noise level: Lively as it is an open grill concept