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Friday, January 11, 2008

Yakitori Boy update

We had a chance to try Yakitori Boy again, and are happy to report that they appear to be getting in the groove. The food was better overall (or maybe we just ordered more things they do well.) Service was very friendly, almost too enthusiastic, we had servers, bussers and runners practically falling over one another bringing dishes, clearing them, or checking up on us. Their liquor license still bogged down somewhere, they're hoping for it any day now.

There was a little confusion right when we came in, and it took a few minutes for our server to come over and take our order, so as an apology for the delay, they were nice enough to send over Ika (Squid) Salad and Seaweed Salad, both of which were quite good.

We ordered an Avocado Salad which was pretty straightforward, but fresh and tasty, with a good ginger dressing.

Pork Gyoza were also pretty standard, but very nicely fried to a good crunch.

Bacon and Eggs, well, Quail Eggs Wrapped in Bacon were very tasty. How could they not be? We were very amused when at the end of the meal, as plates were being cleared, one of our servers noticed a lone remaining egg, and jokingly scolded us: "don't waste bacon!" I'm thinking of getting a tattoo that says that...

Saba Yaki Saba Shioyaki (salt-grilled mackerel) was pretty basic, nothing really wrong with it, but it was not really spiced or sauced, just broiled fish. Fine for what it was. Keep in mind, it's pretty boney...

Kimchee Don (pork with Kimchee) brought spicy Korean pickled cabbage studded with fried pork, some bean sprouts adding crunch. This was very tasty, and also provided some spice and acid to our array of dishes.

Tonkatsu had a very light, greaseless coating on the tender pork. There was a bowl of katsu sauce served alongside, which a server described as "like a Japanese A-1 sauce." Unfortunately, that was fairly accurate, it seemed closer to A1 than most katsu sauces I've had. Still, the pork was very nice, the sauce not bad.

Shrimp and vegetable tempura was excellent: light, greaseless, good crunch, a nice mix of vegetables and two large shrimp, mild dipping sauce alongside.

Our Yakitori selections were all strong this time: Chicken and Scallions, Chicken Meatballs, Chicken Skin. They all seemed to have a bit more of a flavorful, slightly sweet glaze, and a better grill char to them than before, I'm quite sure we'll get all of these again.

On this cold, rainy night, we'd actually been moved to return to Yakitori Boy to try the ramen we'd seen on the menu on our first visit. All the soups are referred to as "mini" and while they're not quite as large a portion as you would get at a ramen joint, they're not exactly mini either. It's a very nice size, presuming you're going to eat something else too: not a tiny serving like you'd get with a lunch special or combo bento box, but not a huge bowl that will completely fill you up either.

The sad news is that we didn't much care for the Ramen (pictured above.) The broth was bland and a little bitter, and the noodles were undistinguished. The good news is that the Soba (below) and Udon were much better. (Sorry I only have a soba photo here, the udon pix didn't turn out too well - ahh... it happens, I'm shooting by candlelight here!) Those soups had a rich, clear dashi-style broth with a pleasing smoky edge. The soba noodles had a good nutty flavor and firm texture, the udon a pleasing chewiness.

Boiled Spinach was simple, but just right, nice to have some greens amidst the meats.

We also got an order of Tatsuta Age (Fried Chicken) that somehow didn't get photographed amid the 800 other dishes. It was almost as good as on our first visit, and might have been even better if we'd jumped right on it while it was straight from the kitchen. And that brings up an ordering-strategy issue: this type of menu is really designed for ordering a few dishes, eating them, ordering some more... Our server advised us of this, and we intellectually understood it, but we have so little self control that we went ahead and ordered everything at once. As a result, we had a pretty crowded table, and we weren't getting to everything right when it was kitchen-hot. It would make sense to spread it out a little, so we'd advise ordering in batches, which gives you a little more control over what comes in what combinations too.

The highlights this time were the Ika Salad, all the Yakitori, the Tempura, and the (non-ramen) noodle soups, and there's still loads more to explore. There's an extensive sushi menu, and the sushi looks fine, but there's other stuff that's more unique to this place, so we're going to concentrate on that. Stay tuned...

Yakitori Boy
211 N. 11th St
Philadelphia (Chinatown)


  1. Diann2:33 PM

    Great photos! Especially given how dark it was in there... (REALLY great photos.)

    For what it's worth... it's saba shioyaki (salt-grilled mackerel). The salt rub is meant to cut the fattiness of the fish.

  2. Ahh, thanks, I corrected it! Yikes, I'm starting to doubt my mad Japanese language skillz...

  3. Anonymous11:47 AM

    my sushi was frozen when i went for the first time...not so great to taste icy fish. other than that the other food was decent

  4. We haven't tried the sushi, but apparently Kirsten Henry from the Weekly felt some of her sushi was too cold also: link>>

    We'll admit that it might be too severe a stance, but my crowd is very skeptical about sushi from places that don't do it as their primary focus, and generally avoid it.

    Not that there aren't occasionally places that can make good sushi alongside other food, but I say, proceed with caution!

  5. I took a group of about 16 on Saturday night. We were generally impressed, and very few of us were there for the sushi. (There were two friends of mine visiting from Tokyo and another three - including me - who were excited for the idea of "izakaya" dining in Philadelphia.

    The few sushi dishes that were ordered were actually very well prepared, and the okonomiyaki was excellent (although I still prefer it from the lunch counter at Maido). The takoyaki was perfect - too perfect, maybe, for a food that's meant to be a festival food booth treat. The yakitori was well priced, and definitely cooked properly.

    Biggest issues were: (1) the lack of a liquor license, which was easily solved by running to the booze store on 12th street (there's also one on Chestnut around the corner from Lolita), and that definitely kept the cost of dining down - it will be interesting to see if it's still a great deal once they get their license (our bill was about $25/person); (2) the servers, although friendly, messed up the order a couple of times - having lived in Japan, I know that those little touchscreen ordering panels (like at Wawa) are an amazing boon for izakaya, especially since it's usually large groups like mine; and (3) the fact that all the karaoke rooms were full when we tried to book them.

    Biggest surprises: Actually being able to speak Japanese in Philadelphia with the staff of a restaurant; the fact that the girl who runs the karaoke upstairs went to the same university in Japan that I went to/taught at; and, sadlythe fact that I have now have to redo my business plan I've been trying to propose because someone already beat my idea for an izakaya in Philadelphia with karaoke booths and took the location I wanted. Oh well!

  6. Thanks for that update,I'd been wanting to try the okonomiyaki and takoyaki, now I'll do so even sooner!

    I think there's a mix of servers there, most of them dealing with us were definitely NOT Japanese, and didn't seem to speak the language, at least they didn't always understand our order until we pointed at it on the menu.

    The servers were very nice, and enthusiastic, maybe overly so: we'd at one point started referring to them as "a bag of puppies," tumbling over one another, all cute and cuddly, but mostly just crashing into things.

    But it's early days, I'm sure the service will buff-up, and the vibe will change when they get the liquor license. But you're right, I like the bargain aspect of it being BYOB for a little while longer...