From my 37thfloor hotel room, I look out over the concrete horizon that is Tokyo and am awed and intimidated by the vastness of this city – yet at the same time I am enticed by the culinary treasures it hides among its bustling neighborhoods and hidden alleyways. Over the years I have developed my taste for Japanese food, which in the past, I am shy to admit, was not on the top of my favorite cuisines. But this time is different, I am excited to experiment, to dive into Kaiseki (though I know all dishes will not be to my liking), discover an eclectic Izakaya and to go and search out spots that cater to my, admittedly, fussy palate.
Despite the fact that I am ready and open to discover new flavors and ingredients, I have arrived in Japan already with a particular spot on my radar. A restaurant I had read about and which had already seen featured on a couple of foody programs that pop up on my Netflix line-up now and then. Of all the Japanese culinary traditions, Yakitori is my favorite by far. The art of barbecuing small skewers of food to perfection – single bites of wonderful flavor and textures. Masakichi, in the hidden Meguro neighborhood of the city was my object of desire on this particular trip. Having booked several weeks prior to leaving Los Angeles, I was guaranteed a couple of spots in this 12 seat, counter only hole in the wall, which among other things, has a Michelin Star to its name – a rarity for this type of an establishment.
Masakichi is located in the neighborhood of Meguro just outside the center of the city. A chill and trendy new neighborhood, Meguro is home to a number of locales serving innovative and delicious Japanese cuisine. The restaurant is located in the middle of a short, narrow street off the main road so it is tough to find, but any Tokyo taxi driver worth his or her stuff will find the tiny storefront restaurant even if you need to stop and ask a few locals.
Prior to coming to Masakichi, once your reservation is confirmed, you are advised to please not to where any type of cologne. That in itself was a unique request which added to the mystique and intrigue of this little restaurant. We started with a simple salad, made up of local greens, cabbage and a flurry of bonito flakes dressed with a tart/sweet ginger dressing. We then got down to business. A plethora of traditional and not so traditional skewers are offered. Being the conservative soul that I am when it comes to Japanese cooking, I focused the order on Negima, plump chicken thighs grilled to perfection with small slices of green onion. In addition an order of chicken wings, mixed vegetables and few other mystery meats including chicken hearts and a variety of tender meats. The meal ended with a service of perfectly prepared Ramen, simple with all the traditional accouterments, a rich and sumptuous broth topped with a semi soft egg and a beautiful slice of daikon.
Masakichi is proof that all Yakitori is not the same. The experience here is above the level found at most of these kinds of establishments – not only thanks to the simple but delicious skewers of meat, but to the wonderful ambience, the vibe and the dedication Masakichi gives to his culinary magic. It’s a tough spot to find, but one that is well worth the search.
5 Chome-2-8 Megurohoncho, Meguro, Tokyo 152-0002, Japan
Tel: +81 3-3792-5216