Yakitori Boy is confused. Is it a night club that should be in Old City? Is it a traditional izakaya? Is it trying to be a Japanese tapas bar? Is it real karaoke, or just a notch higher than the sad excuses for the other (smaller) karaoke boxes in Chinatown? Whatever it’s trying to be, busy and popular it is.
We were there with a group of eight, and had a two-hour reservation in one of the several private “boxes” on the second floor. Our room was $40/hour but others were cheaper or more expensive, depending on the capacity. When we arrived, Matt and I ordered a few items at the bar while we waited for the others. All grilled skewers are under $3 each, and the menu is pretty inexpensive, with all appetizers $10 and under and sushi rolls (3 per order) no more than $3.50.
I already knew exactly what I wanted: tsukune (chicken meatballs) and yaki onigiri, two of my staples at izakaya in Japan. The draft beers (Sapporo and Kirin Ichiban) were served in sub-zero temp glasses and iced up upon contact–perfection. I dug into the tsukune and although the flavoring was almost perfect, the texture was a bit off–instead of tender and juicy, it was a bit chewy and…compact. That is the only word I can think of to describe it.
The yaki onigiri, on the other hand, was perfect. Grilled dark with a thin crust on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. And at only $1.50, it was a complete steal.
We also tried the chicken yakitori, shishamo (Japanese smelt), and tako yaki (octopus balls). The yakitori could have been flavored better, and the pieces of chicken were teeny tiny. The shishamo fit the bill. The tako yaki resembled the tsukune in that the flavor was all good, but the texture was lacking. Matt’s favorite part is the katsuobushi (dried, smoked, shaved tuna) sprinkled on top.
I was so intent on figuring out the elaborate but not very organized karaoke system that I failed to order many other items on the menu. Next time I plan to try the gyoza (veggie and pork); buta kimchi; Dragon roll (avocado and eel); grilled corn; grilled ginko nuts; and grilled salmon and scallion. At least.
I mentioned karaoke. Karaoke is somewhat of a science, especially when you are being charged by the hour. The system was horrible. Absolutely horrible. The selection, once you figured out the system, was decent. Enough said. I mentioned the confusing system to our server and he did say they might be upgrading, or at least adding songs, but I won’t hold my breath.
The bar-system of karaoke, if you don’t feel like paying for the box, was uncivilized and chaotic. I loved it. At $1 a song and a 5-song minimum, it’s also pretty reasonable. There was no KJ–you submit your selections to the staff and keep track of your songs on the list on the TV screen. When it’s your turn, you have to grab the mics from the previous singers.
And just remember:
Yakitori Boy definitely deserves another chance, and at those reasonable prices, I could eventually try everything I want to on the menu. (Not the sake bombs.)