Eat Like a Local in Japan: Yakitori in Tokyo

Food Chronicles

All About Yakitori & Where to Eat it in Nihonbashi, Tokyo

Yakitori, which is skewered meat cooked over a charcoal grill, is a Japanese cuisine as popular as ramen or sushi. In fact, it is one of the most common after-work meals in Tokyo.

The History of Yakitori

Yakitori arose out of the Meiji period in the late 1800s. Prior to that during the Edo period from 1603 to 1868, Buddhism restricted the consumption of meat, particularly with the ban on beef and pork and the high prices of chicken.

In the turn of the 20th century, chickens were bred for food which popularized the meat, but pork and beef offal were more common and typically the skewered meat for yakitori.

The Edo period had left a prejudice against grilled chicken in that the grilled smell was considered unsavory. So in the Meiji period, yakitori masked the smell with the tare (teriyaki) sauce.

Then, in the late 1950s, the Japanese brought in the US technology of fast-growing chickens to the industrial scale making chickens easily and affordably available for everyone. Yakitori food stalls and small restaurant shops then expanded to train stations for the salarymen (the local name for businessmen/corporate office workers) to stop or a drink and quick snack.

Today, it continues to popularity among the after-work crowd for drinks and small bites. Yakitori is most popular during summer months because of the refreshing cold beers to enjoy the food. You can easily find the grilled skewered in food stalls, in cheap restaurants under the train tracks, or in gourmet high-quality restaurants.

 

Tori-ryori Chokotto Ryori Hokkoriya in Nihonbashi, Tokyo

Yakitori shops are most commonly found near train stations and near offices to lure in the after-work crowd. Tokyo’s Nihonbashi was once the capital’s financial district and today still houses multinational and local corporations. So, of course, there will be a yakitori restaurant in the vicinity.

Tori-ryori Chokotto Ryori Hokkoriya, or simply Hokkoriya, in the Mitsui Building (which also houses the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo) is located in the basement floor with other restaurants catering to the local office crowd looking for a quick, quality meal for lunch and dinner.

At lunch, the restaurant only serves oyakodon and fried chicken set meals. This is one of the best bowls of oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowl) you will find in Tokyo. Then at dinner, the menu expands to yakitori dishes fresh off the grill.

Read more about lunch at Hokkoriya here

 

Photos inside Hokkoriya & Its Famous Oyakodon

The storefront of Hokkoriya. Almost all office buildings in Tokyo will have restaurants in their basement floors. If it is a nice area and a nice building, the restaurants will likely be of a higher quality – which means the food produced will be tastier
Cold draft beers and yakitori are the ideal pairing. If you want something a little stronger, there is often a selection of wine, sake, and shochu. Each yakitori order is usually one or two sticks with your choice of salt or tare sauce
If you are by yourself or just a few people, the bar counter is a great front row seat to the kitchen. Japan makes chef’s table dining so common for everyone. Order a few sticks at the time, then you can order another round of drinks and food at the night goes on. Yakitori is all about enjoying the drinks, the food, and your company of companions
Hokkoriya’s famous oyakodon – chicken and egg rice bowl. It is served during both lunch and dinner. The standout of this oyakodon is the grilled chicken taste (rather than simply boiled chicken) and the runny, moist quality of the scrambled egg sauce
This oyakodon also stands out from other bowls because of how the sauce is balanced throughout the rice. Some oyakodon bowls lack sauce leaves you wanting more to help finish the rice. The sauce here is generous to the point where it flows to the bottom of the bowl without overwhelming the white rice

 

Food Photos from Dinner at Hokkoriya in Nihonbashi

Negima, chicken thigh and leeks in tare sauce. There are some orders best seasoned with just salt, and others best seasoned and flavored with tare sauce. Negima is often cooked with tare sauce to further moisten and flavor the meat
Torikawa, chicken skin. Another common yakitori order. This is best with just salt so the crispness of the skin is the star of every bite. Don’t worry so much about the fat, as most of it renders off from the charcoal grill
Tsukune, chicken meatball. Hokkoriya’s yakitori shows off its tsukune skills with the varying flavors of the meatball and the toppings. The meatball is usually served like this, or in actual meatball shapes
Tebasaki, chicken wings. One of the best orders at a quality yakitori place. The better cooks know how to slowly cook the wing so that it’s tender and thoroughly cooked inside while the outside is nicely browned and charred. The wings take time to cook, so order it early on
Yakitori restaurants also offer side dishes in their extensive menus. This is your chance to balance the meal with vegetables and salads, or to further indulge with fried chicken or other specialties of the restaurant

 

Watch my video below featuring my dinner at Hokkoriya. And subscribe to my YouTube channel for my latest travel vlogs!

 

Address & Hours

Tori to Chokotto Ryori Hokkoriya
B1F Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower
2-1-1- Nihonbashimuromachi, Chuo, Tokyo
+81-3-3231-1718
11am to 11pm (last order 10:30pm)

 


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