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Bird on a stick

by Eric Madeen

Yakitori is "grilled chicken." This delicious repast of various chicken bits grilled on skewers has obtained an international following. The problem today, however, is that the fire used in so many yakitori establishments in Japan is a gas flame, not the traditional charcoal.

Not so at Tansaibou in Yokohama, where the diners themselves fan the high-grade charcoal embers under the skewers of chicken pieces so that they turn crispy and bubbling on the outside but remain hot and succulent on the inside. When you're seated, if the coals aren't already burning in your grill, they'll be carried forth from the fire pit in a pan glowing like molten lava. While the food is set before you already skewered, you tend the sticks of ginkgo nuts, petite tomatoes wrapped in bacon, shiitake, savory breast fillet, etc. Here, it's cook-it-yourself, except for the salads, sashimi, grilled fish and desserts that round out the extensive menu.

The atmosphere is upbeat with progressive music over robust greetings and banter with the young, hip waiting staff in traditional garb. The designer did a great job with the booths, ensconcing diners in the intimacy of rustic wood salvaged from old Japanese houses. You are connected, through views between vines, bamboo and assorted vertical beams, with the excitement of the restaurant at large.

Turn left out of Yokohama Station's west exit, another left at Bic Camera, opposite Sotetsu Cinema. Tel: 045-312-1139. Open 5-11:30 p.m. daily.


This article first appeared in Wingspan, the inflight magazine of All Nippon Airways.