Best Meal of 2012: Yakitori and Chicken Sashimi at Akira 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Posted by on Dec 31, 2012

It’s another amazing year’s end and 2013 is upon us.  Looking back, 2012 has been an exceptional year of eating, or rather, feasting.  I do consider myself very blessed in many areas of life, and food is a highlight that I cannot ignore.

If I had to name my best restaurant meal of 2012, I’d be torn between so many, including but not limited to: Diva at the Met in Vancouver, Wildebeest in Vancouver, Miku in Vancouver, El Naranjo in Austin, Uchi in Austin, Barley Swine in Austin, Sevva in Hong Kong, and Esaki in Tokyo.

If forced to narrow down to just one, my best meal would have to be at a yaktori (Japanese grilled chicken) restaurant where my husband and I died and went to heaven in during our honeymoon.

When we arrived in Japan, we told our friend Nagi that we really wanted to try chicken sashimi.  Unbeknownst to us, chicken sashimi is not common fare in Tokyo.  She and other Tokyoites that we spoke with did not know where to get it.  After some research, Nagi led us to Akira, which was a fortunate thing because we wouldn’t have been able to find this hidden gem on our own.

This restaurant that specializes in chicken is situated above a tiny creek in Nakameguro.  It is considered one of the best yakitori/yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) joints in Tokyo by the locals.  Needless to say, the quality of the chicken here was unparalleled and put North America’s “free-range” or even organic chicken to shame.

After crossing over a footbridge and tracing along the creek, we met with the restaurant’s dark and unassuming exterior.  Once we opened the doors, a billow of sweet, meaty smoke hit our faces.  We were quickly surrounded by a buzzing room filled with eager diners that sat around table top grills.

Here’s what we devoured with fervour:

Pickles and sake at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Pickles and sake to kick off our evening

Grilled avocado at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Grilled avocado, glazed in butter and soy sauce – a creamy and savoury appetizer

Chicken sashimi tataki salad at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

The first appearance of raw chicken was in this simple, yet bright ponzu-dressed salad with shaved daikon and onions

Chicken sashimi plate at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Next, our chicken sashimi plate arrived.  There were 3 cuts of chicken: breast meat, thigh meat, and the tender

Chicken sashimi at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Here’s another look at our chicken sashimi plate.  Naturally, the meat was exceedingly fresh.  The flavour was mild and the texture was comparable to a firm fish’s.  The dark meat’s texture was springier while the white meats were more tender.  Minced ginger, micro greens, and citrus accompanied the delicate meats.  If sampled with my eyes closed, I would have compared this to a firm hirame, minus the oceany taste.

Grilled wild chicken leg at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Next up, they brought a wild chicken’s leg to the table on a sizzling plate.  Much of the meat has been removed for other applications so this was more for gnawing on.  Nothing went to waste here.

Diners at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Diners grilled up some chicken in the smoke filled restaurant.

Chicken platter at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Here comes our yakiniku platter!  Different cuts of chicken were displayed artfully on a bamboo block.  The charcoal grill heated up in the background.

Chicken platter  at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

A gratuitous shot of the meat, ready to hit the grill.

Chicken on the grill at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Meat, meet grill.

Chicken innards at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Chicken innards, such as gizzard and heart, were butterflied to cook swiftly over the charcoal.

Chicken innards on the grill at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Tsukune, or finely ground chicken patties wrapped in shiso leaves, smoked in the intense heat.

Tsukune in egg dip at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

The tsukune was served with a creamy onsen egg for dipping.  I still have dreams about this.

Chef at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Diners could also sit at the kitchen bar where the chef prepared yakitori for them by request.

 Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

More cuts of chicken are placed on the grill.

Grilled chicken with green onions at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Green onions are loaded onto slices of chicken breast.

Grilled chicken with green onions at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

The green onion coated breast is served with a wedge of lemon.

Chazuke rice at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Chazuke rice is served to end the meal.  The server poured hot green tea over the rice for a comforting, soupy rice dish that warmed us down to our toes.

Matcha ice cream at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

Why yes, that is matcha ice cream with dango (sticky rice dumplings)

Wall of sake at Yakitori Akira Grilled Chicken Restaurant 焼鶏 あきら in Naka-meguro, Tokyo Japan

I admired their wall of sake as we reveled and caught up.  Thanks so much, Nagi, we love you!!

As we headed back into the cold, our stomachs full and our faces blushed with sake, we felt so utterly, drop-dead blessed.

We’d like to thank all of our family, friends, and neighbours that shared in our year of eating and drinking.  Food never tastes half as good without great company.  Food is fine but your company is what’s worth celebrating.

Cheers to all my wonderful readers.  Thanks for another year of comments, debates, and support.  Here’s to another year of good health, laughter, and love.  Happy new year!

 

Yakitori Akira 焼鶏 あきら

1-10-23 Naka-Meguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

03-3793-0051

5:00pm-3:00am

 

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  • Chrissie

    Hi Melody, my husband and I made our first trip to Japan in April and I’m writing a big belated THANK YOU for telling us about Akira! Your blog came up while I was researching food, and it was thanks to your recommendation that we went there. It was one of the most charming, fun and delicious meals of our lives. Those meatballs! We went there on a night when there was a neighborhood sakura festival happening up and down the canal, so we sipped sake and warm wine and ate delicious snacks like grilled oysters before our (late) dinner reservation. Such a perfect night! Thanks again for letting us know about it…

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Isn’t it quite something? Thanks for dropping a line to let me know :)

  • Jason Scully

    Hi Melody,

    Do you need to make a booking at this place?

    Cheers

    Jason

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    I’d recommend it, yes.

    ——– Original message ——–

  • Andres Zuleta

    Wow, those are some truly awesome/intense photos! Cannot wait to get back to Tokyo, and soon. And Naka-Meguro is a great, great neighborhood ;)

  • Fred J Nutt

    Akira is wonderful. As we are from Austin, we gave your recommendations extra weight and are very glad we did. Akira was our best meal in Japan.
    Sitting at the bar had an Uchi fun feeling with almost equal service, original flavors and atmosphere, but with chicken. And it is astonishing chicken!

    Thank you. I hope to read your thoughts on one of my faves in Vancouver, Tojo’s, when you get back there.

  • fattoro

    this is actually yakiniku not yakitori

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    You are right! Thanks for point that out. That’s yakiniku style dining but they do consider themselves a yakitori because they specialize in chicken. I’ve made some revisions for clarification.

  • Alison

    Thank you for this post! Akira was a bitch to find (even the businesses on the street side of the building don’t know it’s there), but it was a pretty perfect experience all around, and they were so excited to see this blog post :)

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    Hi Alison,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I’m glad you had such a “perfect” experience. I’ve learned that trekking off the path is usually well worthwhile in Japan… and most dining cities for that matter :) So glad you found it!!
    - Melody

  • Steve Chan

    chicken sashimi.. is it meant to be eaten raw?

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    Yes and it was delicious.

  • Steve Chan

    Thanks. Is it this one?

    http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1317/A131701/13019676/

    I am going to Tokyo in a few days so I’d like to double confirm, thanks! So you recommend the dishes mentioned in your post here?

    Thanks so much!

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    Looks like that’s the 1. Enjoy your time in Tokyo. Yes, I recommend these dishes.

  • Steve Chan

    Sorry I forgot to ask, is that restaurant very popular? is a reservation necessary for dinner?

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    I’m not sure, Steve. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there. It never hurts to make resos.