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Yakiniku Delivers Authentic Local Experience And Glimpse Into Real Japanese Life

Yakiniku - Authentic Dining In Japan

Yakiniku Delivers Authentic Local Experience And Glimpse Into Real Japanese Life

February 22, 2016 @ 8:36 am
by e.neil
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A thin slice of meat dangles from your chopsticks. Fat still sizzles on it. You dip the hot-off-the-grill slice of flank steak into a small dish of sauce. It hisses. You inspect it before plunging it into your mouth. Dark brown sauce clings to the steak. Red pepper flakes and sesame seeds dot the sauce. Memories of sweet dates and molasses float to the surface of your mind as the aroma drifts into your nose. You pop it into your mouth, chew, and can't suppress the smile from spreading across your face.

You're in one of Japan's most beloved places – a yakiniku-ya-san, or yakiniku shop. And you're in good company. Laughter stretches across the mouths of your fellow patrons and disappears into the clamor of the dining room. Red and orange flames reflect off the glistening faces, moist with sweat from the heat. And the alcohol.

The yakiniku experience represents a mainstay of Japanese social life as well as stress coping.
After work, some great food and a few beers with friends go a long way in helping unwind.
You'll discover authentic Japan as you duck through the no ren curtain outside the restaurant and step through the sliding door into the world of the everyday person.

As you step inside off the street, the staff yell out the welcoming “irasshaimase.” Your mouth erupts into an internal waterfall. Your primal urge to feast on meat around a campfire comes up to the surface from the ancestral and instinctual memories stored in your “lizard brain.”

Fire. Meat. Beer. Tribe. Eat.

The hostess guides you to your seat. If you've chosen wisely*, this isn't a normal table and chair arrangement. Elevated off the floor about a meter, tatami mats form a rectangle around a recess in the center. A table rises above the recess, giving you enough space to comfortably slide in your legs.
A grill takes center stage on the table.

Moments later, your waiter brings a bucket full of hot coals and puts them into the grill.

You look at the menu and select cuts of meat you never knew existed. They range from the mundane - slices of flank stake, tongue, liver - to bits you'll only eat after your third dai choki nama biru (large mug of beer on tap, about 1.5 liters), and then only maybe – heart, stomach lining, intestine.
Yakiniku Intestine
Yakiniku Liver and Intestine
Yakiniku - Grilling Steak
After you order, your waiter brings out dishes of your selections, thinly sliced, and ready for you to drape onto the grill. After a couple of minutes above the coals, your meat is ready to devour. You pick it up with your chopsticks ...

The best way to find a good local yakiniku shop is simply to ask around. They are pretty much everywhere that you're likely to be traveling. Just look for the signs outside of shops. More and more they'll be in romaji or “Roman letters” spelled out. Price ranges vary on the restaurant, but for the most part, expect to pay low- to mid- range for your yakiniku experience. Of course, there are high-end options as well, but that takes you away from the everyday local person set. If you're not adverse to having a bit of chewiness, be a bit adventurous and go for some of the innards. Just imagine what a good story it'll make back home. Don't worry… the oddest thing you'll encounter will be chewing something that seems like a piece of giant rubber band with little flavor (that's where a great sauce comes in).

So go for it. Hit a few yakiniku shops while you're getting your glimpse into Japan.

* You can also get tables that resemble regular table and chair set-ups, with the grill in the center of the table, but if you have the chance, the style I describe above is really comfortable.

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