Top 10 Yakitori Restaurants in Los Angeles

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Yakitori at Hinotori | Photo by Clarissa Wei

In Japan, yakitori refers to bite-sized chicken meat or offal, strung on bamboo sticks and cooked over charcoal until beautiful crisp grill marks appear. In the states, that term has expanded to describe restaurants that serve grilled Japanese skewers. Also known as izakaya restaurants, meals at these places are fast, casual affairs that are usually paired with a sizeable glass of beer. Charcoal is the preferred cooking method because the ash radiates infrared rays to help seal in the flavor. Typically, the skewer is then dressed with salt or basted with yuzu or a sweet soy sauce. When it comes to yakitori, it’s all about the flavor. Here are 10 great yakitori restaurants in Los Angeles.

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Boneless chicken wings | Photo courtesy of Hasu Kitchen of Japan, Facebook

Hasu Kitchen of Japan



Hasu is a tiny kitchen in Torrance helmed by a husband and wife team. They’re quite dedicated to their craft - everything is grilled on a binchotan, a white charcoal grill whose origins date back to the Edo period. The Taisho Course features 10 skewers plus ohitashi (boiled spinach), a grilled rice ball, chicken soup and dessert. Dessert is made in-house and includes options like crepe and ice cream.

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Yakitori at Izakaya Fu-Ga | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Izakaya Fu-Ga



Located in a Little Tokyo basement, Izakaya Fu-Ga is a demure, date-night izakaya that’s bathed in dim lighting and soft music. A lot of love and care is put into each skewer - jidori chicken, kurobuta pork and aged rib steak are among the meat options. The yakitori is made from chicken thigh and paired with grilled green onions for an extra punch. We also recommend the chicken karaage (fried chicken on a stick) and their stuffed jalapeno tempura, which is filled with crab and cream cheese.

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Photo courtesy of Izakaya Hachi, Facebook

Izakaya Hachi



The ever-popular Izakaya Hachi is located on the edge of Old Town Torrance in the South Bay. The charcoal-grilled, thick cut beef tongue is heavenly and melts in your mouth. For chicken-related items, the chicken cartilage is a top hit, as well as the chicken shumai. They do kansai-style mackerel, which is box-pressed sushi with cooked mackerel on top of vinegar-seasoned rice. The oysters are also highly praised. Reservations are highly recommended.

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Izakaya Honda-Ya | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Izakaya Honda-Ya



Located on the top floor of the Little Tokyo Galleria, Izakaya Honda-Ya is a jack-of-all-trades that does ramen, sashimi, udon, soba and yakitori. Go for the offal - the gizzard, liver and hearts are great, as well as anything from their deep-fried menu. Crab cheese croquettes and deep-fried chicken wings are best when paired with a tall glass of beer.

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Chicken heart at Kokekokko | Photo courtesy of Ron Dollete, Flickr

Kokekokko



Kokekokko is a Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound made by a chicken. True to its name, the specialty at Kokekokko is indeed chicken. Their hidden menu has chicken sashimi - yes, that means raw chicken. If that’s too hardcore, you can go for their chicken breast, which is prepared medium rare and seasoned with wasabi and ginger. The seseri (neck) is notable for its crispy yet tender texture. Finish off with the heart, which is intensely rich and incredibly smoky. Note: Kokekokko is temporarily closed and is scheduled to reopen in Weller Court on Feb. 17, 2015.

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Skewers at Nanbankan | Photo courtesy of CurryPuffy, Flickr

Nanbankan



Nanbankan is Sawtelle Japantown’s skewer darling and they have a smashing array of charcoal grilled items. Try the duck breast, which is cooked medium rare and paired with mustard, yuzu and a frenzy of green onions. As for the chicken, give the liver a whirl. We also recommend the chicken skin, which is fried to a crisp and lightly dressed with a sweet mirin-infused soy glaze.

Shin Sen Gumi Chicken Yakitori

Chicken yakitori at Shin-Sen-Gumi | Photo: Garrett Snyder

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori



While Shin-Sen-Gumi is a Hakata ramen specialist, they have entire branches dedicated to the art of izakaya. These locations have over 30 types of skewers, including 17 different types of chicken. Their yakitori is done a number of different ways, such as seasoned with salt or brushed gently with teriyaki sauce. Hakata tradition dictates that the skewers are seasoned with yuzu kosho and served alongside chopped cabbage lightly sprinkled with ponzu.

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Chicken meatballs at Torihei | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Torihei



Torihei specializes in oden (Japanese-style hot pot) and skewers, with separate parts of the kitchen dedicated to each craft. For yakitori, the chefs offer tender cuts of jidori chicken roasted over a charcoal grill until it’s slightly charred and piping hot. They also make fantastic chicken meatballs - pulverized chicken that’s shaped into a ball and remarkably light in texture. Don’t miss their box of togarashi on the side - the ground bright-orange spice adds a punchy citrus kick. The lively atmosphere is all part of the Torihei experience. Perhaps one of the busiest izakayas in Los Angeles, Torihei definitely requires a reservation. Note: during peak hours, they have a dining time limit.

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Lunch selection | Photo courtesy of Yakitori Koshiji, Facebook

Yakitori Koshiji



Yakitori Koshiji is beloved for their chicken meatballs and is also well-known as one of the few yakitori joints in L.A. that’s open for lunch. Chicken is their specialty, but if you’re looking to try something new, the ramen salad will do the trick. It’s a kewpie-dressed bowl of noodles over romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes.