Food without memory is just digestion

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Daikichi - A Stroke of Luck!

It was with melancholy tread, Gentle Reader, that we wound our way to Daikichi in Daikanyama [No web site, but this summary in Japanese] [Map] to bid adieu to dear Lady Piffle and Lord Schatzie. The Once and Future Blonde had arranged to meet this delightful couple during the very hectic lead-up to their departure from these fair shores, and finding himself at a loose end your Humble Correspondent toodled along as well. Schatzie himself had promised that this was an entirely admirable yakitori restaurant, and so the evening promised much enjoyment despite the impending sadness.

Most casual observers would assume that yakitori is a firmly traditional Japanese addition to gastronomy, although in cheaper establishments it perhaps is more often pabulum than delicacy. Truth be told, Gentle Reader, yakitori is a relatively recent addition to the galaxy of Japanese food styles. It is rather a surprise that the food took the generic name yakitori, because most skewered dishes in the Edo period (1603-1868) were in fact oden and tofu treats. Gradually, street hawkers began to grill a range of fowl (but not chicken) as well.

Japanese in general did not really start eating meat until the Meiji Period (1868 - 1912), and chicken meat was actually more of a luxury then than beef. Sukiyaki also raised its pretty head at this time (Sidestep: suki is a hoe or spade, and yaki means "to broil". This was predominately a fish dish until about 1900), as well as meat-based donburi like gyudon.

Chicken yakitori made with Cochin chicken achieved some measure of favour with the more well-heeled during the Taisho Period (1912 - 1926) but the style really only enjoyed wider popularity from the 1960's when broiler chickens from the United States started to be imported in appropriate quantities. Indeed, if one opts for the non-chicken varieties one will closer to the roots of this cuisine than one might imagine. For a more "authentic" selection, try pork with the tare sauce or the very rare venues that still offer historically accurate but perhaps kawaiso-challenged skewered fowl like Japanese pheasant, quail, duck, geese, sparrows, bulbuls, and lark. Or not, as is your wont.

Your Humble Correspondent is quite the fan of good yakitori, and on this measure Daikichi is a skewer above its competitors. Those in the know advise that Daikichi buys produce on a daily basis, depending on quality and likely number of diners. That means ingredients are not frozen or otherwise culinarily abused, and it shows in the wonderful flavours that the restaurant turns out. Service is cheerful and prompt, despite the fact that Daikichi is a family affair (Father, Mother, Daughter) and often gets quite hectic.

We tried (in no particular order) hatsu chicken heart, rebā liver, tsukune chicken meatballs, kawa chicken skin, tebasaki chicken wing, negiwa chicken and scallions, and nankotsu chicken cartilage as well as a scrumptious salad and the to-die-for yaki-onigiri grilled rice cakes. Brau Meister beer from Kirin is on tap, and there is a reasonable selection of sake on offer.

Try Daikichi with friends (only). And spare a thought for Piffle and Schatzie, who will sadly be sans yakitori in Berlin only too soon. It's enough to make a man weep, dear Friends. Until the next course comes ... Irrashaimase!

[Note: I am still to visit Serata in Nishi-Azabu, which I am reliably informed is the best yakitori in the world. Hmmmm ... we'll see!]

Dai Kichi [Map]: B1F, 12-18 Daikanyama, Shibuya Ward. t: 03-3496-9222 [Closed Wednesday]
Rating: Tori: 7/10; Sake: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Skew: 7/10; Price-Performance: 7/10. Total: 35/50

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