The first night in Kyoto we were to meet an old friend. She worked with me in Crawford Bayley in the mid 1980’s. Over the years R & A and us have remained friends and sometime in the early 2000’s, R got a job in Singapore and then Hong Kong. We have remained in touch ever since and whenever we went to Singapore or Hong Kong we met, yakked, drank, ate and laughed. By sheer providence the planets were aligned and R & A were in Kyoto the same time we were. They were going on a most interesting hike on the Kumano Kodo Pilgrim Trail [they are passionate hikers]. However we would miss them in Hong Kong as they would still be on the trail.
We met at their hotel, had a beer and set out to find dinner. Suddenly I could smell barbeque and I followed the smell. This led to a small Yakitori restaurant. We went in and sat down. It was a start of an absolutely fabulous evening. Easily one of the highlights of the visit to Japan.
Yakitori is basically skewered grilled chicken. It is a distinct cuisine in Japan and Yakitori restaurants are places where overworked Japanese go post work. You have a few sticks of Yakitori washed down with a few glasses of beer or Sochu. Sochu is a distilled clear alcoholic drink at between 25% to 35% proof, which is less than our whiskey, gin, vodka etc.
The place was a hole in the wall. Just two people serving, the husband who did the grilling and the minimal other cooking and the wife who served and brought drinks. That was all. No one spoke a word of English, ok, I exaggerate, they knew the words `One’ and `two’. The name of the place was Yakitori Torikaku. As we sat, there were just two punters on the counter chatting with the bossman. Bossman got worried and came out and told us `Only chicken’. More lies by me. Now they knew 4 English words. We said no problem, we know that; just get us 3 beers and 1 Sake. A raggedy English menu turned up.
Please see the top of the menu and tell me what this means – “Yakitori (I accept the order than two of them!!). Anyway, we ordered some sticks and some beers and some Sake and some sticks and some beers and some Sake and some sticks and some beers and some Sake and so on and so forth. At some point R told the bossman that he should have a beer at our cost. Promptly bossman cracked open two and gave one to his wife. Much bonhomie much smiles much speaking in Japanese by the couple and much answering in English by us. It is amazing that whenever you speak to someone who does not quite follow what you are saying you automatically SPEAK LOUDER and start speaking by dropping all, what you consider unnecessary words. `We from India’! Poor man did not quite get that. So R said `we from Indo’. God knows if that got thru. `MUMBAI, BOMBAY’ I shouted. Finally someone said `Gran Via Hotel’ and something clicked. God know what, but something did.
|Ordering some more food|
The Yakitori was good, really good. The beers like all beers in Japan were really cold `chilled’ as we say in Mumbai. We all had such a pleasant time and the bossman enjoyed himself so much with our antics that he gave us a dish of barbequed Sweet Potato - `Ratalu’ `Shakkarkhand’ - with a dab of butter on the house. Boy, it was delicious. I later realised that it was the most expensive dish on offer. How utterly sweet of them.
|Sausage with Japanese Mustard|
|Delicious Chicken Balls and Grilled Peppers|
|Chicken Thigh Yakitori|
|Chicken with Negi i.e. Leek and Chicken Livers|
|Pork Juicy [second order] and Pork Rib|
|The delicious Sweet Potato|
When it was time to leave, much bowing, much thank you's and off we went our separate ways.
It was great fun.