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Fuku: Your new local yakitori stop

by Robbie Swinnerton

Yakitori is neighborhood food, not destination dining. When you feel like nibbling on skewers of grilled chicken, you don’t go across town; you head for your local. If you’re lucky, it will be good. But it’s unlikely to be as good as Fuku in Yoyogi-Uehara.

Intimate but not cramped, it looks more than a bit stylish inside and out. The grill sits theatrically in the center of the room, but emits little or no smoke. And the menu is way more extensive (and affordable) than you’d expect. Besides all the usual cuts of chicken, there are lots of good things wrapped in bacon, such as asparagus, mushrooms and even mochi rice cakes. You’ll also find tofu, seafood, spuds and veggies all primed to go on the charcoal.

It’s also worth scanning the seasonal specials (in Japanese only). Last month’s highlights included oysters: three to each skewer and grilled to a light golden-brown, they were perfect with a dusting of aromatic seven-spice.

Thankfully the drinks list is equally eclectic. Where else in town offers Anchor Steam Beer or Hawaiian Fire Rock Pale Ale as alternatives to standard Japanese lager? There’s also good regional sake (Jokigen and Kagatobi are the standouts).

Fuku is almost always full, and not everyone is from the immediate vicinity. But that’s because after a couple of visits, no matter how far you come from, you start to feel like Fuku could really be your local.

3-23-4 Nishihara, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 03-3485-3234; 5:30-11:30 p.m.; closed Weds.; nearest station Yoyogi-Uehara; no smoking; ¥3,000 per head (plus drinks); major cards OK; Japanese/English menu; English spoken.