Yakitori Totto

by Susan on May 27, 2008

[Food:4/5]

At Yakitori Totto, Japanese street food goes organic and the words “chicken on a stick” will never be the same. When the first skewer arrives you’ll start compiling a list of people you want to bring to this Midtown West secret. You’re not the only one. A long wait, along with an easy-to-miss doorway and a steep flight of stairs are the obstacles between you and skewer heaven. All of them are worth overcoming.

The chicken on a stick, Yakitori Totto’s specialty, comes in many varieties, is organic, and is cooked to juicy perfection. There are crowd-pleasing options like Negima (thigh and scallion) and Mune (breast with wasabi), as well as more daring chicken choices – the neck, heart, and knee bones – just to name a few. We sampled a skewer of Seseri (neck) and were not disappointed with the succulent morsels. There are only limited quantities of some of the more adventurous choices; when you order, your server will yell to the chefs behind the counter to make sure it’s still available.

Three to four pieces are stacked on each $3-$4 stick. Take the plunge and order chicken soft knee bone; at these prices there are no excuses not to be daring. In addition to all the various chicken parts, there are also skewers of pork, seafood, vegetables and beef. All the meat is premium quality and the vegetables are fresh. Each stick is deliciously seasoned or sauced. Try the Kuro Buta (pork) skewers with lemon and mustard and don’t miss the eggplant with miso paste.

We rounded out our stick-centric order with Zaru Tofu (cold tofu in a bamboo basket), Tako No Kara Age (deep-fried octopus), and a tuna sashimi and avocado salad. Three salts accompanied the tofu, leaving the ability to adjust its refreshing taste at the diner’s fingertips. Tempura-like crumbs, blended to a fine dust, encased the octopus in non-oily and crispy perfection. While I couldn’t keep my chopsticks out of the tuna and avocado salad, it was too sweet for my dining companion.

Popular Japanese rice and noodle dishes are also available. We chose to leave room for dessert and didn’t regret it.

The Ice Banana, frozen slices of banana served in a bowl of coconut milk and tapioca, was breakfast cereal on steroids. It was unique, it was refreshing, and it was the ideal level of sweetness. Creamy apricot kernel tofu was also divine. Silky tofu was imparted with apricot flavor, transforming it into a guiltless dessert that was rich and flavorful.

Yakitori Totto doesn’t take reservations after 7pm and the wait can be up to 45 minutes on any given night. But once you sit down, the atmosphere is relaxed, and the service incredibly pleasant and friendly. The wait? Worth every minute.

Yakitori Totto
251 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
212.245.4555

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