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Friday, November 21, 2014

Find Much More Than Yakitori at Kushido, Temescal’s New Izakaya

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 8:01 AM

click to enlarge Kushido specializes in chargrilled skewers called Yakitori, grab a seat at the bar to watch the grilling action. - FERRON SALNIKER
  • Ferron Salniker
  • Kushido specializes in chargrilled skewers called Yakitori, grab a seat at the bar to watch the grilling action.

Temescal’s newest addition is a comfortably sleek izakaya-style restaurant with more than 20  top-notch sakes and a beer menu with a unique selection of Japanese craft beers. Owner Jonathan Moon says that similar to a traditional izakaya — where drinking is accompanied by grilled skewers called yakitori — the bar is the focus here and the food is a complement. After an evening enjoying both, I’d say the food could easily share the spotlight.

Unlike many specialized drink lists, the extensive sake menu here won’t make you feel dumb. Descriptions are helpful and concise so that novices won’t feel intimidated, but there’s enough range to keep connoisseurs excited. I started my meal with a glass of the tonzai snow maiden, a fruity unfiltered sake with the chewy texture of coconut milk and cleansed my palate mid-meal with the super dry and crisp eiko fuji.

The beer list sways towards craft Japanese beers on draft and bottled, most easily identified by their price tags of $9 to $13. My conversation with bar director Jason Huffman started with a short history lesson on Japanese craft beer and ended with a hazy-bronze red rice Hitachino ale with a bitter front and smooth carmely finish. Don’t be afraid to ask questions here. There’s an unpretentious scholarly quality among the staff and they’re excited to answer.

There are two food menus, the yakitori — grilled just behind the bar — and another menu with cold and hot appetizers, a few non-skewered items from the grill, noodles and rice, and some fried dishes. The stand-out starter was definitely the kinoko foiruyaki, shitake mushrooms on a bed of enoki mushrooms grilled with butter and lemon inside an aluminum foil packet that, when opened at the table, bursts with smells of smoke and citrus.

Former chefs of Umami and Ozumo show off their range with the tonkotsu ramen and the karage chicken. Both are solid, as is the calamari steak with teriyaki sauce and the adegashi tofu. Specials change frequently, but if you catch it, order the beef tendon. At first glance, its shiny gelatinous appearance is a little mysterious, but the dish has been slow-cooked since 10:30 a.m. and tastes like sweet condensed beef broth and caramelized onions.

click to enlarge Almost every bit of the chicken is available on the Yakitori menu. - FERRON SALNIKER
  • Ferron Salniker
  • Almost every bit of the chicken is available on the Yakitori menu.

You can get almost every bit of the chicken on the yakitori menu, as well as a few bacon-wrapped morsels and veggie skewers. On both menus dishes run from $3 to about $8 and are meant to be shared.

Moon says that weekends are already packed, so to avoid a wait pay a visit during the week. For now they’re just offering dinner service, but expect ramen and donburi for lunch soon. 

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Ferron Salniker

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