Yakitori, chicken cooked and served on a skewer, is widely known as a B-Kyu cuisine, an inexpensive street food in Japan that is loved by many people of all ages.
If you have ever experienced a Japanese festival, chances are that you have seen a Yakitori stall. Just pick up one skewer and take a bite, then the umami of the freshly baked grilled chicken spreads in your mouth. It’s truly mouth watering, and because of the ease of eating, Yakitori has fascinated people since the Edo period, when it was first served to the lord of Komoro Castle from game.
Unlike the stalls, when you eat at a restaurant, you can sit down and be more relaxed, so the flavour of high-grade Yakitori stands out even more. Some Yakitori restaurants have thought of various ways of attracting customers, for instance, by using branded chicken and locally grown organic vegetables, or cooking in Sumiyaki style over hot charcoal, as well as the use of distinctive barbecue sauce and healthy side dishes.
Naniwa Tomoare is a Yakitori restaurant located in Matsubara, about ten miles south of central Osaka. The Tsumura Honten Aigamo ranch is known for its cross breed of kamo (wild mallard) and the ahiru (domestic duck). Actually duck was eaten in Japan before chicken was introduced for mass consumption in the Meiji period in the 19th century. The Aigamo meat here is tender and tasty and is known nationally under the Kawachi Duck brand. While there are quite a few Yakitori shops in downtown Umeda or Namba in Osaka, you can only try the Kawachi Duck at Naniwa Tomoare.
When entering the shop, you can see a spacious interior with about 40 zashiki or tatami mat seating. You will be welcomed by an energetic restaurant staff in a red T-shirt with a headband. I first ordered the ¥50 Tamba-Jidori chicken on the skewer which is their signature dish and it was full of flavour, a tribute to one of this heirloom breed that has put northern Kansai on the culinary map. The owner says each skewer is carefully grilled over charcoal one by one, by doing so the chicken becomes tender and the charcoal adds a delicious smell to it.
I went there with my family, so we ordered all kinds of Yakitori, Kokoro (heart), Kimo (liver) Tsukune (meatballs) and Kamameshi (rice, chicken, and vegetables boiled together in a small pot.) The meatballs were amazingly tender, having been lovingly kneaded a hundred times to attain this texture. Yakitori also goes well with alcohol. If you like Sake, you can choose the best matching one with the delicious Yakitori from a large selection.
Since the shop’s opening in March 2014, Naniwa Tomoare's friendly service and unique fare has placed Matsubara on the map. Its appearance on a TV program has further added to its popularity, and so they have added to their family friendly menus. When you are in Osaka, you should try to come here and experience authentic Yakitori. The restaurant may be a little crowded on weekends, so I would recommend coming on a weekday. You can make reservations by phone, and remember to bring cash as they do not take credit cards.