Aah yakiniku. I’ve spoken about it briefly before in my Food Recap a few months ago. But seeing as I went again on Thursday, I though I would write a bit more about it. I went with some friends, Yuusuke, a Japanese student at KGU, and Oleg & Roman, two Australian-born Russians, here visiting friends.
Yakiniku literally means “grilled meat”. There are yakiniku restaurants all over the Japan, but it’s a little bit different to what you’d get from a mixed grill back in the UK. Now, my local yakiniku is called Chifaja (which doesn’t mean anything). Entering the restaurant can be an assault on the senses. It’s loud with large groups of friends or colleagues eating, drinking and talking. The smell of cooking meat and smoke fills the air. It’s incredibly warm inside, and there are plumes of smoke coming from each table. Occasionally you will see a flash of bright yellow flames and the sound of sizzling.
So why all the smoke and fire? The best way to explain yakiniku is DIY barbecue. They bring you uncooked meat, seasoned and chopped, or vegetables, or whatever you want to cook. Then, in the centre of each table is a small, circular grill with an open gas flame. But there is more to it than just that. This yakiniku has two things in particular: tabehoudai and nomihoudai. These words mean “eat as much you like” and “drink as much as you like” respectively. For a little under ￥3000 (£17), you can eat and drink as much as you want for 90 minutes.
And good God we gave a good go of it. Plates and plates piled with different meats: beautifully marbeled chunks of beef, chicken marinated in herbs and garlic, pork dipped in egg. And then bowls of salads and soups. And of course beer. But yes, the food was the focus. We had so much meat that we couldn’t cook it fast enough! Our grill went up in flames twice from dripping fat catching alight, causing a very brave waitress to rush over, removing the old grill using a tool with one hand, while transferring our meat onto the new grill with the other. We. Ate. A. Lot. Oh, and did I mention there was ice cream as well?
However, there is a catch to this. Anything that you don’t eat, you have to pay extra for. By the end of the meal, it becomes a serious team effort to finish off the last couple of pieces of meat, almost grimacing at the amount you have already eaten. I waddled all the way home.