The name says it all. An alleyway by the Shinjuku train tracks that is filled with small yakitori (grilled skewers of meat, mainly chicken) stalls, each big enough to fit only about a half dozen people. It’s not touristy although many tourists have found this place. It’s really meant to be a late-night snacking and drinking place for the japanese salarymen (and women) who need something to fill their bellies after a long day (and night) of work. It’s open 24 hours and the place is a bit hard to find, hidden near one of the tracks …
The alley was a couple of blocks long, narrow, and filled with the smell of smokey grilled goodness. We decided to avoid the couple of places that offered an english menu and hit up a small six-seater where the chef had a small hibachi of hot coals and grilling up chicken pieces of thighs, wings, hearts, gizzards, and the like. If there was ever a time in Japan where we felt like “gaijin” (foreigner), it was here. When we sat down, the chef just stared at us. When we asked for a menu, he continued to stare at us. Then he made a motion with his hand as if he was taking a drink of water. Oh- we’d like two draft beers! He yelled out something to his assistant behind him and in a few seconds, we were presented with a couple of nice frothy beers. There was a protocol to follow – first order drinks, then something non-grilled if you like (macaroni salad), then you yelled out some of the chicken parts that you wanted grilled. We found this out not due to any assistance from the chef but after several minutes of observing the other patrons seated next to us. Sometimes he didn’t pay attention to the orders because his hibachi was small and he was working on finishing what was on the grill, other times he heard you and gave a quick nod. Other than that, the guy had no intention of assisting the first-timers. Food was still pretty good …
These grilled shishito peppers were interesting. They looked the same but each one had a different flavor. First one was volcanic spicy. Second one was mild, third was sweeter.
Our chef – all hugs and smiles.
There were also a couple of tasty looking ramen joints in the Alley.
A fun little bar (Bar Albatross) in the Alley. Great cocktails and bartender and good jazz music on the ipod. A five-seater.
Tomatin – one of the best whiskeys I’ve ever had. As I was sipping a japanese suntori whiskey, I asked the bartender what his favorite was. This is what he pulled out and gave me a small pouring. I ordered another one.