City Pulse

By Gillian Weeks

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Anyone familiar with Iron Chef knows that the Japanese take their cooking seriously. In fact, eating Tokyo street food requires many of the same skills as Tokyo street fighting: decisiveness, dexterity, and stony resolve. At Yakitori Totto, Hell’s Kitchen’s own street food establishment, you must look salmonella in the face…and laugh.

Your courage is rewarded by some of the tastiest morsels ever stacked on a stick. Japanese working-class cuisine is dominated by chicken (Yakitori Totto translates to “Grilled Chicken”). Indeed, the bird comes in many forms, from meatballs to skewers. A warning, though: the Japanese typically serve their fowl like their fish – in other words, mostly raw or lightly cooked. The chef will assure you that their top-notch organic goods are entirely safe. After all, it’s chicken, not blowfish (or Taco Bell, for that matter).

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A meal at Yakitori Totto involves a series of small dishes served over the course of the evening (most are about $3 each). Each plate contains several bite-size portions of the delicacy of your choosing, such as chicken-stuffed peppers, sticky yams with miso paste, or asparagus wrapped in bacon. Pair that with some sake from the extensive menu and the elegant, traditionally Japanese décor, and you’ve got yourself a dining experience worth a trek to Tokyo.

But, of course, it’ll only cost you cab fare. Itadakimasu (that is, bon appetit).

Yakitori Totto, at 251 W. 55th St., between 8th Avenue and Broadway
212-245-4555

Originally published January 2007
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