Think yakitori has to be cheap and cheerful? Think again. With its refined cooking and stylish surroundings, Yakitori Imai in Harajuku proves that chicken skewers can be gourmet fare.
Yakitori Imai - image © Florentyna Leow
Picture a yakitori restaurant and words that come to mind include: smoky, lively, cheap, down-to-earth. Chicken skewers aren’t usually at the forefront of fine dining. Nor is it something you might consider for date night. But spend an evening at Yakitori Imai near Harajuku and you’ll change your mind about that.
With down lighting, jazz in the background, and a high counter, Imai looks and feels more like an upmarket jazz bar than a yakitori joint. Soft-spoken, black-clad waitstaff attend to your every need, discreetly removing the skewers you’ve just eaten. Every other diner is drinking wine and everyone is nicely dressed. This is great date territory.
Despite all the refinement, Yakitori Imai isn’t all that expensive, especially if you keep it light on the alcohol. There’s a basic menu that clocks in at JPY4500, beginning with French-style chicken pate and baguette, and moving on to salad, six expertly-grilled skewers, and grilled vegetables. They compromise on nothing, least of all the quality of their ingredients. Considering the attention to detail and execution of the food, it’s a very affordable meal.
But if you do like your drink, you’re in luck. Yakitori Imai has an excellent selection of craft beers and natural wines on hand. These are not typically paired with yakitori, but this is another way in which Imai defies conventions. Who said chicken skewers couldn’t be gourmet food?
For more Tokyo yakitori choices, see our Best Yakitori in Tokyo page.
3-42-11 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0001
Closed Sunday and Monday
Subway: 5-minute walk from exit 3 of Gaiemmae Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza line.
Official website (Japanese)
Read customer reviews of Yakitori Imai on TripAdvisor.
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