I have a friend of a friend who is a serious gourmet. I mean, this guy is serious! I think he eats out every night for dinner. Luckily for me, I get to sneak in and read his blog from time to time to get the latest scoop on what's yummy in the Japanese food scene in the South Bay!
So, when he posted that a new yakitori shop (not Sumiya) just opened and that it was rather delicious, I had to go try. I do feel a sense of loyalty to Sumiya, since I've become quite the regular there, but heck. There's always room for more love in debauchery!
Named Sumika (House of Charcoal), the owner sometimes get criticized for its close similarity to Sumiya (Room/Shack of Charcoal), but I read on her My Mixi (Japanese version of Friendster)that it was actually a play on words - a homonym for sumika, or habitat.
My overall impression of this place was very favorable. I hesitate to say too much right now, since it's their opening month and I have only visited once. But it is definitely on my list of places to revisit.
I was less than enthusiastic about the non-chicken dishes, like the Crystal-tofu (which was definitely not made with freshly made tofu I am used to) and the overly oily salad dressing on the Sumika Salad. The Papa Bear and I exchanged looks wondering what would come next...
We were pleasantly surprised when the yakitori pieces started to arrive. The chicken thigh skewers, there main specialty, was hands-down excellent. Each piece was juicy and moist, while crisp on the edges. Each of the meat pieces are considerably larger than at Sumiya, which makes for a heftier, meatier feel for each bite. These are daring pieces - without careful attention and control of the charcoal, I can see how the inside may still be underdone while the outside is burnt. Indeed, some pieces were so juicy (and good to us Japanese), I wonder if some non-Japanese customers would be concerned about its done-ness. The tsukune chicken meat balls are more like a chicken meat stick. With less playful flavors than Sumiya, these are again, hefty, meaty power players. I could almost feel the earth the chicks kicked around before they became my dinner.
The best part of the yakitori session was that it was very well paced. We never had an excess of skewers infront of us, getting cold. It was perfectly timed to come in sets of four just as we were getting through the four we were working on. Since one of my main complaints at Sumiya is that all the skewers come at once, this was a very pleasantly paced yakitori meal, reminiscent of my experience in Nagoya.
If I were to use one word to describe Sumika, it is Solid. Solid quality, solid food, solid atmosphere. You know the kind of girl in school who always got good grades, looked nice, and said all the right things, but you weren't really good friends with and you never knew why you didn't become friends? Something about her made her less approachable - Sumika has that kind of rigidness, I think. But the quality is definitely there. And I plan to get to know them better!