Shovel Time: Hajimeya & Baird Taproom
I regret to inform you that I ate no whale, no horse, not even chicken sashimi in Tokyo. I didn’t delve deeply into yakitori esoterica either, though there were opportunities.
Hajimeya I do love Japanese specificity, though, resulting in dozens of subtly different cuts of chicken (hiza nonkotsu/knee cartilage vs. nonkotsu/breast bone cartilage) and pretty much every internal organ up for grabs where we Americans only concern ourselves with thighs, wings, and breasts. Ok, maybe some livers.
The most outré cut I sampled was bonjiri a.k.a. chicken butt, partially because I could say guess what? You know the answer. But also because it provided great contrast: chewy fat, singed skin (shio-style, only salted, for purists) and little crunchy bits of cartilage, all irregularly shaped onto a skewer. Above were also tricky-to-eat wings, skin, and cartilage.
I chose Hajimeya because I was a little intimidated by no English, only paper hand-written Japanese menus on the wall izakayas, and I was meeting a friend of a friend who spoke little English, and I hoped to use him as a translator. But as you can see above, menus were available with English translations scrawled on them.
Baird Taproom More bonjiri at a great craft beer bar, a civilized oasis right off Harajuku’s main drag. (There are others throughout the city.) You probably don’t need to see a photo of the buffalo chicken spring rolls. I’m not sure that I’ve seen this beer in NYC but a few bottles were available at Uwajimaya in a Portland suburb last time I checked. Fortunately, the Japanese haven’t gone as apeshit for IPA (though the barely-English-speaking friend of a friend said he liked IPAs, though I think that was due to a perceived American-ness, hence cooler) so I was able to enjoy a Shimaguni stout and Yabai Yabai strong scotch ale. Down with hops! (I was going to say down with hoppy things, but Hoppy is a brand of Japanese super low alcohol beer that people mix with sochu to give it a kick.)