Bincho-tan at Freshstreet Yakitori
Freshstreet Yakitori (previously Section 8 Yakitorium) has received a good bit of press lately. The reviews are universally great but no one has picked up on exactly what makes the Yakitorium so tasty and authentic.
It's the bincho.
Bincho-tan is a special hardwood charcoal produced and imported from Japan. So far as I can find, no one else in Columbus (and possibly the state) is using this cooking fuel.
Bincho-tan is produced from oak by steaming the wood at high temperatures. The resulting charcoal burns at a lower temperature but for longer periods of time than traditional coals. More importantly to cooks, bincho-tan does not smoke.
Yakitori stands prefer bincho-tan, therefore, because it allows the true taste of the meat to come through the flames. The charcoal also powers a grill for many hours, allowing the chef to cook through a meal shift.
Yakitori the Freshstreet Way
Kenny Kim and Misako Ohba first brought Japanese street food to Columbus with their Foodie Cart crepes. They later added takoyaki (pancake-batter like savory balls filled with octopus or corn) and moved into a shack in the Short North. Yakitori is their latest endeavor, served late nights at the Double Happiness bar in the Brewery District.
Kenny and Misako import their bincho-tan from Japan through a Chicago importer. Several other ingredients including ramen noodles are obtained in this way. They invest great cost in importing these authentic goods because they are not satisfied with lesser replacements.
The pair skillfully skewer small bits of meat, some of it local, on wooden spikes so the meat rests evenly across the yakitori grill bricks. Traditional Japanese chicken thigh and skin are offered, as are more adventerous cuts like beef cheek, pork belly, tongue, and tuna. At least one vegetable is always available. Skewers run between $2-4.
Yakitori are grilled over hot bincho-tan to order. Some are served simply with lemon and salt; others are dipped in a soy-based sauce. The resulting meat has the crisp texture of a grilled product without excessive smokiness.
Wise visitors order a variety; I was surprised at how much I loved the unctuous beef cheek and also that I enjoyed okra cooked yakitori-style, as I don't like it in any other preparation.
Other Japanese specialities compliment the yakitori, including an excellent take on okonomiyaki (savory cabbage pancakes) for $4. Diners can eat at the Double Happiness bar or in their comfy lounge. The bar makes notable soju (barley spirit) and sake cocktails, well matched to the Freshstreet food.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the Japanese street food authenticity, Freshstreet Yakitori is widely appealing to many palates. Kids will enjoy meat on a stick as much as adults. There is something for every diet and adventure-level.
If you go:
- Freshstreet Yakitori at Double Happiness is a bit hard to find. It is just over the 70/71 split from downtown at Front and Brewer streets. Look for the slender building on the east side of the street across from Wasserstrom and Via Vecchia.
- Current hours are Thursday - Saturday 6:30 - 11:59 pm.
- Find parking on the street or nearby garages.
- Prepare to wait 5-10 minutes for your food. Every dish is made to order.
- Freshstreet crafts their menu to have options for gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, and low-carb diets. Be sure to specify if you are gluten free, especially, so that there is no contamination on the grill.
Freshstreet Yakitori at Double Happiness 482 S Front St Columbus, OH 43215 (614) 220-5558http://www.facebook.com/freshstreet www.doublehappinessohio.com
NB. I will be cooking yakitori with the Freshstreet folks in Cleveland at a Brick & Mortar pop-up Japanese Festival this Thursday, February 2, at 6:30 pm. Tickets are still available for the event. Columbus Food Adventures has a few spots left for their road-trip adventure that includes the festival dinner, ride from Columbus and back, and a meet and greet with Chef Jonathon Sawyer.