Thursday, December 16

Nice Try, Ajito

I'll admit it; my tongue discriminates against race. Does it want sushi prepared by an ethnicity other than Japanese? Nooo. The widely anglicized Panda Express? Never.

When I stumbled upon a relatively new yakitori establishment アジト (Ajito) in my hometown of Cerritos earlier this week, I was hesitant to try it. The largest ethnic group in the surrounding area is NOT Japanese, hence, my palate wavered.

In less than 24-hours of discovering the place, I was back to sample items from what looked like a fairly authentic menu. I peppered the server with a battery of questions about preparation to seasoning methods before finally making my choices on the convenient tally sheet provided to patrons.

Before dissecting the food, I'd like to note the service is friendly & top-notch. My questions were deftly fielded w/out a slight sign of annoyance. When I inquired about beer specials, the server said that $1 draft of Sapporo was available. He backpedaled after realizing that Happy Hour was finished, but gave us the beer at this originally quoted price, anyway.

Regarding the yakitori items we ordered, well…not horrible, but not the best yakitori I've ever had. To know good yakitori is to know manna. Once you've had the best, it's hard to settle for less (Still my favorite: いせや@井の頭公園口 / Iseya, Inokashira Koen Entrance in Kichijoji, Tokyo).

The dangerous part about this place: the spicy levels. Authentic yakitori has two seasonings: salt or soy sauce. I was quite confused about this spicy option and settled on #2 on a scale of 1-5 which rendered my lovely original yakitori inedible. If #2 left my mouth on fire…#5 is rightly labeled on the menu as "Lethal Ingestion." Note to yakitori purists: just request salt, as soy sauce is available on each table.

  • Chicken Meatball: First up, and the best of the lot. No sauce made the flavor of the chicken pop.
  • Original Yakitori w/Green Onion: A disappointment because the onions were just regular green onions (read: skimpy, thin, flaccid), not 長ネギ which are more rotund and hold up well to charcoal grilling.
  • Fried Tofu: Delicious and sweet glaze.
  • Kurobuta Pork Sausage: Meh. Just seemed like the regular wieners that they serve in Japan.
  • Shishito: A lovely little green pepper that was grilled to perfection w/just a hint of salt.
Finally...Gyoza. More like won-tons, they were deep-fried and drizzled with a ginger/soy sauce that diverged from the usual vinegar/soy offering for dipping. My quest for perfect gyoza in So Cal continues.

With the great service, kitschy (and clean!) bathroom, as well as sleek and modern décor, I'll be back to sample more of アジト's menu now that I know WHAT to ask for regarding preparation of items.

Next up on my visit: Kyushu Ramen…my favorite style with a pork-based broth. That will be the deal breaker whether I make a third trek or not.


z said...

Sounds like 3.5 stars out of 5? You got a good deal on the beer, tho!

Cindy said...

Yeah...definitely 3.5. Their happy hour deals ARE pretty good, so I'll have to catch that window again!