Yakitori, the Japanese cuisine sub-genre that stars grilled chicken parts, has emerged in multiple locales around the Bay Area in the last decade. But a new venture that's a partnership between an Oakland chef and the co-owners of Michelin-starred sushi spot Ju-Ni marks a local first: an omakase-style yakitori experience.
Hina Yakitori debuted three years ago Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland, and it was the project of Tokyo-trained yakitori chef Tommy Cleary. The East Bay Express's Luke Tsai wrote at the time that Hina was "one of a handful of serious yakitori restaurants in the East Bay" and he raved about a dish of fried chicken "topped with a chunky, egg salad-like tartar sauce," as well as some non-chicken dishes on the menu.
As of last year, Cleary announced a partnership with Tan Truong and Geoffrey Lee of Ju-Ni, who had snagged the former Stelladoro Pizza space on Divisadero and were looking for something to do with it. As Cleary tells the Chronicle, the omakase experience is closer to what he was after at the original Oakland location (now closed), but he couldn't do it there for various reasons, including its size.
The new space at 808 Divisadero (near Che Fico, between Fulton and MacAllister) has just 12 seats around a counter, and serves a nightly $110, 15-course tasting menu.
Yakitori may be a humble food — with staples being things like chicken hearts and pieces of thigh on a skewer, grilled over Japanese charcoal — but the price point here shouldn't scare too many fans of the style in the Bay Area. Restaurants like Rintaro in the Mission and Ippuku in Berkeley do great versions of yakitori dishes, but hardly at bargain prices.
As Cleary tells the Chronicle, he takes some liberties with his yakitori, veering between modern twists and traditional, simple styles. "The base is traditional but we’re free to go wherever we want to go with it,” he says. “We try to make each piece distinctively different from the previous one, whereas most places might just be standard salt."
There are also cold dishes on the menu, and items like Wagyu beef and sea urchin make their way in as well, just as they did at the Oakland iteration.
Reservations are available on Resy, and as you might expect with just 12 seats and the Ju-Ni buzz, the place is already sold out through November.