The Simple Pleasure of Eating Solo (Yakitori Totto, New York, NY)

I’ve been meaning to post since my trip to New York in May (can’t believe its July already!) But one of my most enjoyable meal experiences during my trip to New York was dining solo at Sushi Toto (thanks again to Priscilla who kindly recommended a bunch of delicioso places).

I’ve heard that some people can feel uncomfortable going out to eat by themselves, and I suppose unless I was on a work trip, I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to eat by myself (since I have another fuzzie-half, and at work I have friends I normally roll with)–but still, sometimes it is quite nice to eat solo. TIs peaceful, quiet and you are left to your own thoughts which with regular life always going on, is a rare treat.

So at the end of a lovely day spent walking through the length of Central Park, perusing the Met, I had worked up an appetite and I was looking forward to a nice solo meal as a perfect end to the day.

I walked up the narrow stairs to Yakitori Totto, with a wait already building, even though it was early for dinner. As a party of 1, I was quickly seated at the bar, with a nice view of the hmm…the “barbeque-ers”? Basically the chefs who were so carefully and skillfully grilling skewers of meats or vegetables until delicately cooked.

It is a luxurious pleasure dining by yourself since your undivided attention is wholly focused on the meal and the ambiance. I decided to treat mah self to a glass of sake, which was served traditionally in an overflowing glass in a wooden lacquer box. (Though I’d been to Japan a few times, and over to Fwet’s, I could not for the life of me remember what the proper way was to drink this…do you drink out of the box when you’re finished with the glass? (I was thinking that might be difficult simply due to the box shape) Or do you pour the box liquid into the glass? Would that be rude?! aghh so I hahah had to text Fwet to ask…(and so it seems  you can just drink outta the box).

I ordered a lovely salad and then numerous skewers of chicken, chicken hearts, shiitake mushroom caps, cartilage, etc and then ended with a delicious dessert. (I find when I eat by myself I fully enjoy a complete meal appetizer to dessert hehe)

Enjoy the photos 🙂  Highlights from the meal were the following:

Kyona & Jyako Salad (fried tiny silver fish with arugula type bitter greens, topped with a raw yolkie egg and soy sauce)- Never had such a mix of flavors and so refreshingly different from the typical salads I’ve had (which usually contain a predictable mix of a cheese, balsalmic vinegar, nuts etc.)

Chicken Hearts– I ordered the chicken hearts as an ode to Fwet since he loves them. And yeah to the unfamiliar, chicken hearts sounds like a gross thing to eat. But if you don’t think too much about it, they are quite delicious! As with all the meat we Americans eat, it is just a muscle! Given the nature of its job, hearts are very lean and in other yakitori places I’ve been, can be over cooked easily, making it tough, rubbery little things. But here, the super careful and delicate handling by the yakitori chefs of this part results in a super tender and true flavor.

Chicken Meatball- Man…the absolutely juiciest–like ridiculous shao-long-bao type juicyness–meatball I’ve every had. The outside- subtle smokey barbecue; the inside tender melt in your mouth juicy chicken goodness.

Shiitake Mushroom- Initially one may think, oh yay mushroom –woohoo big whoop. But for a mushroom lover, this yakitori version was a delightfully new way of appreciating this fungi and also made me realize and appreciate the aspects of good yakitori, which I humbly think encompass the following: Let the clean true flavors of what you’re grilling shine through, impart a gentle/delicate smokey barbecue essence, and cook it very painstakingly delicately. No overwhelming sauces or flavors to mask the original ingredient. So to contrast with say good ole American BBQ, where the more charred it is the better, or the more BBQ sauce slathered over it the better, this was a very nice departure.

Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Frozen Banana and a dash of MInt– I love bananas (I am a monkey afterall) and especially frozen desserts made from these potassium puppies–mix that creaminess with coconut tapioca pudding and a refreshing zest of mint, ahh I was in heaven.

Being back in San Diego, sigh….Oh how I wish there were such a place here (most Japanese places here are mainly “creative” sushi roll places which have their place, but we don’t have much in terms of diverse Japanese food types–Izakayas, yakitori etc.)

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