During one of our too infrequent meals together, Jenne, Candice, Howie, and I discussed doing a two stop comparison of Yakyudori Ramen & Yakitori and Yokohama Yakitori Koubou. Jenne is partial to Koubou, Candice and I, Yakyudori......Howie, being the mellow un-confrontational guy that he is, was on the fence. I also thought that this final comparison would be a nice part 3 to the two posts I had done before. Plus, I do love meat on a stick. The only way we could really do this was to actually compare apples to apples, so Candice asked me to pick several menu items that are yakitori "standards" if you will. Items that would put the "tori" in Yakitori.
We started at Yakyudori, already almost in crisis mode even on an early Sunday evening; folks waiting in line, servers running madly, perfunctory service and all. Ending at Koubou, mellow, friendly, where they give you a shot of milk with your first beer to help coat that tummy......
So why not start with the Tsukune? Basically grilled chicken meatballs dipped in a sweet tare. Candice had never had these at Yakyudori before and was kind of freaked out by the almost mousse like, creamy texture.
Jenne thought the tare on Yakyudori's version was too sweet and preferred Koubou's, which was more like the standard issue Tsukune. I thought the tare at Koubou was still way too mild, but was in the minority on this one, 3-1 Koubou.
Score: Koubou 1, Yakyudori 0
Next up was the "momo", this was simple thigh meat, there would be no hiding quality, seasoning, and skill here. The clear winner was Yakyudori, simply seasoned with a very tasty sea salt, the flavor of bincho came though...perhaps a bit strong for some, not for us.
Yakyudori was also the moister and more tender of the two, while Koubou's version had been dipped in tare, you could barely taste it. The chicken was a bit dry as well.....good thing we didn't get breast. I recall Howie rhetorically asking, "why does the salt from Yakyudori have that almost sweet complex flavor, while at Koubou it just tastes salty....."
Score: Koubou 1, Yakyudori 1
Third comparison was the easiest....all I have to do is show you the photos of the Teba - chicken wings. First is Yakyudori's:
Yikes!!! One thing I noticed when passing passing the grill at Koubou is that they grill on a grate placed a pretty good distance from the bincho charcoal. It seems perhaps a bit too far from the binchotan.
Score: Yakyudori 2, Koubou 1
Next up was the Negima, your basic chicken with scallion. Same result as the momo. Yakyudori's was moist, smoky, wonderfully salty.......
While Koubou was dry, tough, and looked haphazardly put together......
One looks like the straight, well maintained teeth of a super-model, the other, "meth-mouth". Which would you rather eat?
Score: Yakyudori 3, Koubou 1
Candice thought (rightfully so), that we should include at least one non-chicken item for comparison and the unanimous choice was Gyutan - beef tongue. Personally, I preferred Yakyudori, which was thinner, more evenly grilled and seasoned. Still, I prefer my beef tongue cut a bit thinner, so the edges are crisp and the center is chewy, giving you a nice contrast.
Jenne preferred the thicker slices at Koubou.......
Though you can tell the grilling was uneven. My skewer was sorely lacking in salt, while Howie told me that his had way too much. Don't know what to say, but I'm satisfied with this being a tie.
Score: Yakyudori 3, Koubou 1, 1 even.
One last item I feel needs to be included. Execution and quality were not the only two ways the restaurants differed. The atmosphere at Yakyudori is very, well...."urban". You feel like you're in a big city robata restaurant; the lights are bright, folks waiting in line or sitting elbow to elbow on the bar, plates of meat-on-a-stick and bowls of ramen flying pass you. Hustle and bustle....... not all the time mind you, just most evenings after 530. Koubou is more relaxed, the lighting is darker, folks seemed to be hanging out having beers with their friends. I'm not sure it's always that way, but that's what I noticed the three times I've been there. It's really obvious once you visit both on the same evening.
Conclusion....well not too much really....this being totally anecdotal and all. But the way I look at it is; if I'm after decently executed yakitori, it's Yakyudori. If it's a chill good time and some drinks I'm after and food is secondary to relaxed conversation, Koubou might fit the bill.
Here's some of the other items we had.......
Yokohama Yakitori Koubou
3904 Convoy St.
San Diego, CA 92111
Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori
4898 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
Convoy Yakitori Story Part 1: Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori can be found here.
Convoy Yakitori Story Part 2: Yokohama Yakitori Koubou can be found here.