First Glance: Zui The Yakitori Bar, Sanlitun
Things that make time appear to slow down:
- Watching paint dry
- Racing snails
- Eating at Zui The Yakitori Bar
As a group of six we were expecting Japanese barbeque to be one of the easiest dinners on the planet. I mean, how much complexity is there to shoving various bitesized pieces of meat and vegetables onto skewers, applying a generous amount of heat to them from a fiery barbecue, and voila, dinner is served.
Arriving just past 8pm on a Wednesday we went upstairs and sat around one of the larger private tables which easily held all of us, and could probably accommodate 10 people if you don’t mind getting a little cozy. The menu was simple in the fact that it provided an ample supply of dissected chicken (yakitori often refers to grilled chicken specifically) and we glanced at the top half finding skewered heart, liver, skin, cartilage, wings, meatballs, and more (RMB 5-35 per skewer). The lower section of the two-page menu (drinks on the other side) was well curated with shiitake mushroom, ginko nuts, Japanese quail egg, sweet pepper, eggplant, and the like (RMB 3-12 per skewer).
Admittedly we should have consulted with the staff as to how many skewers would be needed to feed six ladies, but we didn’t, and guesstimated that three skewers of almost everything would do the trick.
While we waited for the flames to lick across our delicious choices a wonderfully iced, mouth puckeringly tart Lemon and Lime Chuhai cocktail (RMB 38) entertained some of us. This will be a dangerous drink choice for summer as you can’t feel the alcohol in it until you stand up and notice gravity's particularly strong hold on the way out.
solving all the worlds problems nattering for a bit a quiet staff member appeared with one of our many skewers. And by one, I mean one.
I’m still wondering how miniscule the cooking set-up behind the curtains must be, because the service stayed at this lackluster pace the entire two and a half hours we were there. Rather than bore you with every single detail that happened (or didn’t) I’ll give you my biggest hits and misses of the night:
Shiitake mushrooms. These little morsels didn’t shrivel to the size of a pea like I was expecting them to, but instead came with a loving lashing of salt for a flavorsome experience that I can’t even put into words. I suggest ordering an absurd amount of these and almost nothing more.
Chicken ball. Proper mincemeat rolled into a good-sized sphere and skewered, with a swish of sauce coating the charred edges. One stick should satiate the meat cravings of most, but get two for yourself because you know you want to.
Chicken barbecue with Welsh onion. The addition of a large piece of welsh onion gave a nice vegetable sweetness to the cubes of chicken meat. Worth it so you can say you’ve had one of your 5+ a day servings of veg.
Time. Goodness. Two and a half hours total with orders either half successful, or dragged out at one skewer at a time. If you were here with only the company of one other person, then sharing is easy. But we were not, and with the entire night taking a decidedly ‘six chicks one stick’ vibe our appetites were hard to please.
Ambience. The same song kept playing over and over again. Someone find a CD, please, I beg of you. Even 7-11 have a robust four tracks.
Still in their soft opening the bill came with a 30 percent discount at least, which made it about RMB 70 per person, so they have that going for them at the moment.
Zui The Yakitori Bar
Tue-Sun 5pm-late. 55-3 Xingfucun Zhonglu, Chaoyang District
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Photos: Erin Strong