I immediately fell in love with yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) when I came to Japan. In the beginning it was mainly because it was the only food I trusted, in the sense that it was something I was a bit more familiar with—at least it was grilled and not raw. Seriously, when I first came here I wouldn’t eat any fish, nor grilled nor raw, and even soba and udon (both Japanese style noodles) were not really my cup of tea. I’m glad that this has changed by now; however, yakitori still remains one of my favorite foods in Japan.
Sumika in Kutchan, Niseko area, is a cozy little place with a homely atmosphere. As many other yakitori places they don’t only serve grilled chicken, but also beef, pork and vegetables; always nicely arranged on skewers and grilled to perfection. There are only about 8 seats at the counter and one Japanese style tatami space in the back. At the counter you can watch the owner preparing and grilling the skewers on demand—I just love this.
Although there was an English menu, my friend and I were a bit unsure of what to order, so we started with a little bit of everything. Soon, other guests began to recommend certain skewers we shouldn't miss. A lot of yakitori restaurants have their own specialty, and in this case it was tsukune, minced chicken meat on a stick. I had tried this kind of skewer before at other restaurants; however, here at Sumika it was definitely the best tsukune I’ve ever tasted. Sumika uses only the leanest meat, so that there’s no trace of gristle inside and the overall seasoning is just perfect. Further highlights were pork with Japanese sour plum and bacon, eggplant and chicken wings. Why didn’t anybody else have had the idea before to put chicken wings on a skewer? It’s so much easier to eat! The wings were crispy, juicy and full of flavor.
The owner and the other guests had a big smile on their face when they saw how much we enjoyed the food they had recommended, and we had a great evening talking and laughing while trying all sorts of different skewers. So don’t be shy; if you see anything you like on your neighbors’ plate, feel free to ask what it is.
I’m already looking forward to visiting Sumika again this winter. My special thanks go to our friend Matt at the Freedom Inn who recommended this place to us, and who’s got a lot more recommendations for us this year, I’m sure.