Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Unless you’re in Japan. Then there’s probably a yakitori. Chef Katsunori Yashima has built an empire out of charcoal grilling, expanding his venerable Yakitori Hachibei (焼とりの八兵衛) from its original 1980s digs in Fukuoka to outposts in Tokyo, Taipei, Bangkok, and Honolulu. You can still eat at the Tenjin flagship, although you probably won’t see Chef working the grill. Doesn’t matter. He has assembled an airtight team that excels at elevated bar food: deep-fried tofu with mayo and quivering bonito flakes; crunchy, unctuous karaage fried chicken; thinly sliced basashi sashimi (a.k.a. horse meat); tender grilled ginkgo nuts with salt; and all manner of sake-splashed skewers to frighten and delight. Pork cartilage? Chicken neck? A heart or two? Don’t mind if we do! Chased like a local—with a Suntory highball or a tall pint of Sapporo—it’s hard not to be moved by this magical smoke monster. You don’t need reservations to eat in, but you will have to put your name on the list and wait. It’s hella worth it.
2-5-27 Imaizumi, Chuo-Ku, Fukuoka, Japan; +092-716-2778.
Additional locations listed here.