As the chef works his skewers, clouds of aromatic smoke rise from the grill, with sudden bursts of flame when fat hits the hot charcoal below. It's a scene guaranteed to perk up the appetite as you peruse the menu, choosing from your favorite cuts of premium heirloom-breed chicken. With its impressive wine selection, relaxed atmosphere and attractive setting, this is one of our favorite spots in town to enjoy top-grade grilled chicken.
You can take the easy route and opt for one of the three prix-fixe menus (priced Y3,960-7,480), or you can order by the individual skewer if you want to blaze your own trail. Among our a la carte favorites are the bonjiri (tail) - meatier than average for this cut and pleasantly chewy; Kyoto duck with leek - complemented by subtle sansho and orange flavoring in the sauce; and tebasaki - a single small wing with perfectly crisp skin and just the right amount of crunch.
The tsukune (meatball) lives up to its description of being "fluffy and juicy", with added richness from the fresh egg yolk it's served with. Seseri (neck) is quite succulent and just a bit gamey. Kawa-sembei (flattened, pounded chicken skin) is a tasty novelty. Pretty much everything we've tried - liver, breast meat with tart plum sauce, breast meat with fresh wasabi - has been excellent.
Highly recommended among the side dishes are the Nara-style pickles topped with chunks of gorgonzola cheese - a brilliant idea that's skillfully executed.
We're partial to a glass or two of wine with our skewers, and Nonotory offers more than two dozen varieties by the glass, mainly from Italy, France and Australia. There are a dozen craft sakes as well, but the focus here is really on the wine. Sparkling White Peach is a good non-alcoholic alternative - intensely peach flavored without being sweet, it matches well with grilled food.
The interior is attractively decked out in a black and gold color scheme, and the chic black uniforms of the waitstaff add a nice touch. There is comfortable seating at the spacious counter, but only two tables, so reserve ahead of time if you're with a group of three or four.
Budget around Y6,000-9,000 per person for food and drink in the evening. Note that if you're ordering a la carte there's a minimum order of five skewers per person (but there's no need to order skewers by the pair). Wines are priced at Y638-Y1,380 per glass.
Lunches start at just Y850 for a donburi lunch, and range up to Y3,300 for a full-course menu of five skewers plus side dishes. (Unlike many yakitori shops, Nonotory offers freshly grilled skewers at lunchtime.) Reservations are accepted for parties of one person or more.
Credit: photos 2 and 3 by Mary Sedarous.
by Robb Satterwhite