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Hong Kong’s best yakitori restaurants

By Annette Chan 23 August 2021

Header images courtesy of @yardbirdyakitori (via Instagram)

Japan has given us a lot of delicacies to love—from omakase sushi to ramen or tsukemen, Hongkongers are all-in when it comes to Japanese food. When it comes to grilled meats, we’re huge fans of both yakiniku and yakitori—skewers of chicken grilled over a charcoal fire. Yakitori is often served “beak-to-tail,” meaning that you can sample everything from white meat cuts like chicken breast and thigh to internal organs like the heart, liver, and ovaries.

As an easily portable and convenient snack, yakitori can be found everywhere from specialist shops—called yakitori-ya—to casual izakayas, street stalls, and even fine-dining restaurants, where they are typically served with salt, shichimi (七味唐辛子; seven-flavour chilli), or tare (垂れ; sweet soy-based dipping sauce). Like with many other types of Japanese cuisine, Hongkongers have fully embraced yakitori, with plenty of restaurants all across the city offering this comforting, humble food. From authentic Tokyo imports to hipper-than-thou cult favourites and casual neighbourhood joints that double as sake bars, here are our favourite places to get yakitori in Hong Kong.

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Photo: @charvelife (via Instagram)

Toritama

Occupying a small, unassuming spot on a hilly slope between Lan Kwai Fong and Mid-Levels, this Tokyo import is something of a hidden gem for yakitori enthusiasts. With a towering reputation and limited seating—much of which is clustered around its sleek central bar—Toritama is not the type of place one simply walks into.

If you do manage to nab a reservation, don’t be scared to venture outside of your comfort zone—Toritama’s claim to fame is its wide selection of cuts, offering a whopping 30 different chicken parts up to hungry guests. Not only can you order chicken hearts, necks, and crowns, but you can also specify whether you want the aorta ($46) or whole heart ($46), or even which part of the chicken your cartilage ($46) comes from. Chickens used here are 40 days old and slaughtered on the day of consumption, so this is as fresh as it gets.

Toritama, 2 Glenealy, Central | (+852) 2388 7717

Photo: Yardbird

Yardbird

Does Yardbird even need any introduction? Hong Kong’s cult-favourite yakitori restaurant has consistently been one of the buzziest restaurants in town since it opened 10 years ago. Founded by partners Matt Abergel and Lindsay Jang, its enduring appeal lies not just in its delicious chicken (sourced from local New Territories farms), but also in its strong brand identity, which is equally inspired by skate culture, street style, and hip-hop.

Thankfully, following its move from the original Bridges Street location to its current Sheung Wan premises, it’s much easier to grab a table these days—but we still recommend coming early (or booking in advance) if you want to get your hands on the most popular items. Some of those best-sellers include the meatball ($48), inner thigh ($45), and—our personal favourite—the oyster ($48), which is not a mollusc, but rather a small, juicy piece of dark meat found on the back of the bird, near the thighs.

Besides yakitori, Yardbird also offers a wide selection of smaller and larger plates, including a fresh and zingy eggplant salad ($125), char-grilled brussels sprouts ($110), furikake-coated rice cakes ($110), and the totally moreish mushroom rice ($165) with maitake, shiitake, and abalone mushrooms.

Yardbird, 154–158 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2547 9273

Photo: Birdie (via Facebook)

Birdie

From the team behind 298 Nikuya Room and Porker comes another Japanese restaurant focused on one star protein: Birdie. Located in buzzing H Code, Birdie offers bright and cosy counter seating around its horseshoe-shaped bar—where you can get a close-up view of the action—as well as more date-appropriate dining tables.

Birdie’s tsukune (minced chicken meatball; $45) subs out the conventional chicken cartilage for diced mountain yam, which offers a smoother experience. Meanwhile, the hatsumoto (muscles between the heart and liver; $45) offers chewy and crisp pieces of the underrated cut. The crowning skewer, in our opinion, is the wavy-cut liver ($45), which is flavourful without being gamey and just charred enough.

Birdie, 9/F, The Steps, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central | (+852) 27892881

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Photo: @nlee.eats (via Instagram)

Moto Yakitori. Sake Bar

By virtue of its location in the slow-paced hipster enclave of Tai Hang, this cosy yakitori and sake bar feels like a neighbourhood gem—the type where you could easily spend an evening laughing and drinking with friends, and do it all again the week after. Its casual vibe belies the quality of the food here, however, with skewers like the chicken kidney ($28) and the ultra-crispy chicken skin ($30) never failing to disappoint.

For those who favour tsukune, you will be delighted to hear that Moto offers three variants on the meatball skewer—original, okonomiyaki, and cheese. Besides the chicken dishes, Moto regulars swear by the beef tongue ($52) and spicy eel skewers ($60), as well as the grilled lobster with truffle butter ($148).

Moto Yakitori. Sake Bar, Shop A, 21 Brown Street, Tai Hang | (+852) 2688 7007

Photo: @ganbei.yakitori.tst (via Instagram)

Ganbei Yakitori

Despite being peculiarly named after the Mandarin pronunciation of “kanpai” (乾杯; a popular drinking toast in Chinese and Japanese), the food at Ganbei is Japanese through and through. With a warm and unpretentious atmosphere and a vast menu of affordable bites, Ganbei has perfected the casual, post-work hangout vibe of a proper Tokyo izakaya. Happily, the food and drink are similarly successful, with the chicken cartilage ($28) and chicken with mentaiko ($38) being our favourites among the yakitori skewers. Beyond chicken, there is a huge variety of other dishes to choose from, including seafood, red meat, dumplings, vegetables, and more—if you are partial to shellfish, the sake clams ($118) come highly recommended.

Ganbei Yakitori, locations vary

Photo: @hitormi_yu (via Instagram)

FireBird

Although yakitori is its namesake, this Causeway Bay restaurant offers much more than just chicken skewers, with sashimi, sushi, teppanyaki, and more on the menu. Complement your chicken wings ($28) and chicken meatball with mentaiko ($38) skewers with a thick-cut beef tongue ($68) or grilled eel rice ($158). For a show-stopper, get the XXL chicken steak ($138)—a chicken thigh on a sizzling stone plate that gets flambéed at the table. In welcome news for teetotallers, FireBird offers a dedicated mocktail menu alongside its boozier offerings, with icy drinks like the lychee frozen ($68) and strawberry smoothie ($68) to quench your thirst.

FireBird, Hotel Pennington by Rhombus, 13 Pennington Street, Causeway Bay | (+852) 2386 5218

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Bentori

Modern and colourful, Bentori is a small but lively hidden-down-an-alleyway yakitori destination in Central, specialising in grilled chicken skewers, a beverage programme that spotlights Japanese sake breweries and sake cocktails, and a succinct menu of revamped Japanese dishes. Putting a focus on locally sourced ingredients and market-fresh produce, our recommended yakitori skewers are the chicken thigh with shiso leaf ($33), chicken heart ($33), and chicken breast softbone ($33). Other delicious bites include the chicken karaage with truffle mayo ($80), crab roe salad ($88), and unagi fried rice ($150).

Bentori, 10 Tit Hong Lane, Central | (+852) 2838 8865

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Annette Chan

Senior editor

Annette is an editor and copywriter with a lifetime of experience in hunting out the most interesting, odd, and delightful things about her beloved home city. Having written extensively about everything from food and culture to fashion, music, and hospitality, she considers her speciality to be Hong Kong itself. In her free time, you can find Annette trying out new dumpling recipes or playing Big Two at her favourite local bars with a cocktail in hand.

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