If you haven't yet worked out that Japanese food is more than just sushi, first of all; shame on you, and second of all – you need to get over to Yakitori Takumi on Melbourne Street, pronto.
Boasting themselves as the 'first and only yakitori' restaurant in Adelaide, this small restaurant is full of big flavours. Having done my Google research before making the booking, I knew to expect a lot of grilled skewers on the menu, particularly considering 'yakitori' translates to 'grilled chicken'. What I wasn't expecting was the vast array of vegetarian and vegan options available, plus skewers of just about any ingredient you can dream of in traditional Japanese fare.
As we arrived for our booking, we were greeted by a very friendly wait staff, and showed to our seats along the bar, which I can only describe as a combination of sushi train and the front bar of your local pub. There are no rotating tracks for food to glide along, but there is a decent array of alcoholic beverages perched atop the rich timber surface. There are probably about 15 seats available along the L shaped bar, and the rest of the seating is available in four booths along the wall, clearly reserved for larger groups.
Unlike the traditional Japanese teppanyaki style of cooking over a flat iron griddle, yakitori uses an open grate barbecue style griddle with charcoal or gas as the source of heat. If you're lucky enough to sit at the bar, you can watch the two chefs doing their thing over the grill and fryer.
We may have stood out as 'first timers' as we looked around nervously, or the wait staff may just be accustomed to explaining the ordering system at Yakitori Takumi. Either way, they advised us to order three or four dishes per person to start with, then we could order more if we felt the need; Japanese tapas anyone? We ended up with a good mix of dishes, including traditional yakitori (grilled chicken thigh in taré sauce), pork grilled with salt and lemon pepper, butterfly cut grilled squid, six types of wild mushrooms dressed with white truffle oil, sticky rice and grilled rice balls, eggplant miso, rainbow capsicum tempura and fried pork. Between the two of us, this was a satisfying feast, bursting with a variety of Japanese flavours and textures.
Of course, no Japanese restaurant would be the same without a good beverage list, and Yakitori Takumi is no exception. A variety of Japanese beers, sake and fruit flavoured vodka is available, along with local wines, spirits and soft drink.
Prices vary from around $4 for rice and noodle based dishes, $8.50 for skewers and up to $20 for sashimi and other higher quality ingredients. These are not unreasonable prices, but they do quickly add up, especially when including drinks and possibly dessert. To give you an idea, we spent $92 between two of us, excluding dessert (we were too full to even look at the dessert menu).
More so than the amazing food and dining experience, the staff at Yakitori Takumi are a delight. When the restaurant started to get very busy the chef came to us and said we could order directly with him if the wait staff were too busy. He was also happy to chat while he was grilling, asking how we enjoyed our meals and explaining the restaurant had been operating for seven years, with a strong 'regular' clientele and a steady flow of 'first timers' each night. We agreed we'd quickly become 'regulars'.
Sadly, the restaurant does not allow photography, and although I managed to take a few snaps before I was told of their rule, I will respect their wishes and not post them here. They are protective of their menu and maintaining a reputation of being reasonably 'unknown', preferring to rely on the kindness of word-of-mouth and allowing the entire dining experience to speak for itself. You can however view a slideshow of images on their website, and download a sample menu. But really, you just have to go there to experience it yourself.