[dropcap size=small]S[/dropcap]tepping into a yakiniku joint has always required a brave acceptance that your clothes won’t come out smelling the same, no matter how expensive your cologne.
But dinner at Taipei-import Yen Yakiniku is set to change that. Its top-notch ventilation system comes with a six-figure price tag, so no smoke escapes from the sizzling meat over glowing charcoal to settle on your clothes and hair.
This leaves chef-owner Jones Chen to focus on doing what he does best: expertly grilling delectable cuts of beef. Chen, who spent 8 years at Da Wan Yakiniku in Taipei, Taiwan, delivers on every count. The meat is sliced wafer-thin, almost as though by the hands of a Japanese sushi chef, and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.
Cuts like the Japanese wagyu ox tongue come with an extra detail – a mound of finely-diced white onions first soaked in ice water to remove their raw sharpness, then dried and rolled up in the beef slices before it all goes on the grill. Chen has thought this out carefully, using the chopped vegetable to cut through the rich juices of the well-marbled tongue so you don’t start the meal overwhelmed. This leaves room for other choice cuts of prime Japanese wagyu like the oyster blade and rib eye, the latter served in two parts – the cap, meltingly soft thanks to its higher proportion of marbling, and the striploin. If you ask Chen, who is more comfortable speaking in Mandarin, the former sommelier will recommend a whisky with creamy mid-notes to go with this. Tried and tested: Hibiki 12 Years.
Vegetables and seafood are not an afterthought here, either. We reckon the grilled Japanese yam slices at the end of the meal should be bottled up and sold as a healthy tasty snack (perfect for mid-afternoon munchies). And co-owner Thomas Kong lets slip that the sashimi-grade scallops served here – you can get this either as ceviche or grilled – are supplied by the same guy whose spices are used in a newly-award 1 Michelin-starred bowl of minced pork noodles.
Yen Yakiniku’s selling point might be its smoke-free intimate ambience, but this is matched by equally impressive food. Save your expensive cologne for a night out here – it’s worth the spritz.