There aren’t as many yakitori restaurants near us as I’d like to see, but luckily, there are two within one block of each other in Fountain Valley and they are very popular. During peak times, the lines have already formed outside the restaurant by the time we get there, no matter how early we go, and the wait is generally half an hour or more.
On this particular night, Audrey and I decided to go to Shin-Shen-Gumi in Fountain Valley because of their special pricing on Mondays and Tuesdays. However, I have to add that I’m a bit peeved as I’m typing this because I just realized they forgot to give us the special Tuesday night pricing and we were charged full price for the yakitori. Argh. Beware of this and check your receipts carefully before paying. The wait staff are super friendly and nice, so I hadn’t paid much attention to the bill thinking they wouldn’t make these type of mistakes, but c’est la vie.
For those of you not familiar with yakitori, it’s food grilled on a stick. Our favorite are the bacon-wrapped items. So healthy for the heart! Some restaurants import their charcoal from Japan and I’ve heard the high quality charcoal is very expensive but makes the yakitori more delicious. I’ve been to one such restaurant before in Little Osaka, West Los Angeles, and they require a minimum order of yakitori which they tell you right away when you ask for a table. By the time you leave, you may end up with a bill of $100 for two!
Shin-Shen-Gumi is a cheerful place. The staff speaks (yells) Japanese randomly and there’s a lot of chatter and background noise. Each table gets free, all-you-can-eat cabbage with a vinegar dressing. It’s an acquired taste but I rather like it. We normally order only yakitori, but I have had soft shell crab here and it’s also quite good.
They have floor seating but luckily, you don’t have to fold your legs like some restaurants that offer this since this layout allows you to sit as if on a bench. The older folks really have a hard time with sitting cross-legged for an entire meal. No shoes are allowed in this area.