Izakaya Bincho – Redondo Beach

I have become a broken record on the state of Yakitori in San Francisco; you can’t throw a dead cat in any neighborhood of that illustrious city and not hit a Japanese restaurant, yet there is a not a single yakitori establishment anywhere in it’s small confines. Yeah, I have heard of a few in South San Francisco or down on the peninsula, but in San Francisco proper, there is nary formal barbeque utilizing the essential Kishu Binchō-tan, or charcoal wood. This means my occasional trips to Southern California always necessitate a visit to a Yakitori restaurant, of which there are a plethora (go figure). Shin-Sen-Gumi has been my go-to yakitori for years but on the occasion of hitting L.A. for my birthday, old friend and local food writer Richard Foss suggested a new joint he had heard good things about, Izakaya Bincho in Redondo Beach. It was slightly surreal because Redondo was where I called home for almost a decade and left over seven years ago for the wiles of Napa (eventually decamping for San Francisco). Odd to walk the boardwalk, hear the Saturday night mating calls from nearby Naja’s, a local watering hole, and see the changes in a neighborhood I had known so well…

We arrived to this tiny, 24-seat establishment to see “Reserved” signs all over the restaurant. Okay, so it must be popular. Snagging a seat at the bar, we got to watch husband-and-wife team, Tomo and Megumi work the entire restaurant. With strains of industrial shamison music in the background, Tomo is the master of the charcoals and moves with the speed of svelte leopard. Megumi, his wife, elegantly clad in kimono and obi, acts as waitress, hostess, server, and dishwasher. When we indicate that sake will definitely be ordered, Megumi presented us with a basket of glass cups from her refrigerator; pre-chilled, we get to choose which cup we wish to drink from. Of course wanting to eat as many different flavors as possible, we ordered the “Bincho,”  the largest chef’s selection of ten skewers for $25.00. We let Tomo know that challenging meats were definitely acceptable. While Tomo was preparing our skewers, Megumi started us out on our sake as well as some edamame and cabbage salad. He double-checked, “You sure? It is stuff like liver and gizzards…” You betcha, Tomo!  Our skewer selection was as follows:

  • Meatball (better than Shin-Sen-Gumi’s!!!! Could it be true?)
  • Thigh with leek (I adore leeks)
  • Thigh with chopped onions (might have been my favorite chicken dish of the evening; complex and rich and we wanted to eat every single bit of onion after the meat was gone)
  • Wings, flattened with a crispy exterior (a tad salty, but tasted great)
  • Thigh with cheese (the least successful of the night — well, just plain wrong actually. The grilled meat, dipped in teriyaki sauce, is then topped with a slice of plastic-wrap cheese-like-product until melted)
  • Thigh with perilla leaf (complex and elegant)
  • Cartilage (deep fried and very fresh tasty with its chewy interior contrasting the light crunchy breading)
  • Liver (oh yeah, baby, it is getting good. Even Mr. Rick who is not a liver fan ate more than a single bite)
  • Hearts (so tender and interestingly served fileted instead of served whole as I am accustomed to having them served)
  • Gizzard (I am giddy at this point)

Knowing we were going to want to taste other bits on the menu, we also ordered the shiitake mushroom skewer which is stuffed with chicken meat and served with ponzu sauce. Another dish was eggplant soup, tender chunks of eggplant fried and served in a rich broth with a ton of green onions and topped with grated pickled daikon radish. This was an incredibly rich, complex soup despite the limited ingredients.

We also ordered a skewer of ginko nuts and a rice ball, but at this point in the evening, the restaurant was packed and it was obvious that Megumi and Tomo were a tad overwhelmed. With a bit of a delay, our meal had settled sufficiently to where we realized we didn’t need more savory. Canceling those last two dishes, I did order dessert, a final skewer of grilled marshmallows. Cheeky and a bit unorthodox, I’m sure. I didn’t care. It was a charming, fun finish to a delightful evening. It might actually make me considering moving back to my old home…

Yakitori Bincho
112 N. International Boardwalk
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 376-3889
Izakaya Bincho on Urbanspoon

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