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Deep-Fried Silver Fish at Yakitori Totto

Genuine Japanese cooking worth braving crowds for

It would be easy to pigeonhole Yakitori Totto as a place for extreme eaters who appreciate rare tastes — anyone for chicken tail? How about soft knee bone? It avoids gimmickry, however, both on its menus and within its the two compact dining rooms, which smack of authenticity. The semi-hidden location adds to the appeal, as well — it’s located up a flight of stairs off a busy Midtown block.

Yakitori Totto Silver Fish Although you’re likely there for the house specialty — about three dozen skewered and grilled meats, primarily beak-to-gizzard chicken parts along with beef, lamb, duck, pork, fish and veggies ($3-$7/skewer) — don’t miss one of the joys on the appetizer menu, Shirauo Kara-age ($6). They’re translated on the menu as “silver fish” but are not the centipede-like bugs New Yorkers might initially fear; instead, expect an addictive bowl of adorable little fishlets, no bigger than 2 inches long. “Japanese anchovy” might be a better description for their appearance, although their flavor is much more mild. Lightly coated with rice flour, fried until golden and served with a tiny plate of green tea salt, the crispy, boneless bites make the perfect accompaniment to an ice-cold Asahi beer.

Planning ahead in anticipation for a yaki-attack certainly saves time. The storied waits at this nine-year-old restaurant can last one to two hours for walk-ins, like at its sister restaurant, Totto Ramen, a few blocks south. Reservations are taken, however, if patrons call before 5:30pm the day of, and dine before 7pm.

Yakitori Totto
251 W. 55th St., 2nd Fl.

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