Walter Mencken 9 a.m., Oct. 22
Japanese in Hillcrest
One yakitori grill closes, another opens in its place.
Raku is gone, replaced by Tec Chan, which isn’t all that different. The inside looks basically the same, although some bamboo awnings and booths went up on the north wall where, if I’m correct, only tables stood before. Lights and “now open” signs blaze brilliantly out front, in case anyone missed the change.
Now, I liked Raku. It was no Masa, but the skewered and grilled foods were fun to eat. My hope was that Tec Chan, by embracing the yakitori and distancing itself from other dishes (I noticed the ochazuke was absent), would have bettered the experience. For the most part, that was the case.
Grilled quail eggs ($3) had a snappy exterior and creamy yolks, although I would have liked a heavier dose of coarse salt on each of the little ova.
Fried baby octopuses ($5) made up for their lack of ornamentation with a chewy, bite-sized delightfulness. I ate each little guy without remorse.
From the grill, a single sweet shrimp ($4.50) yielded a rich nugget of flesh, tender and perfectly cooked. The head was a lost cause, however, as it couldn’t be eaten like the fried amaebi head I’ve had at other places. Grilled mackerel ($4.50) had wonderful, crispy skin and soft flesh. My soft spot for saba is well-documented, but I think Tec Chan’s preparation deserves gentle applause.
Okonomiyaki, ($6.50+) which I’ve wanted to try for a while and haven’t yet had the chance to, was a fun highlight at Tec Chan. Cooked on the flat-top griddle and advertised as “Japanese pizza,” it was more akin to an eggy pancake stuffed with squid and cabbage and topped with sauce and lots of shaved bonito. All I can say is, “om nom nom nom.” Total comfort food with layer upon layer of savory.
Tec Chan wasn’t the most polished place I’ve ever set foot in. I was almost charged for a shitake mushroom skewer that I never received, but I can only assume that was an isolated incident, as the cheerful waitress and bustling cooks seemed otherwise competent. I will go back soon, if for no other reason than that they had “beef tongue sashimi” on the menu and curiosity gets the best of me in situations like this.
3739 Sixth Avenue
Open daily 6PM-1AM
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