If you haven’t experienced Yakitori, Japanese open-fire cooking, there’s a great experience to be had at The Back House, the recently opened add-on to Burbank’s Asian Fusion restaurant Wokcano. Prices start at $1.95 (two shitake mushrooms on a skewer).
However, don’t think you’re going to get the experience for a song. My guest and I left the place with our wallets $73 dollars lighter, but it was well worth the bank account drain.
To say the ambience is minimal would be a huge understatement. But the aesthetics are easily forgiven when you wrap your mouth around the items that come on a stick — filet mignon, chicken breast with green onion, zucchini, salmon, shrimp or tuna. For the more adventurous skewer-lover, there are chicken cartilage, pork belly, or quail eggs on a stick.
My hands-down favorite is the salmon skewer ($2.25). I ordered two, and was sad when the final bit of fish went down my gullet. I found the filet mignon to be absolutely mouth-watering, and my palate further forgave me when I offered it the skewered scallops: small, but scrumptious. As for the mushrooms, the shitakes didn’t disappoint, with just the right combination of seasoning and hints of marinade in red wine.
The Back House prides itself on open-flame cooking, but the process is just about invisible to the diner, with the chefs hermetically sealed behind a glass wall. I think part of the Yakitori dining experience is watching the huge flames go up and the awesome smell that comes out of the kitchen. You won’t find that here, but the food really is delicious.
In addition to the skewers, there are small dishes. In this case, small is beautiful. Offerings include shishito peppers with soy sauce, grilled squid, crispy mustard popcorn shrimp and grilled asparagus with crispy garlic and truffle oil.
I’m a big fan of ramen, and this one was fabulous. The Cha Sui (pork belly) ramen with egg is served in a huge bowl, with a rich base of pork broth. The seasoning is just right, not overly salted, as is the case in many noodle houses.
If by now you aren’t stuffed to the gills, there are normal-size dinner entrees — grilled mahi mahi, garlic miso shrimp (delicious, said my guest), garlic-roasted short ribs, foie gras-stuffed chicken, and the most expensive item, grilled Australian lamb chop with sweet-potato fries and fresh vegetables ($26).
If your budget is tight, the best time to go is between 4 and 7 p.m. every day, when skewers go for $1.50 (except for the Japanese Kobe, shrimp, or scallops. And the Yakitori Tasting Special is good anytime — any draft beer and any three skewers for $12.
There are two big-screen TVs to watch sports on, but as I’ve noted, I would prefer to watch the chefs work their magic.
What: The Back House
Where: Behind Wokcano, 150 S. San Fernando Blvd., Downtown Burbank
When: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day
Costs: Yakitori, $1.95 to $8; small plates, $5 to $12; and dinner, $16 to $26
Contact: (818) 524-2288