Some of my friends, past and present, Britons and Americans, always have spring rolls and sweet and sour pork when eating at a Chinese restaurant. These were the first two Chinese dishes they tasted, and ever since they have used them as a benchmark when eating at a place they don’t know.
It’s actually an efficient way of putting a cook to the test: by selecting the same dish every time you soon appreciate any common denominators that work every time, as well as any changes that make a big difference to the finished product.
And then, of course, some people order the same dishes every time simply because they like them: think of paella, roast beef, fish and chips, frito mallorquín…the list could be a very long one. One of the dishes I usually order at a Japanese restaurant is yakitori chicken and I do so because it is a sure-fire way of judging the cook’s technique and culinary knowledge.
The yakitori chicken at Besiki Sushi was like a master cook’s lesson on how this dish should be done. First of all he selected thick parts of the upper leg (never the white meat as it’s too dry) that were cut neither too small nor too large.
Poky pieces of chicken would quickly dry out and large ones would be clumsy and would lack in elegance. Skewered dishes, except perhaps those for a rustic garden barbecue, should always have a nice touch of class and sophistication. It helped in every way that these pieces of skewered chicken were cooked for a short time over a high heat, thus making them tender and tasty.
If you have eaten yakitori a few times you’ll have noticed the chicken comes with only a small amount of sauce. That’s the way it is: the sauce, in this case a thickish one that was deliciously sweet-sour, was painted on, rather than drizzled.
But there was enough of it to moisten ever so slightly the bowl of plain boiled rice I had ordered. When I go to a Japanese or a Chinese restaurant I always have a bowl of white rice, for the sheer joy of eating rice that has had nothing done to it. Towards the end, though, I sprinkle on a little neat soya sauce. That’s a lovely way of eating Asian style white rice.
These yakitori had one other little thing going in their favour: the meat slipped slinkily off the skewers. So often you have to force the meat off and little bits of flesh are left sticking to the skewers, which is rather messy.
This is just a minute little point but in the end it makes a big difference. Sometimes in cooking (and in other aspects of daily living) if you look after the little things the big ones take care of themselves. This yakitori was worth a 10 and a large sampan full of gold medals.
A good standard of Japanese cooking with a yakitori chicken that was sheer perfection and worth a 10.
Shake raw salmon, €6.10 Tempura moriawase, €11.10 Yakitori chicken, €9.30 White rice, €4 One caña, €2.60 Total cost with VAT: €33.10
The authenticity of Japanese food in Palma is rather high and some dishes are executed perfectly. That was the case with the yakitori chicken and the plain white rice at Besiki Sushi. The pieces of chicken leg were superb: of medium size to ensure juiciness and taste and cooked over a high heat for a short time. The yakitori were ideal in every way and were worth a 10 and a large sampan boat full of gold medals. The bowl of white rice was only a bowl of rice but it was impeccably cooked to a nice softness in the traditional Asian style. It’s not at all easy to cook rice like this but the Asians do it marvellously and get it right every time. There are few things more delicious than perfectly cooked rice with a little sauce or vinaigrette of some kind. The prices at Besiki are kept as low as possible and this was most evident with the shake, five slices of very fresh salmon with wasabi and pickled ginger root that were nicely served atop tiny cubes of ice. And the price was €6.10. I don’t know of any other Japanese restaurant with prices like that.They do a spectacular tempura dish called moriawase. The soft shell crab and other crustaceans were delicious but the frying batter was a tiny bit oily, and a cook always loses points for that.
Besiki Sushi, Calle Menorca 3, Palma, a street opposite the headquarters of the Policia Nacional. Tel:971-736724. Check for closing day.
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