Best Yakitori - 2012
"We do not serve sushi," a server says on your first visit to the downtown Japanese restaurant Kokekokko. In fact, there is no fish on the menu. Only chicken. Breast, thigh and wings. Gizzard, heart and skin. Meatballs and quail eggs. All served on skewers that have been grilled over charcoal in traditional yakitori style. (Side dishes include chicken dumplings, gizzard-skin stew and roasted duck — the only non-chicken poultry item.) The grill, rather than being tucked into the kitchen, is at the center of the restaurant, surrounded on three sides by counter seating. Take a spot there to watch chef Tomohiro Sakata at his craft: He cooks each stick lightly, without heavy sauces or seasonings. From time to time smoke billows up around the grill and wafts into the restaurant. (Regulars bring paper fans to push away the haze and relieve the heat.) Kokekokko is Japanese for "cock-a-doodle-doo," and the boisterous, cheery atmosphere (toned down only by smooth-jazz background music) reflects the name's playfulness. The restaurant requires each guest order at least five skewers, which is not such a bad idea. 203 S. Central Ave., Little Tokyo. (213) 687-0690.
—Daina Beth Solomon