We finally have a reason to go to the crypto.com arena neighborhood again – a tenacious little food truck called Yakitana that turns simple, high-quality ingredients into some of the most crave-worthy complex flavors we’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting.
Located at 1212 Flower Street every Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. (open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday), Yakitana is one of the few yakitori spots we’ve been to that serves certified A5 Wagyu, along with several other delicious dishes that we just can’t seem to get out of our heads. What sets Yakitana apart is undoubtedly their ingredients.
“Providing fresh food is our number one priority,” explains Joe Razo, owner of Yakitana. Cooking our noodles and certified wagyu fresh-to-order makes the taste 100x better. Quality will always surpass quantity. We keep integrity in each and every dish we make. We will always choose fresh ingredients over frozen.”
We’ve tried pretty much the entire menu at this point, but what we keep going back for is the tender Wagyu and impossibly moist yet perfectly charred salmon skewers.
“We take pride in having the best quality produce and proteins; our ingredients are sourced responsibly,” beams Joe with pride as we shamelessly feast. “The A5 Wagyu is acquired from cities ranging from Hokkaido to Miyazaki and our noodles are prepared and cooked fresh daily. In addition to this, we also serve Halal certified meats.”
Delicious, healthy and fresh, this mobile eatery of our dreams is the result of one man’s craving that found itself at odds with the unrelenting traffic L.A. – an origin story we can all relate to.
Joe has been a connoisseur of yakitori for decades, a passion evidenced by the affection in his voice as he eagerly tells us about his favorite grilling spot in Torrance. A yakitori restaurant that he’d faithfully pilgrimage to despite the infamous South Bay commute. However, as much as he loved the menu, the drive was getting to him. Begrudging his lack of access to the authentic Japanese cuisine, Joe decided to do something about it and solve his own problem. The gumption it takes to actually act on an idea is praiseworthy on its own, but what makes the story of this food truck even more inspirational is that Joe made his dream business a reality in the middle of the pandemic.
The past few years have been notoriously bad for the service industry; we’ve seen so many of our own favorites shutter in shocking and heartbreaking numbers. Entrepreneurship alone is gut wrenching, but it takes a certain kind of heart and drive to build a business with the world as you know it crumbling around you.
“I would drive to Torrance, and during those drives I would brainstorm on how to take the traditional method of yakitori and put it on a food truck,” Joe tells us, describing the days before his vision had wheels.
Food trucks are of course, not a new concept. But a yakitori food truck is not a basic vehicle. Traditional yakitori takes fresh, high-grade cuts of various meats and cooks them to precision over charcoal. The result is delicious, but the process can be tricky within the confines of a small truck, especially when you factor in the smoke. While there are electric versions of a yakitori grill, they don’t produce the same smokey umami that separates good yakitori from great yakitori. As such, Yakitana endeavored to be one of the first of its kind to make the traditional dish mobile while still being authentic. It may have been a tricky road to get there, but their success has created a whole new world of accessibility for both long-time lovers and newcomers of the dish alike.
“Traditionally, food trucks were established to provide a grab-and-go experience… such as fast food,” says Joe. “Here at Yakitana, we are able to deliver high quality dishes with a quick turnaround. We hope that our business can help pivot the mentality of some that may be weary of the food truck industry.
Yakitana serves Japanese robatayaki, which translates to “fireside cooking” in Japanese cuisine. It’s a fairly remarkable feat due to the nature of the cooking style. In fact, Yakitana is one of the first Robata based food trucks here in Los Angeles.
Led by Yakitana’s head chef Tanielu Boyce-Jennings – also known as Chef TJ – the crew cooks steak, chicken, wagyu and other foods on soaked skewers over hot charcoal on a wide, flat open fireplace as traditional yakitori dictates. Inspired and motivated by his cultural background, the young Chef TJ looks forward to overtaking the food truck scene one skewer at a time. We don’t think this mission will take long, as their mobile style enables them to satiate the cravings of all Angelenos.
“Being mobile and flexible with locations has a massive advantage over brick and mortar restaurants,” says Joe. “Having the ability to relocate on the fly provides more opportunities for the business to serve the community. Some may say that having a food truck can have a disadvantage, such as seating, but Yakitana has been able to supply seating, tables, and heat lamps for the colder weather. We want to ensure that our customers leave our business with a memorable and comfortable experience.”
Primarily stationed at the crypto.com arena at 1212 Flower Street every Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. (open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday), Yakitana is expanding its base towards expanding to Santa Monica and San Diego, with a separate traveling truck for fairs, concerts and private or corporate events.
Wondering what to get? “I would definitely recommend the ‘Platinum Plate’ to customers,” advises Joe. “This option allows you to pick four different skewers from our menu, such as our A5 Wagyu and Scallops. You are also able to choose between noodles or rice as the base. Personally, I enjoy the Wagyu, Lamb, Salmon, and Sausage with the spicy shrimp noodles.”
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