Since even before it opened, I had heard nothing but good publicity about Yardbird’s chicken yakitori. Knowing that the chef, Matt Abergel, had been poached from Zuma, I wasn’t at all surprised at what I was hearing and was eager to try it for myself.
A little past Oolaa on Bridges Street, you’ll find Yardbird, a modern, lively restaurant modelled on a Japanese izakaya – a down to earth neighbourhood restaurant, and that is exactly the vibe that Yardbird gives off.
The no-reservation policy may sound off-putting, particularly if it remains as popular as it is now, but after a few sips of one of their signature cocktails at the bar and you’ll be seated before you can say “edamame.” Try the Chu Hai, a refreshing blend of Shochu and citrus juice. It’s best to try not to spill it all over yourself, however, as it will only result in a wet dress and a table full of locals laughing at you.
Aside from their no-reservation policy, Yardbird imposes three rules. The first of these rules is “sharing is caring.” This happens to be one of my favourite phrases of all time, as the more you share food, the more variety you’ll get to eat and thus less chance that Food Envy will show his ugly face. At Yardbird, all dishes are designed for sharing, and as each yakitori dish only contains one skewer, you feel at liberty to order a range of items without the fear of being called a fatty.
The second rule is that everything is limited. There is no walk-in refrigerator, so everything is delivered every day and made to sell out, meaning that you are eating only the freshest ingredients.
We started off with the KFC. Although this restaurant’s obsession is with chicken, this dish thankfully has absolutely nothing to do with the greasy fried chicken we know to associate with this acronym, but actually stands for Korean Fried Cauliflower. Cauliflower, as I must have mentioned before, to me is the most pointless vegetable in the world. A poor man’s broccoli would be a generous description. However, when encased in a light batter, sprinkled with sesame seeds and glazed in a delicious sweet and spicy sauce, I could eat cauliflower with every meal.
The fruit tomato salad with balsamic dressing was pleasant and light but I think next time I would rather save the space in my stomach for a couple more skewers instead.
Chef Abergel likes to use every part of the chicken, so on the menu you will find everything from chicken heart and chicken liver to chicken neck and chicken tail to more conventional options like chicken thigh and chicken wings.
Our very friendly Puerto Rican waitress recommended we share four skewers between the two of us, so we opted for the chicken meatball, chicken neck, chicken tail and chicken wings.
The chicken meatball (pictured above) was delicious – succulent and juicy, just a shame I had to share it. It is served alongside a raw egg yolk dip which complements it perfectly.
On to the chicken neck – I wouldn’t have thought there would be much meat on a chicken’s neck but was pleasantly surprised at how meaty it actually was. I think this might have been the best part of the chicken.
Although, having said this, chicken wings, when done well, are also a delectable part of the bird. Here, the little wings are dusted with a delicious shichimi spice, a packet of which you are each given when presented with the bill.
Although fatty, I was still very impressed with the chicken tail. My fellow diner, however, was not of the same opinion and complained that the chicken was too fat. I’m sure if his behind was carved up and put on a skewer it wouldn’t be much different.
One of Yardbird’s few non-chicken dishes is the short-rib – deliciously succulent pork meat that melts in the mouth. Chef Abergel does good chicken but he also does a mean rib.
The final dish our kind waitress suggested we must try was chicken and egg, which could perhaps be likened to a bibimbap – a deliciously sticky mix of rice, peas, deep fried chicken skin and raw egg served in a piping hot dish to continue cooking. Comfort food at its best.
The only option for dessert was peanut butter ice cream, which we could barely turn down. It tasted like the inside of a Snickers bar – amazing.
Service at Yardbird is amongst the best in Hong Kong, and refreshingly, there is no service charge – rule number three. When you aren’t forced to pay for it and yet the service is amazing, you’re much more inclined to want to tip, especially knowing it will go straight to the waiters.
Dinner for two will set you back over $500 each which, although pricey for what it is, isn’t absurdly expensive. Japanese restaurants abound in Hong Kong, but none quite like this one. You can tell there is a real passion in the air at Yardbird, not just from the chef, but from all the staff and I’m sure even the chickens are happy to be a part of it.
35 Bridges Street
Tel: +852 2547 9273
Date visited: Wednesday 21st September 2011