Now I’m trying to give this a digital or social media twist, but to be honest, this post is about a great evening and meal at one of Auckland’s best hidden secrets – Ken’s Yakitori on Anzac Ave.
With my broken high school Japanese and the help of Google translate – it turns out Ken has been in business for over 15 years. I’ve been a patron for over 10 years now and the service, experience and delicious food remain one of my favourite dining experiences in Auckland.
The experience begins half a block away as you get a whiff of Yakitori and charcoal from the front of house grill. As you open the door the welcome call of irasshaimase (literally = Welcome) rings out from all staff members. From then on in, it is true to its rustic Japanese theme.
Last Saturday was no exception, even after a 5 year gap between visits. We were ushered in to the bustling bar and seated on wooden stools in a corridor with just enough room to pass. The decor masters the art of Wabi Sabi with its Shou sugi ban or burnt wood paneling echoing the theme of Yakitori. The mismatched tableware is so Wabi Sabi you feel like you’re at a summer house or camp ground.
The food was fantastic and the Yakitori packs great smokeyness into its simplicity. Each skewer, unmistakably minimalist, has at the most two ingredients. Never pulling the palette too far from its charcoal infused base notes.
We were always attended and the staff had a sixth sense for a drink that needed replacing. They also filled what might have been a slight wait between platters, with some complimentary sweet potato crisps.
But what did I learn from Ken that I can use at work?
Well to be honest Ken has perhaps let the online side of his business take a sabbatical. His website is in need of a refresh and they’re posting some beautiful pictures on Facebook (which they could do more with) KenYakitoriAnzacAve and they feature on Yelp and Foursquare. So if you do or have checked them out, please leave some recommendations.
Although Ken (well his business) doesn’t proactively use online to its full potential his focus on his customers, good service and great food mean his patrons and word of mouth speak for him.
His business is just like a good online community/website.
- The “irashai” as you enter makes you feel like one of the community immediately. Like Norm entering Cheers.
- The menu is very visual, just like good social media, and simple to understand.
- His staff are ready to help and responsive. Waiting for any cue that help is needed rather than hiding the contact details. And maybe the responsiveness is easier given his business size and by the fact that he can see all staff and patrons from the grill.
- With the grill right in front of everyone you also know it’s well prepared. Open and transparent business at its best.
- During the great power outages of 1998, Ken was one of the first to buy gas powered fridges while still in stock. You need to be open as many hours as possible to stay in business. Many restaurants went under due to the outages. Ken prospered.
- Ken keeps his past hygiene certificates up on the wall like badges. Signals of good service for the newbies to spot easily.
- There’s also a cute NO MSG sign behind him. Obviously everyone asks as it just tastes so good. I can imagine him pointing and giving a cheeky wink when asked what’s the secret to great Yakitori.
- Best of all, he makes sure the food is exceptional. Good products and services sell themselves.
Ken deserves our patronage and maybe we can help him out with some good social media sharing and reviews. Cheers to a great Yakitoriya.