A Day Trip to Tokyo at Yakitori and Yakiniku Joint Hundo

By Sophie Steiner, February 18, 2021

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The Place 

Climb the stairs of the 20 Donghu Lu villa, leaving behind ‘mini France’ in the form of Cellar to Table and Blaz, and you enter the dimly lit Hundo – where you’re instantly transported out of Shanghai and into a bustling yakitori joint in the heart of Tokyo. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Your field of vision takes in a dark wooden bar lined with chefs scoring sashimi, slicing steaks and serving sake and shochu, all while the aroma of roasting snapper, charred chicken skin and a hint of yuzu fill your nostrils – the authenticity makes you feel like you should be paying in Japanese yen.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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The warming atmosphere is emphasized by the overly friendly staff and controlled chaos within the open kitchen. Here you see dozens of skewers, holding every part of a chicken you could possibly think of (and even some you can’t) roasting on an open binchotan charcoal-grill flame.  

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Although much larger than Justin Xu’s previous projects (Nakama – now closed because of landlord issues and reborn from the ashes like a phoenix as High Yaki), because the space is split into two main rooms and further sectioned off with private alcove-like seating, the feeling of exclusivity still remains. 

And for those, like us, who are increasingly interested in both the pleasure of a meal and the process behind it – you can sit barside to be closer to the culinary sorcery, and the sorcerer himself. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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The walls are lined with sake bottles and wines from around the globe, but your eyes are immediately drawn to the dry aging fridge stocked with Mayura Wagyu Ribeye, Dry Aged RV Full Bloody M5 Tomahawks, Uruguay M9 Short Ribs and the likes – a reminder that this is not your average yakitori restaurant.

The Food 

The menu spans sashimi, cold and hot bites, charcoal grilled dishes, yakitori, kushiage (deep-fried skewers), tempura, yakiniku (grilled meat) and rice. It sounds like a lot, but as most are small dishes or skewers, you can do some serious damage with just two people. 

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The sashimi is shipped in fresh daily from around the world, so the selection and availability are subject to change, but the possibility of slight inconvenience is immediately trumped by the apparent freshness of the fish. This is not the kind of sashimi you end up sloshing around in wasabi-laden soy sauce – like dunking a mop into a bucket – just a light dab of each will do to enhance the delicate nature of this Tsujiji Fish Market-quality sashimi.  

DSC07380.jpgTuna Belly Sashimi (RMB35/piece), Scallop Sashimi (RMB38/piece), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

If carnivorous rage is already consuming you at this point in the meal (we sat right next to the dry aging fridge, so we get it), thinly sliced Horse Sashimi (RMB95) just may be the not-so-ordinary starter for you. Or, find the best of both worlds in the Beef Tartar (RMB118), which sees mayo swapped out for velvety sea urchin and added brightness from the bursting salmon roe spheres. 

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Cleanse your palate with the Street Style Cucumber, Cabbage (RMB38), an upgraded version of the common cucumber and garlic Chinese cold dish with the addition of crisp cabbage, wakame and shredded preserved ham. 

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Although pricier than a skewer, the Grilled 5 Days Dry Aged Chicken Thigh (RMB68) is worth every extra yuan. The taught skin puckers and crisps, charring to a rich, dark brown to reveal the most succulent of meat underneath. Did we read the menu incorrectly and this is just duck? Nope, we double checked, the chicken thigh is just that juicy. 

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When something is ranked #1 on Dianping, it’s hard to skip it over even though it can sometimes lead us astray. The Mayura Station M9 Wagyu Sandwich (RMB158) is not a miss for us but also not a must. The dense white bread is toasted in such a way that it feels light, the truffle mayo adds an extra dose of buttery schmaltz, and the meat itself is breaded and lightly fried just right.

On a technical level, execution is flawless. Call us old fashioned, but we don’t need our meat double breaded and fried with an extra dollop of fat at a place that (rightfully) prides itself as having some of the freshest, highest quality meat: serve it straight up, as is – no frills necessary. 

DSC07446.jpgGrilled Whole Baby Squid (RMB58), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Onto the yakitori, the main reason we came. On the bird’s back, above the tail feathers, sits the oysters, a cut that in French is known as “a fool leaves it.” The Oyster Blade (RMB15) is grilled lightly so it firms up without scorching, resulting in a welcoming dribble of chicken juice down your chin if not eaten in one bite. 

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Similarly, the Thigh & Leek (RMB20) is crispy yet succulent in all the right ways, roasted fat leeks interlaced between nuggets of chicken perfection. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Tail (RMB15) needs nothing else – with minimalist cooking like yakitori, the narrow spectrum between bland and delicious can be measured in flecks of salt, and Hundo has that measurement down to a science. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Thinly sliced Chicken Skin (RMB15) is gathered in a ruffle along a wooden skewer. If not seared enough, the resulting bite is flabby and underwhelming, but here, when singed over high heat charcoal, the fat pools across the rest, creating the crispiest, saltiest, naughtiest morsel.  

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One of our favorites of the evening, the Meatball (RMB20) is served with a raw egg yolk – a prudent companion for charred meat skewers, whose savoriness it eloquently enhances. 

DSC07455.jpgBreast (RMB15), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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For the more-seasoned yakitori consumers, heart, liver, ventricles and the like are all on offer. The Liver (RMB15) is seared quickly to avoid any off-putting leathery texture – the blood red insides as soft as yogurt.

The Heart (RMB15) is still pink, cooked medium-rare, like the coveted cuts of steak that put this restaurant on the map. A squeeze of fresh calamansi acts to break up the mineral-y richness, but we would have liked something a bit stronger, like the slow-burning buzz from a shishito pepper, to mellow it more. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

On the kushiage front, we opted for two kinds of deep-fried skewers – Short Rib and Foie Gras (RMB28) and Sardine and Perilla (RMB18). Similar in shape and appearance, the ocean-like flavors bursting from the latter outshined the muted meatiness of the former. 

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Roasted whole, the Grilled Eggplant (RMB38) arrives topped with a poached egg, creating a luscious sauce that balances out the bitter char on the skin. However, the portion is hard to eat as no cutlery is provided. 

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Like the most sensual steak and eggs, a tender slice of lightly seared A5 Wagyu Rib Eye (RMB125) perches atop a soft-poached egg, the sweet tare sauce complimenting the grill’s lingering smoky aroma. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

There’s no need for dessert when you can end an already perfect meal with the Steamed Rice, Sea Urchin, Wagyu Beef (RMB88) – a dish that proves the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts. Raw cubes of wagyu beef and creamy sea urchin melt into a sauce that coats polished short-grain Japanese rice and shredded nori. 

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The drinks menu is full of sake, shocho cocktails (RMB45-108), yuzu and sour plum-based libations, an extensive wine selection and classic Suntory whiskey highballs (RMB45-55) – the ideal accompaniments to enrich a protein-heavy meal. 

The Vibe 

From covers of the Mamas and the Papas to Cardi B, the music is eclectic yet works with the modern New York-style spin on yakitori bar décor. Service is focused and observant, but on a few separate occasions we had to double check what we were being served. When it’s not totally obvious, a bit of explanation goes a long way. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The menu, though not expansive, allows patrons to choose between balling out on prime cuts or eating their hearts’ content of skewers and small bites for a fraction of the cost. Either way, from mastering the basics to rewarding the adventurous, Hundo is the dream destination for a Tokyo getaway that costs far less than a plane ticket.

Price: RMB200-1,000
Who’s Going: Well to do Chinese and expats, the foodie contingency, those craving all things Japan
Good For: Prime cut meat consumption, yakitori cravings, alternating protein and highball-loading


See a listing for Hundo. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s]

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