Chome has been open for longer than I care to divulge, because I can’t believe I’d never been before. Starring binchotan robatayaki, skewers of meat/veggies/seafood grilled over hardwood charcoal, Chome is a delicious closet; quirky, cute, and cozy. It is what I imagine a good drinking den in Tokyo would look like. Always a line out front, we strategically arrived at 5:03 p.m. on a Sunday evening only to find all the tables already full, except one. In the back by the kitchen, there’s a little curtained nook with a table that seats 5 to 6 people intimately, and was more than perfect for the two of us.
Complimentary potato salad with bonito shavings and bits of crunchy shallot arrives at the table while you peruse the rather voluminous menu and order drinks.
A good first bite!
The menu is intense. With dozens of dazzling options swirling in front of me, I first ordered a chashu “bite” to share, which turned out to be two quite thick pieces of sweet/savory chashu.
Smoky, tender, and just fatty enough, I had one and the other went home with us, because the BF already had some coming in his ramen.
BF ordered unagi tomagoyaki, eel being one of the few seafood items he really loves. Here, two pieces of grilled unagi came nestled in an egg omelet, the priciest thing we ordered at $20 for two pieces.
Tasty enough, but I felt the egg tamped down the flavor of the eel. And I didn’t feel it was worth the $$.
The tonkotsu broth in the ramen was a bit bland to me, but the BF loved it and slurped it all down. Good chewy ramen, though.
He also ordered kicker tempura string beans, with jalapeño and onion:
Crispy, crunchy, lightly battered, with a piquant, spicy sesame sauce, I got a few bites in before the BF inhaled these. Perfect beer-drinking food, and the BF had an Asahi to my glass of Pinot Grigio.
For my main, I ordered the duck carbonara.
The online menu (which isn’t Chome’s; they have no website, just as they take no reservations), listed this as bacon carbonara with udon, and I was rather shocked to discover that the duck in this iteration really didn’t add much. The bacon flavor was far more prominent, and the duck could have been pork or any other meat. Still, a very comforting, luscious dish, with its fat tangle of slippery noodles.
Our only taste of robata this night, the chicken thigh skewers (two per order) with grilled scallions, were our favorite bites of the night; juicy, smoky, tender and just perfect.
Even the tender scallions in between were richly delicious.
While everything wasn’t a complete success, I had to go back, and with enough people to try more of this insanely tempting menu.
The following week, five of us arrived on a rainy Sunday evening just before Chome opened, and again scored the little haven in the back. We availed ourselves of the happy hour menu (5 to 5:30 p.m. daily) and ordered all the chicken skewers:
Hearts and gizzards; don’t be afraid. Yes, they’re a bit funky, but quite the tastiest morsels.
We also tried the nankotsu; cartilage skewers, which at first I thought was flattened chicharron:
And marvelous wings. (And, yes, we got the thighs again too.)
Of the veggies, the almost-charred broccoli was the table favorite:
The trumpet mushrooms and fat asparagus were no slouches, though. We also got the shiitakes, brussels sprouts, okra, and artichoke hearts (you get the picture); all the veggies. Everything was perfectly grilled. Oh, and, of course, we got the kicker tempura string beans.
A stand-out was the Chome chu-toro sizzler:
Gorgeous fat slices of barely seared fatty bluefin tuna over crispy rice came in a sizzling hot plate and was devoured by all.
Next, we shared a tempura octopus dish:
You want chewy? I got yer chewy, right here! More octopus than I’d ever put in my mouth at any one time, this dish showed off the kitchen’s deep frying skills. Drizzled with a tangy sauce; mad love!
Winding down, we went a little lighter, with freshly shucked oysters:
A vibrant palate cleanser, to prepare us for the sashimi sampler:
All gorgeously fresh; hamachi, king salmon, bluefin toro, and one other jewel-like tidbit I’m forgetting. One hundred percent would order again.
We finished off with the special chirashi don:
Lovely sea baubles over rice, the dish came with nori squares for do-it-yourself umami-filled wraps. We were very full at this point, and nibbled daintily until it was all gone.
There is still so incredibly much more on the menu I want to try: I’m enticed by oxtail omurice, red prawn and scallop dumplings, ocean crème brulee, cumin lamb, cheesy fishcake mochi (!!), plus a whole variety of pork, seafood, and beef skewered binchotan treats, among other delights.
And, lest we forget this is a drinking den, there is a whole bevy of soft-porn alcohol drinks to choose from: Craft beer, sake, shochu, wine, and sake cocktails, as well as creative non-alcoholic quaffs (of which two of us enjoyed the very pretty, fruity Mango Paradise and Hibiscus Sunset). Go thirsty ye shall not.
We were so wowed by Chome we vowed to go back the last Sunday of every month. Must make up for lost time! See you there.
2193 Mission St.
Chome is a top Japanese foodie destination in the U.S. Simply incredible.
With Chome, Menya Kanemaru (holey Moley the black ramen is something special), Taishoken, sushi Shio, Shizen, Bon Nene, Maruya, rintaro, Ramenwell and so many others, The Mission is a Japanese culinary hotbed!