Uno Port’s Michelin-Recommended Japanese Yakitori : Sumi Habaki

Hidden in Tamano City of Okayama Prefecture, near Uno Port, Sumi Habaki 炭ハバキ attracts every passing gourmet with its minimalist and unassuming exterior.

Photo by SOL.

As we were about to give up on finding dinner and head to a convenience store, we stumbled upon a modest wooden door set in a folded black wall. Next to the door hung a rusted metal plate engraved with ‘炭ハバキ.’ Standing there clueless, sounds of sizzling came from the other side of the door, hinting that this might be…

Arriving at Uno Port from Teshima Island, we reached our hotel by 6 PM after a day of island-hopping in the Setoichi Sea. Hungry for dinner, we found Uno Port quiet during the off-season compared to the bustling ART SETOUCHI period. Stumbling upon ‘Sumi Habaki 炭ハバキ,’ a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand recommended Yakitori restaurant, was a delightful surprise. Uno Port, a charming seaside art town and gateway to the Setouchi islands, is an hour from Okayama Station by train or bus. ‘Sumi Habaki’ is a two-minute walk from JR Uno Station, seamlessly blending with its surroundings and characterized by a modest yet distinct black exterior, embodying a fusion of traditional and modern art.

The ambiance is lit by hanging light bulbs above an open kitchen, where the natural brush strokes on the bar’s surface and inorganic concrete blocks mark the boundary with the cooking area, radiating a sleek modern art vibe. A painting looks like of Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract expressionism, with its swirling lines and circles, reflects the chef’s personal style, blending culinary and visual elements. Our decision to try the chef’s choice menu (おまかせコース) brought unexpected delights, showcasing why this restaurant is Michelin Bib Gourmand recommended. This unexpected culinary joy is one of the enchanting aspects of travel.

Japanese Yakitori is a culinary art form focusing on the delicate control of heat. The chef uses charcoal for consistent heat, constantly rotating the skewers to achieve a crispy exterior and tender interior. The art of seasoning is key, with fine-grain rock salt used to add a subtle layer and enhance the meat’s flavor and texture. The service includes asking for seasoning preferences for each ingredient, offering choices of ‘sauce-grilled’ or ‘salt-grilled,’ with the latter preserving the ingredient’s natural taste, and the former suited for stronger-flavored items.  (在日本燒鳥店如何點餐?)

The menu at ‘Sumi Habaki 炭 ハバキ’ offering not only Yakitori but also special Donburi dishes. Highly recommended for an unexpectedly delightful experience.

Local vegetables

a unique choice for a Japanese Yakitori restaurant, presented in a Western style. The herbs are drizzled with oil and vinegar, and sprinkled with sesame seeds, enhancing the acidity and aroma. Another dish features lightly cooked traditional pickled vegetables – seasoned radishes, cucumbers, and zucchinis. These ‘tsukemono’ (also known as ‘kōnomono’ in Japan) retain their natural sweetness and crunch, creating a refreshing experience when paired with the sizzling Yakitori skewers.

Grilled Okra

Sprinkled with thin strips of dried bonito flakes (Katsuobushi) on top of the charcoal-grilled okra, they danced gently with the steam as the dish was served. After a few drinks, this delicate detail felt especially soothing under the slightly tipsy ambiance.

Scallion Chicken Skewer: 

A fundamental combination in Yakitori restaurants, the scallion chicken skewer at ‘Sumi Habaki 炭 ハバキ’ is a demonstration of culinary artistry. Upon tasting, it’s so tender and flavorful that it almost makes you want to shout out in delight. Rapidly flipped over charcoal and roasted over high heat, the juicy chicken and sweet green onion sauce, combined with a sprinkling of salt, create a deliciously crispy exterior. The texture is smooth and juicy, not dry, offering a rich and layered flavor experience. 

Eat like Local with its Grilled Chicken Gizzard Skewer and Sauce-Grilled Chicken Tail:

“The chicken tail, please enjoy,” said the waiter, I hesitated, apprehensive about its appearance. However, in Japanese Yakitori culture, chicken tails, like liver and gizzard, are traditional ingredients. They helped Japan through post-war food shortages and popularized Yakitori cuisine among the masses.

After being sauce-grilled, the chicken tail becomes rich in texture. The real delight lies in the tail bone’s charred finish, perfectly balancing the soft and firm fat – a texture not found in other parts of the chicken. 

Upon taking a bite, the rich elasticity and crispness reveal that it’s grilled chicken gizzard. Presented in diced form and sprinkled with a variety of spices, it’s brought to the table with the aromas of lemongrass and cinnamon, initially disguising its identity. The taste is unlike any I’ve had before; the homemade spices give the gizzard an exotic flair, making it a truly delectable skewer worth trying.

After enjoying several glasses of YEBISU beer, we exclaimed, ‘It’s worth coming to Uno just for this place!’ Then, we picked up the menu again to order more skewers and another incredible dish for the night – ‘Oyakodon.'”

Oyakodon (おやこどん) – Such a tranquil bowl of oyakodon. 

The plump egg yolk gently laid on steaming rice, slowly setting into a soft layer, binding the rice grains with a glossy sheen. Upon tasting, I was initially puzzled, expecting the aroma of eggs but instead greeted by a strong oceanic scent. Looking closely, beneath the clear thickened sauce, lay a layer of black seaweed paste. In that moment of quiet, I chewed, savoring the taste of the sea, curiously uncovering the next layer to discover the aroma of charcoal. The diced grilled chicken had been waiting for us from the start. In Uno, we found the true essence of oyakodon.

Upon leaving, seeing the owner’s arms covered in bird tattoos, I mustered the courage to compliment his exceptional grilling skills. His simple, friendly smile confirmed this was indeed a chic and modern yakitori restaurant.

After a satisfying dinner, stepped outside and stood across the street, gazing back at ‘Sumi Habaki 炭ハバキ.’ It stands out in Uno Port, a place brimming with contemporary art. I took a deep breath of the sea air, filled with anticipation for our next visit.

炭 ハバキ (Sumi Habaki)

1 Chome-5-29 Chikko, Tamano, Okayama 706-0002 Japan MAP (宇野駅徒歩1分)

Mon – Fri: 17:00 – 22:00
Sat:18:00 – 22:00

Closed: Sun

0863-33-8288

 

Share this post

You Might Also Like

Discover Tokyo’s New Spot Azabudai hills – Embark on a Boundless Journey at TeamLab Borderless

The Secretive Night Out Experience in Takamatsu – BAR Tabi

Secret Kyoto Gion Hideaway : Step Inside HAKU ハク

Traveling the World Sustainably with Your Artistic Side!

Join Our Newsletter