0519 taste Photo by: DK Crawford
Close Encounters: The open kitchen at Gotetsu offers grazing diners a fun experience and makes it easy for those who like to nibble their way through a meal, ordering as they go.

Take a front row seat at this tiny, Japanese eatery

By Allison Costa 05/19/2011

Gotetsu Kushiyaki and Sake House
2098 E. Main Street, Ventura
643-3199
$1.50 - $8.25


Are you a grazer? Do you like to nibble your way through a meal, ordering as you go? If so, be sure to check out Gotetsu, the kushiyaki and sake house that opened quietly a few months ago in Midtown Ventura. At this nondescript, tiny restaurant, guests can take more of a grazing approach to their meals, and owner Yukari Watanabe is more than happy to oblige.

The word kushiyaki refers to grilled, bamboo-skewered meats, and most of the Gotetsu menu revolves around these savory little sticks of protein. The menu also offers a selection of unique salads and specialty dishes like chicken curry and gyoza, or pan-fried pork dumplings. Since kushiyaki was new to us, when we stopped in for dinner we started by ordering a few skewers, and then continued to order three or four small dishes at a time until we were satisfied.

Though the small plates and the process were similar to those of a tapas restaurant, sitting at the counter at Gotetsu gives you a front-row-seat view into the tiny open kitchen, making for a fun dining experience.

2Since it takes a while for the skewers to cook, when you first sit down at Gotetsu, I suggest ordering a dish of edamame (lightly salted soybeans) or a seaweed salad, something to munch on while you mull over the menu and wait for your other dishes to cook. Then start ordering some kushiyaki. Each order is one stick, usually with four bites on each, and they range in price from $1.50 to $4.25. Though we ordered one of each kind, you may want to order double of each to give everyone a chance to enjoy and save you from having to wait for a second round of the ones you love.

Of the chicken skewers, the chicken meatball and the barbecue chicken thigh skewers were tender, juicy and full of flavor. And if you’ve ever been caught alone in the kitchen, sneaking bites of the crispy skin of a roasted chicken, be sure to try the chicken skin skewer at Gotetsu. The curled pieces of salty, crispy skin are as delicious and decadent as candy, only with a savory spin. From the daily specials, we also ordered the chicken thigh with radish ponzu sauce, a pungent sauce of grated radish. When tasted alone, the sauce tasted bitter; yet when eaten with the sweet chicken, the flavor combo was wonderful.

Of the beef skewers, we enjoyed the filet, which was melt-in-your-mouth good, and the sirloin in a soy-based sauce, which was one of the specials that day. We ordered two vegetable skewers (squash and mushroom), and while the flavors were good, it really is the meat skewers that stand out at Gotetsu. If you want something lighter, or vegetarian, the salads are a good option.

The pari pari salad was a huge hit with our group. The large dinner-size salad is filled with chopped leaves and stems of mizuna (California peppergrass), which offers a peppery taste similar to that of arugula but with more crunch. It is tossed with tomatoes, avocado, a generous amount of curly fried wonton strips, and a sweet dressing. It offered a nice, light counterpart to all of the meat. The pumpkin salad was equally unique. Boiled pumpkin is mixed with eggs, raisins, sunflower seeds and mayonnaise, making for a thick, sweet and filling salad with a texture similar to that of egg salad.

We also enjoyed the chicken wraps: two soy paper wrappers filled with tender chicken thigh meat, avocado, and lettuce, sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with two dipping sauces, one spicy and the other sweet. The gyoza soup, one of the specials, was another nice addition to our meal. Packed with three large and doughy pork dumplings, the clear broth was soothing and accented by the perfect amount of spice.

For being such a tiny restaurant, the beverage options at Gotetsu are rather impressive. Sapporo beer on draft, Yebisu beer in the can, plum wine, a selection of sake and cans of soda and bottled water are amongst the options to quench your thirst.

Note that when going to Gotetsu, the kushiyaki, salads and many of the specialty dishes are only available at dinner time. The lunch menu is short and sweet, a list of five dishes, including a chicken teriyaki bowl, sweet and spicy chicken bowl, and a fried rice bowl. And while we loved sitting at the counter and watching our dishes as they came together, the seating is ideal for groups of two or three people. Larger groups may have a harder time finding space at the counter, and conversation can be a bit tricky with everyone sitting elbow to elbow.

Overall, Gotetsu is a great little find, a fun place to stop in for an adventurous meal, a pre-dinner munchie, or even a late-night snack on your way home from the bar. Whether you’re a grazer, a picker or a hearty eater, this restaurant is sure to please.F

Visit my blog, www.venturafoodhappenings.com, or find Ventura Food Happenings on Facebook.

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