I’ve reviewed Yakitori Jinbei before, but it was a lunchtime review, and Yakitori Jinbei doesn’t do yakitori at night. This weekend I talked my family into the hour long trek into Smyrna and the quiet strip mall YJ is found in. I was curious if the mix of casual elegance would be lost at dinner time, if the ambience would change.

The menu is different, to be sure. Driven more by donburi, a selection of various udons, a bit of yakisoba, and several possible choices of yakitori (a kind of Japanese shish-kebab),  they also included a list of specials that day. Nabekayi udon was one of the specials that caught our eye. We also debated getting a mixed vegetable tempura. The one we did end up getting was a squid appetizer, that my daughter soon appropriated as her own.

Food came out this day a little haphazardly. We had ordered a yakitori plate, the vegetable yakitori combo (shio style), some yakisoba for my wife, and my daughter ordered Yakitori Jinbei’s yakitori combination box.

You can smell the smoke on Yakitori Jinbei’s chicken. The meats are modest but flavorful. BBQ addicts who like their meats smoked are likely to enjoy the choices at this eatery. The peppers on some of the yakitori were wildly different in heat, either being totally without heat at all, or at the hottest, as spicy as a small yellow banana pepper. Perhaps the best of the yakitori was the eggplant, delicious and fall off the stick tender. The green onion yakitori might have been better served in a style other than  shio (salt). The mushrooms were wonderfully earthy in character.

Tempura were dry and excellent. If you want tempura sauce with your food,  you’ll need to ask for it. The yakisoba was quite good, but ran a little oily this day. My wife doesn’t like yakisoba noodles that taste too much like ramen, and she graded these the “good” kind.

The thing about this restaurant is that it more resembles the way the Japanese actually eat than does, say, a sushi joint. Sushi is a food for special occasions in Japan. To grade a full service Japanese restaurant solely on its sushi makes as much sense as grading a full service American restaurant on its German chocolate cake and apple pie. Here, you have a fighting chance to get past the holiday food and touch on things more commonly eaten in Japan. And you can do it in a place that’s refreshingly casual, but with a sense of harmony and balance that good Japanese aesthetics emphasizes.

I like Yakitori Jinbei a lot. I just wish it were on my end of town.

Yakitori Jinbei
2421 Cobb Parkway
Smyrna, GA 30080
(770) 818-9215