It’s tiny. 6 chairs and 9 stools are all packed in a small eatery that shares space with a convenience store. It has no outside seating. Prices aren’t cheap, but the serving sizes are more than reasonable. I bought their largest plate, and sat down to try what they cooked.

The greens were really good, and I wished I had more of them. The slaw was crunchy and good. The Brunswick stew I really liked, flavors well in balance.

In terms of  the meats, the pulled pork was a solid version, very moist and tender with plenty of bark. The chicken was good as well. It was in the ribs and brisket that this place creates an impression. Chew on one of the ribs and it was amazingly tender, and then only when you’re close to finishing does the smoke flavor appear. It really creeps up on you.

The brisket has a sensibility you seldom find in American meals, but often encounter in Asian foods. Perhaps it just was a lucky accident, but texture differences in bites of this stuff could  be mind blowing. From the soft crusty salty outside to the tender meaty bits of meat, to the occasional creaminess of the fat, the experience was more like eating a well prepared slice of duck from skin to fat to meat than anything else I’ve had over the past couple years.

Their two spicy sauces were good. I’d pour one or the other over the pulled pork, and then eat.

Asian yams (i.e. Korean sweet potatoes) are an available side.

Impression? I’d hesitate to tell people to race down to a place this small, but deserving of the food buzz it’s been getting? Entirely. There are some really good plates of food here.

Heirloom Market Barbecue
2243 Akers Mill Road
Atlanta, GA 30339
(770) 612-2502

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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

Yakitori Jinbei is located in a strip mall centered by an Office Depot, on your right as you head north along highway 41 away from the Perimeter. It’s not large, and a little tricky to find. It’s one of the more original restaurants in Atlanta. More precisely, it’s a kind of restaurant more common in other parts of the world. This kind of restaurant was pretty common on Guam, back when I was roaming the island – perhaps because the Japanese honeymooners of the day wouldn’t stand for being ripped off.

I came on a lunch, not knowing that yakitori wasn’t served at lunch. When I was told that, I was surprised. The lunch menu is full of inexpensive eats, but the overwhelming majority of them were starchy. I wanted to save my starches for nigiri. I finally found their fried dishes, and they had fried horse mackerel. That sounded good.

Inside, I counted 15 small 2 person tables, and 7 chairs in front of the sushi bar. There was a lot of natural wood, and good use of dark stained wood as well. The look was pretty, and casual as well. That informal nature extended through the eatery. Service was relaxed. I arrived about the height of lunch hour, and it was perhaps half full.

The horse mackerel came with a two colored panko. I kept wondering if the brighter orange color was due to sweet potato, but never got a clear answer on that. Nigiri were good. They ran out of octopus, so I asked that salmon be substituted instead.

It was good food, but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed. I have to get back for the yakitori sometime!

Verdict: Original, informal, with good, inexpensive Japanese food. Highly recommended.

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

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