Sake and soju at MCow Yakatori (photo by Brad A Johnson)
On my first visit to the new MCow Yakitori in Irvine, the first thing I do is go to the restroom to wash my hands. What I find in there makes me want to turn around and run.
No, the restroom isn’t dirty. In fact, it is spotless. But between the hand sink and the urinal is something I’ve never seen before: a barf sink, clearly labeled as such. I can’t imagine why a modern restaurant would feel compelled to install a tall, deep trough for people who might need to vomit. Do they expect their customers to drink until they puke? Should I be concerned about food poisoning? My mind races. I’m confused, and more than a little grossed out.
MCow Yakatori (photo by Brad A Johnson)
Had my friends not already started ordering, I probably would have bolted. But I’m glad I didn’t. Turns out, we didn’t end up needing the sink. The yakitori is really pretty great. Yakitori, of course, is a style of Japanese barbecue in which little bite-sized pieces of all sorts of foods are grilled over lava-hot charcoal.
While the choices are somewhat limited, everything I’ve tasted has been of very high quality. Pork belly is cut into thick chunks and grilled until it turns black around the edges, with just the right amount of char giving way to porky succulence underneath. There’s yet another version of pork belly that is almost entirely fat, which is of course delicious.
Beef tongue, too, finds just the right balance of char. Skewers of wagyu beef, chicken thigh, chicken tail, chicken hearts, scallops, shiitake mushrooms … they’re all very good. My favorite, though, is probably the Taiwanese pork sausage, which is brushed liberally with a light soy glaze that caramelizes beautifully when grilled.
The restaurant serves a lot of other stuff that I haven’t tried, including all sorts of things from a deep fryer – crab and cheese croquettes, eggplant, calamari, oysters, mushrooms, broccoli. They also serve sushi, but I’m always leery of eating sushi in a place that doesn’t explicitly specialize in sushi – plus, there’s that sink.
MCow Yakitori & Bar
Where: 14120 Culver Drive, Irvine
When: Lunch and dinner daily
This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register. To view more of my work for the Register, check out the archives. I also invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.