Mar 23, 2022 - Food and Drink

Uncle's yakitori brings the fire

Yakitori at Denver's Uncle
A meatball at Uncle in Washington Park. Photo courtesy of Uncle

The kitchen crew at Uncle knows how to whip up a steaming bowl of noodles bathed in rich and savory broth that attracts the hungry, but patient, masses.

Yes, but: Ramen is hot. And in the summertime, so is Denver, which means people are looking for something cooler.

  • Chef-owner Tommy Lee has a solution.

What's happening: In the latest of three iterations of Uncle's yakitori menu, chef Sean May tackles traditional Japanese chicken skewers six nights a week β€” breaking down roughly ten birds per day from Green Circle, an Amish farm in Pennsylvania.

The big picture: Lee has made his West Washington Park location an inventing room, ripe for experimentation with skewers.

  • "Yakitori is just chicken, grill and smoke," he told 5280 Magazine in late 2021. "There's this primal attachment to it. I think that's the case with all barbecue."
  • The restaurateur has long sought to open a yakitori concept, originally planning to serve the sticks at Hop Alley before pivoting to modern Chinese cuisine in the RiNo neighborhood.
Yakitori at Denver's Uncle
Photo courtesy of Uncle

Flashback: Lee and May used the COVID-19 shutdown as an opportunity to introduce outdoor diners to a menu of 15 skewers served in the summer of 2020.

  • When cooked over Japanese white oak, the unique characteristics of each cut are drawn out, imbued with the fowl's fat.
  • Lee says the omakase-style of yakitori has been popularized in the U.S., with May's menu among the first to appear and stick in Denver.

Menu highlights include the "oyster" β€” a piece of meat found near the chicken's spine β€” breast, thigh, skin, wing, meatball and more. The bones are used to fortify the soy tare, which is used during the grilling process for some of the skewers.

My favorite bite: The tender, mouth-watering chunks of tail.

What to watch: Beyond the kitchen blaze, Lee has several irons in the fire. For Uncle, he plans to bulk up the summer menu, adding medium to large entrees. The ramen shop will also open a Denver International Airport outpost.

  • Meanwhile, Hop Alley is expanding its RiNo location.
  • And while no specifics are on the table yet, Lee continues to plot a yakitori concept.
Yakitori Denver Uncle
Photo courtesy of Uncle
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