Yamagata sisters keep taste of father’s grilled chicken alive

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Izakaya Mogamigawa’s famed momoyaki grilled chicken thighs

By Kazuma Kikuchi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterYAMAGATA — If you visit the entertainment district of Hanakoji in central Yamagata, be sure to look for a red lantern with the words “Meibutsu momoyaki” (famous grilled chicken thigh) at the entrance to a tavern. The food has been the signature dish of tavern Izakaya Mogamigawa since it opened in 1955.

Domestic broiler chickens supplied by a chicken shop in the city are seasoned with salt and pepper, and grilled slowly. During grilling, the meat is periodically sprayed with sake. After about 20 minutes, the skin turns brown and crispy.

I took a big bite, and the juicy flavors spread throughout my mouth. The refreshing, spicy flavor of sansho pepper also gives the chicken a little kick, making it the perfect accompaniment for drinks.

The tavern has many regular customers that come just to eat the grilled chicken legs.

The grilled chicken can also be taken out. “During the Christmas season, as many as 300 pieces can sell a day,” said Shigeko Saito, the 59-year-old owner of the restaurant.

The tavern was once run by her parents. However, it closed after her father passed away in 2012 at 83.

Encouraged by regulars who said they wanted the tavern back, Saito and her younger sister Ikuko Kudo, 52, reopened the restaurant in 2014 and began serving the dishes their father had developed.

Besides momoyaki (¥600, or $5.40, before tax), oya-momoyaki (¥700) — grilled thigh with a somewhat elastic texture that comes from a chicken that has stopped laying eggs — and chicken wings (¥300 for two pieces) are also popular.

“Many customers visit us seeking to relive the tastes they remember,” Kudo said. “We’re very thankful for that.”

Izakaya Mogamigawa

Open: 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

Closed Sundays, Mondays and public holidays

Address: 4-16-26 Nanukamachi, Yamagata

Phone: (023) 642-1993

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