Of all the varieties of eating utensils, from cutlery to chopsticks to hands to sporks, there is something uniquely satisfying about the skewer or the stick. The stick has been our tool for navigating many a buffet table. Spearing an olive here, a mini scotch egg there. It’s also versatile. Meat, vegetables, a marshmallow if you’re cutesy. The sticks are what head chef Angelo Sato plays at Humble Chicken on Frith Street. And it was here that we confirmed - whilst sticking a meltingly good, tare-coated piece of liver in our mouth - that this is a very good way to eat and moreso, that Humble Chicken is the place to do it.
Humble Chicken is a yakitori bar in Soho. A combination of words that has the potential to amount to superficial tourist and tosser fodder. But that’s not the case. It’s a completely thrilling place to be. With its open flames, twirling skewers, and unceasing provision of poultry on a stick. Each part of the bird is paired with a specific marinade or condiment and about 75% of the menu is exclusively yakitori. You’ll go from skin to shoulder to neck to breast. But don’t limit yourself to first, second, third and fourth base - you want in on everything. And the beauty of a bar, as everyone should know, is that you can always lean across and ask for one more. Just know that at about £4 a pop, these sticks encourage you to spend racks of cash.
The man behind the fire, Angelo Sato, has worked with Clare Smyth and trained at Eleven Madison Park. Clearly, this experience has worked a treat because the yakitori here is often pretty faultless. Every part of the chicken is accounted for and it’s the bits that remind you of an injury-prone footballer or one of Soho’s racy basement bookshops that you want to order. Soft knee and cartilage. Neck. Achilles. Inner thigh. The mixed offal and liver are also essential and every condiment pairing, be it spicy miso or yuzu kosho ponzu, elevates the juicy and ever-so-slightly charred piece of chicken to another dimension. Other stuff, like a miso foie gras tart, or a big bowl of crispy chicken leg on rice, tender and humming with ginger, show that the poultry here isn’t one trick.
Sitting at the counter of Humble Chicken, watching the flames be fanned, having a procession of parts presented to you is an exciting, theatrical type of eating. Looking around the counter you’ll see that everyone else in front row seats, be it solo diners, daters or delighted trios of Asahi-cheersing friends, is feeding off of this hustle and bustle. This isn’t unique, Soho is hardly lacking in energy or restaurants, but it is easier said than done. Sticking everything in your mouth here, on the other hand, is just plain easy.
Of the many skewers, you can skip the breast and filets and focus on the minor injuries unit or the faintly pornographic-sounding instead. The soft knee and cartilage combines perfectly tender meat, exterior char, spicy miso and the soft crunch of a joint. Or, try the achilles. It’s a mix of soft meat and charred juicy fat. But, if crunching through carcass isn’t your game, then more familiar crowd pleasers are cooked to exacting, juicy perfection as well. There are wings dusted in shichimi, drizzled with the tang of lemon that are up there with the finest London wings has to offer. Inner thigh and the precious poultry oyster are musts for all Christmas brown meat lovers. And of course, there’s the offal. Mixed parts and liver glistening in sweet tare sauce. All the sticks are cooked on the same grill, to different heats, for different times, but their quality stays the same.
Rich, salty, and sweet, this £5.50 bite is definitely something you should start off with. The luscious savouriness of the foie gras and miso is countered with candied flecks of apple and a dusting of ginger and pecan. Two parts starter and one part dessert.