We see this too often at the dinner table: the upturned noses of kids who don’t like what’s on the plate. So why didn’t the yuck squad reject squid on a stick? Maybe because it was one of many small dishes (yakitori) we brought home from Hiro, a North Miami Beach Japanese restaurant known best for its sushi, noodle dishes and late-night hours. And what’s not to like about food in miniature?
Much like tapas, yakitori is meant to be nibbled and shared. Splayed across our table: skewers of mushrooms (two kinds), onions, garlic, onion, corn, tofu cubes, chicken meatballs, shrimp, scallops, beef, fish and the aforementioned squid. Yes, food on a stick can make a well-balanced meal. No fried nuggets here. Hiro’s yakitori is grilled, but that didn’t dampen the fun factor. Garlic bulbs are a lot more appetizing when they’re stuck on a skewer. And the sampling culture of yakitori makes it easy to nibble on the next stick of food if garlic isn’t your thing.
While Hiro’s yakitori menu spans the course, so does the quality. The chicken, beef and seafood skewers got the most “yums.” So did the marble-looking orbs we thought were scallops but turned out to be quail eggs. “These are good!” one picky kid said to the shock of everyone else. The dry, flavorless corn didn’t earn any fans, however, and the plain tofu was saved by a savory sauce.
The staff at Hiro packed our skewers in foil, keeping veggie with veggie and meat with meat. The 20-minute wait went quickly as the hostess directed us to the sushi bar, where we watched a team of three chefs at work. At home, we opened the bags to plenty of forks and chopsticks and flipped open the foam containers for some instant party food. A caution: Despite a wide variety of choices, yakitori doesn’t amount to much in the belly. We had to dip into the pantry for a couple cans of tomato soup to fill up the family. Learn from our oversight and order noodles or rice on the side.