Montreal's newest Japanese restaurants are narrowing their focus. That's good news; the city, after all, has plenty of established, catch-all izakayas hopelessly trying to do everything — ramen, soba, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, sashimi — well. Here, then, comes Otto, a new restaurant devoted to charcoal-grilled yakitori. The skewer specialist from Hanhak Kim and Hiroshi Kitano opened quietly in prime Concordia University ghetto real estate three weeks ago. It's easy to imagine students beating a mad path to Otto's door, but the food looks like it has the potential to tempt non-downtown dwellers too. (Just ask Kazu what happens when you offer a different kind of Japanese cuisine in this part of town.) Simply put, there isn't another restaurant exploring the depths of yakitori this way.
"The thing is that there are so many izakayas in Monteal," observes Kim. "But there is no place using charcoal. And charcoal-grilled food is tasty. My partner's food is really amazing." Kitano comes to the project with ten years of experience at Japanese kitchens in New York. The chef helped open Hirohisa, a restaurant in SoHo where kappo cuisine, in which hot and cold dishes are prepared behind a counter, is the focus.
At Otto, the emphasis is similarly fine-tuned. Glistening skewers of pork belly, cumin-laced lamb, crisped chicken skin, eel, and salmon beckon, but there's also a repertoire of sides and larger plates too (see below). The restaurant even makes its own ice cream. Otto's canniest move, however, may be its decision to keep the charcoal burning until 1 a.m. Monday to Thursday, 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sunday until midnight. Add beer, cocktails, sake, and wine to the mix, and this could get dangerous.
Status: Otto Yakitori Izakaya, 1441 Saint-Mathieu, between de Maisonneuve and Sainte-Catherine, (514) 507-8886. Now open daily from 5 p.m. until late.