We are regulars at Shin-Sen-Gumi in Gardena. We have been to most of the Yakitori haunts around town, but we find ShinSenGumi by far the best. We hate that it is so loud, but appreciate the authentic tradition that is behind it. So when I read this passionate post about a new kid on the block that proports to be better than Shin-Sen-Gumi, we had to try it.
I won’t go into all the detail, as this post on Chowhound does a much more thorough job than I could of describing most of the menu items. Suffice it to say, we prefer an “authentic” Japanese experience, and really do enjoy the organ meats such as “special hearts.” My favorite is the gizzards. (it is a textural thing). Scot’s favorite item is the cartilage. So yeah, we are into it and generally the staff at these restaurants seem to respect us for understanding and appreciating the cuisine.
I love the pier, and Binchu is a really cute space. We mostly dislike all the other restaurants on the pier (except for the Korean crab place of course), so it is nice to have another options.
Service was great, and they only charged me $10 corkage. (I like wine with my skewers. Beer is too heavy, and in my opinion Sake too light to pair well with them.)
We ordered pretty much the entire skewer menu. The meatballs (Tsukune) were one of the more memorable items; very soft and succulent. Much better than the ones at SSG. And they do a nice shiso chicken. Another favorite is the meat-stuffed shitakes. SSG does not have those. The most unusual thing about the place is for each item you can choose between “salt” and “teriyaki.” We told them we would go with the chef’s recommendation, which was a mix.
In total, I thought the primary differences with SSG were in regards to both flavor and texture. The flavors at Bincho were much more…subtle. Not bland, but let’s just say I was using a lot of the japanese pepper. They were not “chicken-ey” enough. I think SSG uses some kind of brush-on marinade that adds a depth of flavor (someone please tell me it is a soy sauce derivative and not MSG) that they do not use at Binchu. I could understand how others would prefer it at Binchu for this reason. I guess an analogy would be anyone who has eaten at sushi places like (the old) Sasabune or Sushi-Sushi; they paint a soy sauce glaze on all the fish. I prefer it “naked” like they do at Shibucho, Mori, etc. To me, it tastes more “authentic” because the natural flavor of the fish is not masked. So, I can see how some would prefer Binchu for the same reason.
The other thing about Binchu is all the chicken parts had kind of a softer texture, and had a slight “gamier” flavor/texture that I associate with slightly undercooked chicken. This was most apparent with the thigh meat. Very slightly, nothing to be alarmed about. But at SSG, I like the way the chicken has a bit of a “skin” on the outside (not literally) and is soft in the inside. WHen you bite into the chicken thigh or breast at SSG, you get a sensation more similar to biting into a sausage or hotdog (or piece of chicken off the BBQ grill) vs Binchu, which is more of almost a stewed chicken sensation. Again, I could see how people would prefer the Binchu as it is more “tender.”
Also, one final point is that SSG has an extraordinarily extensive menu with all kinds of other options. Great soups, fish dishes, veggies, etc. Binchu is quite limited.
All in all, I think South Bay is big enough to support both establishments. Each does have something special to offer. I hope Binchu is successful.
Japanese Grill Yakitori Bincho
112 N. International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach 90277
m-th – 5p-11p
f-su – 4-midnight
Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Restaurant (Gardena)
18517 S. Western Avenue, Gardena, CA 90248
Phone: (310) 715-1588
Lunch 11:30am – 2:00pm (Mon. Thru Fri.)
Dinner 6:00pm – 11:00pm (Open Daily)