Cheap Eats - Yakitori Jinbei in Smyrna skewers us with love

It only took one visit to Yakitori Jinbei (2421 Cobb Parkway, Smyrna, 770-818-9215, www.yakitorirestaurant.com) to know it was going to become a regular hangout. The quirky door chime, young servers sporting Manga-inspired haircuts, minimalist decor and menu of hard-to-find traditional Japanese dishes all felt very Tokyo.

The yakitori (items placed on bamboo skewers then grilled) is obviously the main attraction. The chef uses Binchotan, a high-quality oak-based charcoal that maintains the integrity of the ingredients by cooking them quickly without imparting any excessive smokiness. The diner is given a choice of sea salt or syrupy house-made tare (a soy-based sauce) for seasoning – both styles are equally good. "Young fresh chicken from local farms" appears in many variations like the tender chicken meatballs ($5) with a whisper of sweetness from the "secret sauce" and chunks of chicken sandwiched between Japanese jalapeños and green onions ($5). Although chicken is the focus of most yakitori establishments, other items are offered. The "Jinbei pork combo" ($10) includes an assortment of skewers such as pork with shiso (a Japanese herb) and paper-thin slices of pork wrapped around asparagus.

The one drawback is that the yakitori is only served at dinner, but don't let that stop you from visiting at lunchtime. Daily specials, such as partitioned bowls filled with rice, stick-to-your-ribs Japanese curry and crunchy slices of fried pork ($8.50), are an absolute value for the amount of food you receive. But it's irresistible tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen ($9.80) that should not be missed. The creamy and silky broth is achieved by slowly cooking pork bones to create an intense flavor and milky consistency. The precious liquid is then topped with curly ramen noodles, thin slices of pork with the perfect amount of marbling, seaweed, green onions, bamboo shoots and sesame seeds. It will have you hooked after one noisy slurp.

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