Ken Yakitori; so much disappoint

“Hey! take a picture of me too!” yelled the pan-handling dude from his spot, parked-up in front of Ken on the corner of K’ Road and Liverpool Street. I instantly felt awkward. As a rule I try to avoid catching strangers in my toilet blog pictures, for privacy reasons and my thundering social anxiety.  I always expect to be chased down the street and angrily threatened for stealing  a graven image of a stranger, thus plundering their soul. “I only rate toilets, not people sorry.” I replied. I’m pretty sure he didn’t believed me as he looked confused, but perhaps he was just inebriated enough to not find anything odd about a girl using toilets as an excuse to distract from uncomfortable street conversation.

Now, looking back, I kind of wish I had taken him up on his offer, and that I owned a better camera to capture a decent neon-lit portrait of him, missing front teeth and all.

Ken Yaka Tori exterior view

Ken Yakitori has always been the Japanese place you ended up at when there wasn’t a table at Tanuki’s Cave. Y’know, when you don’t want to go too far from where you’ve parked/agreed to meet your friends but you still have a hankering for deep fried meat on a stick. It’s the sloppy seconds of Upper Queen Street/Karangahape Road Japanese eateries.

I LOVE Japanese food. I could happily live on sushi, tepanyaki and miso broth. As long as I was able to supplement their super healthy diet with cheese (ALL the cheeses), I would not feel hard done by. Ken Yakitori has been in situ for as long as I have been living around and about Auckland, which has been on and off for the past 15 years. I’ve had a few very good, sake’d up nights there, with various groups of people and never had a bad word to say about the place. All that came to a crushing halt as soon as our night began on K’rd last Friday.

I frequently claim that I’m not here to review food or service when I’m at a cafe or restaurant, but the evening we had aligns so accurately with the quality of the bathroom that I feel as though they are one in the same experience; toilet and meal.

Neither the toilet nor the meal were good.

Ken Yakatoi , door sign

Ken Yakatoi , door lock

Ken Yakatoi , wall hole

Ken Yakatoi , roof toilet papered

Picture, in your minds eye, Secret Agent Angus MacGyver circa 1990; Richard Dean Anderson as the hot brooding good guy, with a floppy dirty blond mullet and unlimited skills with both science and the ladies. Jump forward to present day and the MacGyver we knew is nowhere to be seen. Replaced by a plump, jowled, silver-haired Gramps figure. Yes, age will create a sagging mess of us all in time but it seems like only yesterday that MacGyver ruled the 8.30pm Sunday slot. The *BAM* MacGyver is suddenly old and fat, which makes me feel very old and very fat as well. Which is depressing.

Like MacGyver, Ken Yakitori was once a hot piece of ass. It now looks and feels like a crack addicted actress has taken over, causing the very walls to sag and crust. She demands too much money for the blowy you didn’t ask for, then charges you $15 for a 1/3 of an average quality piece of steak served with one piece of broccoli. The steak “main” was dire.

When we arrived we were seated at a squashed spot at the bar in spite of the whole top floor being pretty much empty, then ignored by the staff who stood a metre away for 15 minutes while we died of beer deficiency. Our edamame was over cooked and limp (seriously how can you over microwave soy beans?), the skewers were small, over-priced and had little flavour. My ‘rice cake’ was burnt and sorry looking. Once I’d scraped the burnt bits off and got to the decent rice in the centre it tasted like the brown over-cooked rice on the bottom of the pan you’d cook at home, when you forget you’re cooking rice because you got too enthralled by an episode of Castle or Person of Interest until the smoky scent of ruined dinner reached your nostrils.

As you can see from the less than detailed photos, the bathroom looked like it hadn’t been looked after or had any work done to it for 10 years. It was sticky, broken and unpleasant.

Ken Yaka Tori toilet

Ken Yaka Tori toilet paper

The toilet paper, under the delightful accent of ripped wallpaper, exposing gib board motif, felt like prison loo roll (not that I’ve been to prison but I’m guessing these horrible one-ply tiny squares of toilet paper lies would feature as punishment for misdeeds) scratchy but somehow smooth with no grip. A misery for the arsehole in every way.

Ken Yaka Tori toilet window art

Someone has tried to art on the window, which makes me feel bad for the lovely turn of the century woodwork that is hiding beneath all that nasty cheap blood coloured paint.

Ken Yaka Tori wallpaper

Ken Yaka Tori sink

Ken Yaka Tori handwash

Ken Yaka Tori selfie

This is the face of my sadness, the face of a woman who is still hungry after spending $70 on a meal (to be clear my lovely boyfriend paid but I iron his shirts so we are even). After this we went to McDonald’s drive through because it was that bad.

The moral of the story is if you are going to charge that much money for very average food you’d better make it up to us in very good or at least decent facilities. They did not. I’m guessing all that extra cash goes of hookers and meth.


 Cleanliness : 4/10  I think they had wiped the sink surround in the last week.

Interior :  2/10  One toilet, which was a stall but it was gross, with holes in the walls balled up toilet paper on the ceiling and ripping wallpaper. The soap dispenser was broken but rather than getting a new one they just left a bottle of hand-wash, which always looks sloppy.

Exterior : 1/10  Parking cost us an additional $15/1 1/2 hours so that was painful, added to the extended ennui that was our dining experience. If I wanted to be ignored by apathetic servers who are holding all the beers I’d go to St Keven’s arcade.

Safety :  5/10  It’s across from the cemetery and there are plenty of homeless people wandering about but honestly I have never had any issues with Queen Street or K’rd’s homeless folk, they are usually just singing/playing guitars and trying to get through the night.

Snugglitude : 0/10  Worst Japanese experience I’ve had. And I’ve eaten Japanese in Whangarei.

Total : 12/50  No effort from anyone with any association to Ken, not the staff, the managers or the owners. “Down hill” does not say enough.


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