Shobosho has made a habit of bringing some of Asia’s top chefs to Adelaide. Following sold-out visits by Salted and Hung and Cheek by Jowl, Hong Kong-based yakitori expert Matt Abergel will enter the Shobosho kitchen in March. Expect sparks to fly.
Like Shobosho’s executive chef Adam Liston, Canadian-born Abergel has dedicated his career to the Japanese art of grilled chicken on sticks. He’s the co-owner and executive chef of Hong Kong’s acclaimed beak-to-tail restaurant Yardbird, which was named “one of the hottest tables in town” by Condé Nast Traveller.
“I’ve been there a few times – it’s loud, it’s fun, the staff’s fun and the food’s awesome,” Liston tells Broadsheet. “They’ve always been ahead of the game when it comes to yakitori.”
Both Yardbird Hong Kong and its smaller izakaya-style sister restaurant Ronin have been ranked number 45 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list (in 2014 and 2017, respectively). Abergel has also just released the Phaidon-published cookbook Chicken and Charcoal: Yakitori, Yardbird, Hong Kong, which features his signature recipes, together with detailed explanations of how he sources, butchers, skewers and cooks the birds.
It’s no surprise the quality of chook – along with the charcoal – is integral to yakitori. And chicken varies considerably from Asia to Australia. “In my opinion Hong Kong chicken is the best in the world,” says Liston. “The difference between Asian chicken and western chicken is significant. The flavour of their chicken is a lot stronger … they’re smaller and a little more textural. They have a higher fat content and yellow skin because of their different diet, so the breast meat is smaller and the leg meat is bigger.
“The ethics are different, too, which is probably why a lot of Australians say our chickens are better – because they have better lives.”
Liston has tapped his supplier Nomad Farms to combine the taste of Hong Kong chicken with Shobosho’s strict ethics. “We wanted to make sure we could get the quality of the meat while holding the ethos,” says Liston. “[Nomad farmer] Tom is now feeding a batch of birds on a high-corn diet so they can get that high fat content and darker flesh, which is really cool.”
Liston and Abergel have collaborated before – in Melbourne during the former’s time at Northern Lights – but this is the first opportunity to experience a taste of Yardbird Hong Kong in Adelaide.
Unlike previous takeovers, there will be less of a set menu and “more freedom” this time around, says Liston. Abergel will cook “a selection of six or seven types of yakitori and a couple non-yakitori dishes that they do in the restaurant”. “His signature is tsukune [a skewered chicken meatball], so he’ll definitely do that,” adds Liston. “And he’s requested that there be some offal cuts.
"Like any yakitori shop there’s always one or two sticks that you really like and want to have again, so there’ll be the option of re-ordering stuff on the night.”
Matt Abergel’s Shobosho takeover is on Tuesday March 5. Sittings start from 5pm. Tickets are $90 per person (food only) and bookings are essential.