How long long does it take for smoke to clear? Apparently immediately, judging by Yakitasty BBQ and Bar's opening in The Smokeyard's former location just over a week after the American style restaurant closed shop on Nan Sanlitun Jie.

The handover was clearly rushed. The Smokeyard's trademark graffiti still covers wide swaths of the location's walls, including one tag on the second floor bearing the old restaurant's name (not a great way to introduce your new digs to Sanlitun's mostly selective foodies). Aside from such remnants, Yakitasty attempts to forge forward with a far different menu than its predecessor, forsaking American style barbecue with the flame-kissed Japanese yakitori variety. Some of its selections are undeniable successes, for example the Xilingol league secret lamb kebab (锡盟秘制羊肉串). Priced at RMB 5 per stick, each comes as in standard yakitori size that can be finished in about two and a half bites, and features a perfectly tender texture and an irresistibly sizzled flavor.

Too bad we can't say the same about the chicken wings, which come in three varieties: Orleans roast (奥尔良烤鸡翅), Sichuan spicy pepper (川椒香辣鸡翅), and Secret mustard chicken wings (秘制芥辣鸡翅), each priced at RMB 9 for four wings on a pair of skewers. The supposedly Sichuan-flavored wings were not just mild, but positively bland, while the secret mustard option should've been kept under wraps, because its creamy white coating tasted like nothing more than hot mayonnaise.

Still, Yakitasty's service is prompt and friendly to the point of being doting, a welcome step up from The Smokeyard's service, which was amiable enough but bordered on lethargic during my last visit (you can see my cranky review here), perhaps a byproduct of sensing the outlet's quick demise. Despite its flaws, I'll miss The Smokeyard's tasty, no-frills American-style comfort food (its fun decor and playful atmosphere were also big draws).

The void that The Smokeyard's departure shan't last for long however as we'll surely be able to satisfy our meaty cravings whenever Slow Boat finally opens its new venue a stone's throw away. And it might prove valuable to have an inexpensive, unfussy yakitori joint in this increasingly glitzy neighborhood, especially given the priciness of many of the neighboring Topwin restaurants. But it'll likely be hard for the meager little Yakitasty to thrive next to such glossy competitors, especially the far more alluring and distinctive Beyond Yakitori across the street.

If Yakitasty maintains its low prices and, more importantly, ups its chicken wing game, it just might take flight. If not, we're guessing that it's bound to crash and burn, much like its predecessor, which still haunts the walls.

Yakitasty BBQ and Bar
Daily 3pm-3am. Unit 5, 6 Nan Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District (5717 4704)
朝阳区 南三里屯路6号楼5门

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Photos: Kyle Mullin

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