Update 9/9/13: Boston Restaurant Talk is reporting that the closure is official because the building is for sale. Also, Yakitori Zai's website is no longer up.
Update 11/11/13: Ittoku is finally open! See First Look: Ittoku!
Yesterday I heard from one of my restaurant sources that Yakitori Zai's temporary closure is in fact permanent. Last night I tried to reach owner Kazu Aotani (also owner of Snappy Sushi on Newbury Street and the newly rebranded Snappy Ramen in Davis Square) who I know socially to get confirmation, but wasn't able to. Today I went to Snappy Ramen for lunch (post to follow) and recognized one of the staff from Zai. I asked if the rumor was accurate. It was immediately clear that I'd asked an awkward question so I suggested that Zai's future was "unclear" to which he agreed and said it might reopen at a new location.
Later in the day I heard from a friend in the Japanese community that she had also heard Zai is permanently closed. Between the two sources I pieced together that the closure may have been the result of a neighbor(s?) complaining about the venting of Zai's grill. If so, it won't be the first time a restaurant in a mostly residential neighborhood has been forced to close due to issues with the neighbors. Yakitori Zai has only been open since June 2012, so it's really unfortunate they couldn't work things out to remain where they are.
Fans of Zai's weekend ramen lunch can check out Snappy Ramen. The chef told me that their ramen is a little different from Zai's but the same style.
|Front: Chicken Shoyu, Back: Spicy Miso|
Fans of Zai's yakitori may want to head to Ittoku when it opens. I was also told by my restaurant source that Zai's yakitori chef, Sho Inoue, had found a new job at Ittoku. I confirmed this with co-owner Carlos Garcia who gave me permission to share the news. Co-owner Chiki-san gave me a sneak peak of their menu a few weeks ago but I'm wondering if they'll be retooling the yakitori section of the menu now that they have a trained yakitori chef. In my excitement, I forgot to ask Carlos. (Update 9/7/13: I talked to Chiki-san today. The yakitori portion of their menu will not be changed. He showed me pictures of the interior, including the yakitori grill. Looks really nice! Update 11/11/13: Inoue-san's plans changed and he returned to Japan.)