Updated: Apr 8, 2019
The Full Book
I've never been the sort to fly to Tokyo to have yakitori (skewered chicken meat) by a long shot, because there's just too many things going on in the 37-million-people city. It could be that Japan is occupied by more than 1 million eateries, with Tokyo claiming at least a quarter of that. The supercity also plays host to the most number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world - 234. So you see, something for everyone is not going to be a problem here.
This meal was pre-booked by someone else, and I went along with it. It was truly delicious - the oily, fatty and everything in-between. It is located in a mixed use building in Roppongi Hills, so we're talking some sort of fancy. However, expect strong smoky smells that would invade your whole being, even my thick woollen fall jacket hung on the wall, and thermal underwear were not spared.
An addition to the famed one-Michelin-starred Torishiki by Yoshiteru Ikegawa, Torioka is headed by the master's trusted right hand chef, Noriyuki Kurosaki. Check out the supersized dinner below, using date shamo chicken, which went exceptionally well with mandarin orange juice. If I had to be honest though, alcohol would have gone amazingly with the food here, say sake and shochu.
Pickled daikon (or radish) was great to munch on as an appetite-opening snack throughout the evening.
Or cut up chicken thigh. I'll confess, I never really liked chicken because fast food ones would mean my hands have to get all dirty by tearing the fried meat apart before eating it. I also find chicken to be quite a boring meat - white and tasteless unless it was heavily marinated and cooked all the way through. But last year, I finally announced I don't dislike chicken anymore especially after having Yardbird's at a friend's birthday party. And that's why I could stick to the very end of this meal.
How many of these thumb-sized chicken gizzards can you find on one stick? Crusty, smoky and bursting with moreish bites. I'm rather sensitive to the use of salt on most things, but these were perfectly salted.
Torikawa (or kawa)
Succulent and fat-dripping chicken skin that's not burnt but carefully grilled over a clever formation of binchotan (white charcoal from Kishu). It was way too fatty for me, so when the encore stick appeared, I could hardly eat that. What made it easier and faster for me to swallow and digest each and every stick were the accompaniments of shichimi togarashi and sansho pepper. I hardly relied on these condiments because the skewers were adequately seasoned with salt or tare (usually a sauce mixed with mirin and sweet soy sauce). But I really needed help with this stick. This fattiness though came with a wedge of lemon to be squeezed over the skin, and dramatically cut down the layers.
These quail's eggs are thoroughly cooked, and was eaten with a dash of shichimi. Perfect.
Chicken liver. Not many people I know enjoy eating this sometimes metallic tasting organ. However, Chef's controlled hand over the fire seared this skewer with a very light crust and crispy edges, and creamy on the inside almost like ice-cream. Truth be told, an intensified "liver flavor" was enhanced through this style of cooking, so you can be forgiven for not being able to finish this up if having it almost rare is not your thing. You also won't be judged lightly sprinkling sansho peppers to make it more palatable. Or suffocate it with big gulps of drink.
I was overstuffed at this point. And then this gorgeous crispy piece of cake arrived. Deep-fried tofu never tasted this good for me. This is also a perennial favorite at Torishiki, Using a pair of chopsticks, which I can sometimes fail, it proved too easy to slowly break the soft insides apart and catch each bite by its golden skin. Soy sauce was the perfect dip for this.
They are like tiny golden nuggets that tasted a tad gummy (natural result) after being grilled nicely with delicious salted skin. I never liked these though because it can taste quite "green" - more bitter than herbaceous. And it does not taste nutty at all. I am still trying to figure out the best way to puncture them with my teeth because I carelessly just bit into it and the molten insides rightly burnt one side of my mouth. OUCH.
Thick and meaty chunks of well-seasoned chicken hearts were almost begging me to be dunked in even more tare with a touch of yuzu kosho. Each chew carried a subtle "chicken meat" flavor, not as sweet but just as satisfying.
Claypot Rice & Pickles
You cannot miss this at Torioka, besides the deep fried tofu. Safe to say, I was adequately stuffed with rice on this ultra short trip. This came with a bowl of precious chicken broth where i could taste its fat, something I'm personally not fond of.
The pinnacle of the meal is when one releases all inhibitions and devour these juicy chicken wings, minus the tips, with their bare hands. They really do taste better with alcohol!
If you're a yakitori-phile, then this is something to covet. Kata or shoulder is a rather tender piece of meat near the neck area. "You mean chickens have shoulders?"
An even bigger cut of chicken thigh ditched the stick.
It was a hefty meal for me since I don't dine that late or order such a big turnout of skewers. However, tasting almost every single part of the chicken that could possibly be grilled (I'll skip the chōchin which isn't served here, but at Torishiki), made such a fun night of discovery at one of the hottest tables in Tokyo. The necessary punctuations every now and then within the two to three-hour sit-down meal were so unsettling and such a mouthful at the same time, but gave me as a diner the curious anticipation to wait and see what was coming next. The setting is modern yet casual and it was observed that diners just let their hair down. Some even talked and laughed loudly, the growing ruckus was in direct relationship to the increasing number of sake shots knocked back!
BOOK NOW : +81-3-6447-2933 / tabelog
Roppongi Hills West Walk, 5F, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106 6108 Japan
Nearest subway station : Roppongi
Open daily (except Wednesday) for dinner, by reservation only
Cuisine : Yakitori
Seating Capacity : 26