I’m glad I am finally back to blogging about our trip to Japan. Frankly, I need to do this before I totally forget names, places and other information I consider as important highlights of our trip. I’m actually looking at this series as my online travelogue that will remind me of the wonderful experience in Japan.
So what is Toriki?
Before I answer that, I must tell you that we found out about this place from Anthony Bourdain’s show called No Reservations and the episode was about Tokyo. It was a destination we knew we didn’t want to miss so it was immediately added to our Tokyo itinerary. So when the time came, our determination to eat there was uncompromising. However, the place wasn’t that easy to find. Even though we knew the address, we still didn’t know fully well how to find places as addresses in Tokyo are confusing and the numbers are not sequential. It didn’t help either that we can’t read characters or speak Japanese. Eventually we found the place through the help of another restaurant we went into thinking it was the right place. Now that’s another story in itself!
Toriki is a small, unassuming restaurant that is very popular with locals as the best place to have yakitori. As Anthony Bourdain’s travel guide pointed out, their specialty is creating yakitori from all parts of a chicken — skin, hearts and liver included. We were glad to be asked to sit by the counter as we wanted to watch the chef (and owner) skillfully cut, debone and prepare the chicken pieces as they are ordered. The chef himself is a wonderfully jovial host and also a performer. It was entertaining to watch him cut and tear the chicken apart from the carcass while he’s cooking various pieces on the grill.
We ordered a few items and while waiting, they served us nato with raw egg and some green onions as appetizer. Nato is made of fermented soy beans and is covered with a mucous like substance. I must say that nato is an acquired taste but it’s definitely worth trying. They told us to mix the whole thing together and put some soy sauce for some added flavour.
The second course they served was chicken sashimi. Chicken breast lightly seared on the outside and raw on the inside. Yum! Really, it was actually delicious. No worries about salmonella here as the chef kills and prepares the chickens himself every morning so they’re really fresh.
The third course was chicken yakitori. These are grilled chicken pieces in a skewer with green onions. Simply prepared but really, really good. I’m practically salivating just thinking about them now.
We also ordered something that we normally throw out or usually choose not to eat when having chicken back home — chicken skin. This time we ate every morsel!
The chef saved the best for last — chicken tataki, which is from Toriki’s original menu. The chicken is seared on the outside but the meat is cooked medium rare. Two words — juicy and succulent. Need I say more?
If you plan to visit Toriki, be aware that the place gets pretty busy. Hence, the reason why we were there at 6 pm. As with most independent bars and restaurants in Tokyo, the space is usually tight and crammed. You may even be asked to move a little bit while eating to accommodate one more person on the table or the counter.
How to get there?
There are a number of ways. However, if you have a JR pass like we did, the easiest way is to take the train on the JR Yamanote Line which stops at Gotanda station. From there, take the Tokyu Ikegami Line (not covered by the JR pass) that stops at Hatanodai station. Across from the entrance/exit to Hatanodai station is this inconspicuous, dimly lit street. Go down this street and after a few steps, you should be able to see the restaurant on the left. I have attached the Google Street View below for a visual picture of this street. You’re welcome.
Here’s a video clip of Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Toriki: