Holiday Gift Guide

Tori-ina made me a yakitori fiend. I now crave yakitori whenever I see the word chicken or am reminded of anything wooden and cylindrical.

This tiny, unassuming joint is located on a side street one minute from Hatagaya Station (near Shinjuku) in Tokyo. Every day is Friday at Tori-ina, so expect to stand in line between 6:30 to 8:00 pm. To avoid those lines, I usually drop in after 8:30 pm, which gives me enough time before last call at 10:30 pm.

The issue I have had with many yakitori restaurants is that they slather on sauce so thick that you can't taste the chicken any more. The meat no longer resembles flesh, with distractions such as corn-syrupy tare and mayo concoctions. Just like KFC, the seasonings become the star of the show, not the meat itself.

Tori-ina can boast its chicken's quality with good reason. The owners go to Tsukiji every morning to purchase sashimi-grade chicken. That's right, they even serve raw chicken as an appetizer.

Unfortunately, we did not order chicken sashimi last night so I do not have any raw chicken footage. But other gems were served and devoured. Seasoned lightly with salt, Tori-ina yakitori and skewered veggies are literally glittering when they arrive.

When you sit down they immediately serve you a mound of daikon. This is for palette neutralization.

I love the simplicity of how they serve tomato. Red and ripe, sliced with a little mound of salt.

Hiyayakko to comfort the soul.

Tsukune (chicken meatball) and Uzura (quail egg) with Ginnan

Dispose your sticks in the bamboo skewer holder.

Sasami (best part of the chicken breast) is served lightly seared, so the inside is raw and chewy. The dollop of wasabi is perfect.

The negi is sweet and juicy.

The atmosphere: down-home local goodness.


1 comment

  • The tomato looks delicious! I def prefer these down home local joints to the hoity toity trendy places that keep popping up everywhere in Tokyo. But such are the realities of supply and demand.

    I actually had chicken sashimi at my fave yakitori place in NYC called Yakitori Totto, right when they first opened. Then it disappeared from the menu- I assume the DOH (dept of health) ordered them to take it off, or not enough people were ordering it. It was nice while it lasted.

    My friend Jeni at Oishii Eats just blogged about Totto:

    kayoko on

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