Dinner @ Torioka 鳥おか (Tokyo, Japan)

June 23, 2020 in Japanese

I got to know about Torioka through a friend. “Sister branch of Torishiki,” he texted. And that message got me so excited! You see… Ever since I began my annual trips to Japan in 2016, I always tried to make reservation at 1 Michelin star Torishiki. But of course, I haven’t been lucky yet. I reckon I need a miracle to get through Torishiki’s busy phone line. But I digress…

So when my friend told me chef-owner Yoshiteru Ikegawa of Torishiki had opened an offshoot in September 2018, I knew I had to make my reservation because Torioka could be the closest I ever get to Torishiki. And honestly, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect too. Just in time for my 2019 trip to Japan! I also liked that chef Ikegawa san appointed Noriyuki Kurosaki, his long time assistant at Torishiki, to be in charge of Torioka. It meant I was definitely in good hands!

And surprisingly, reservation at Torioka turned out to be more straight forward than I thought. One didn’t even need to call. Everything could be done with a few clicks on the reservation website. So different from Torishiki’s reservation system!

My dinner booking was at 8.45pm. But what I didn’t know was that the restaurant was located inside the mixed-use development Roppongi Hills. And Roppongi Hills was huge! I reached the compound at 8.35pm and ended up being late for my dinner because I had much difficulty locating the shop. And it was uncomfortable stepping through the entrance and directly into the main space because everyone turned to stare at me.

A U-shaped counter took the main stage of the space. And hidden out of sight by the black noren (Japanese fabric divider) was the kitchen. Upon seated, I was given the drinks menu. And after placing my order for beer, I commenced my omakase dinner with:-

1) 11 skewers course (¥7300) comprised of:

(A) Assorted pickles (above)

(B) Skewer #1 (above) – Chicken thigh.

(C) Skewer #2 (above) – Chicken gizzard.


(D) Skewer #3 (above) – Chicken skin.

(E) Skewer #4 (above) – Mushroom.

(F) Skewer #5 (above) – Quail egg.

(G) Skewer #6 (above) – Tofu.

(H) Skewer #7 (above) – Liver. Didn’t quite enjoy this though. It was too thick and soft. But not to be confused as raw.

(I) Skewer #8 (above) – Gingko nut.

(J) Skewer #9 (above) – Chicken heart.


(K) Rice (above)

(L) Skewer #10 (above) – Head chef Kurosaki san tried to explain what the skewer was (in Japanese), but I unfortunately couldn’t understand him. But it tasted a lot like skin to me. On the fattier side though.

(M) Skewer #11 (above) – Meat ball.

(N) Chicken soup (above)

(O) Roasted tea (above)

2) Beer

When I was onto my meat ball skewer, I realised it was the last of my 11-skewers course. It then dawned on me that I wasn’t getting any chicken wing. Sad. And because I arrived to the restaurant when everyone (who had reached earlier than me) was already in the midst of their dinner, I rationalised head chef Kurosaki san must have run out of chicken wings.

And when head chef Kurosaki san doused the ember charcoal of his grill (which was also the main grill), I wondered why the others were still grilling at the secondary grill. Especially since I was served the last skewer for the night. I watched on curiously and got to witness a beautiful scene…

  

Chef Yoshiteru Maekawa, another of chef Ikegawa san’s trusted assistant, was also stationed at Torioka. He’s helping out at Torioka before he leaves for Torshiki’s overseas branch in New York in June 2020. And it was very heartwarming as I witnessed him patiently training the assistant. Chef Mawkawa san never left sight of his assistant even when he stepped aside to give the assistant his space to grill on his own. Loved it!

My meal came up to ¥9590 (including tax and service charge). Will I recommend Torioki? A definite yes from me. Not just because I was touched by what I saw, but also because food was good! Every skewer was beautifully grilled.

I would also recommend one to dress up a little. The customers on a Sunday night were mainly young adults who looked pretty well-to-do. I was put to shame sitting alongside dolled-up female customers who had really thick lashes. I only had concealer to cover my eye bags. Oops!

Torioka 鳥おか
5F, Roppongi Hills West Walk, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato City, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 六本木 6-10-1 六本木ヒルズ ウエストウォーク 5F)
+81 3 6447 2933, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 16:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 7

Dinner @ Kumano Yakitori 熊の焼鳥 (Osaka, Japan)

March 3, 2020 in Japanese

When I was planning my March/April 2019 to Japan, I decided to spend a night in Osaka. Yes! A night just for me to do some shopping and squeeze in a meal. Keke. So to allow myself more time to shop, I decided to dine at somewhere which opened till late. And I was lucky that while I wasn’t too familiar with Osaka dining scene, I had bookmarked 1 place which fitted my criteria perfectly! I had seen pictures of Kumano Yakitori’s chicken sashimi platter on instagram, and had bookmarked the place cause I was intrigued. Woohoo!

For my meal in April, I used TableCheck and booked 3 weeks in advanced. Me wanting a late dinner worked out well because time slots for non-members were 4pm to 5.50pm, and after 9.30pm. And when I made my reservation, I indicated my choice of menu as 10-skewers course with 12 kinds of chicken sashimi platter. And now… When I made my booking, TableCheck had a disclaimer which said “ご入店の際に必要な暗証番号を、ご予約前日にSMSにてお知らせ致します。 必ず携帯電話番号をご入力頂き、間違いのないようご確認をお願い致します”. I didn’t pay much attention to it. It was only when I was stranded in front of the restaurant that I realised how wrong it was of me to have ignored that.

Using Google translate, the disclaimer said “Enter the PIN required to enter the store. We will notify you by SMS the day before your reservation. Please be sure to enter your mobile phone number and confirm that there is no mistake.”

For my Japan travels, I would get myself a Japanese SIM card. So having ignored the disclaimer, I didn’t realise I was meant to receive a 4-digits pin. The pin was crucial because I was supposed to key it into the restaurant’s security keypad to unlock the door and let myself in. But because of my ignorance, I only managed to enter the restaurant almost 25 minutes later.

I was going crazy then because I called the number listed on Tablelog but it went straight into voicemail. And it was seriously frustrating because no one responded to my knocks too. Maybe they couldn’t hear my knocks since it’s noisy inside? Although I suspect it’s mainly because the eatery was meant to be exclusive; Either you know the password, or you don’t. Either you let yourself in, or you couldn’t.

It was only when I checked TableCheck that I got the correct landline number. But! Even though the staff answered the phone, he couldn’t speak any English. Sigh! After failing to carry out a conversation, I hung up. By then, I was already waiting outside the eatery for 20 minutes. I was hungry and I didn’t know where else would be opened at 9.50pm. And while I was standing in a daze, the person who answered the phone must have been curious because he stepped out of the restaurant a few many minutes later. Ahhh!!!

After showing him the email with my reservation confirmation, he proceeded to unlock the door by keying the pin. Yes, the pin which I was supposed to receive but didn’t (Verified that by switching to my Singapore SIM card after the dinner). Oh well…

And although I had indicated my choice of menu during my reservation, the staff continued to pass me the menu (pages 1, 2). After re-confirming my orders, I commenced my dinner with:-

1) Chicken sashimi (12 types), ¥2500 (above) – To be honest, I totally forgot I pre-order this. So when the staff asked if I wanted to try the sashimi platter, I went “Sure”. Haha. But do note it’s stated on the menu that advanced order is required for this dish. So if one plans to try this, please make sure one orders this in advanced! The only downside was that the platter was meant for 2 to share. That said, I managed to polish everything off. I mean… The only place where I would (dare to) eat my chicken parts raw is Japan. And Kumano Yakitori couldn’t have been a better place for it! So no way was I going to waste any food. Keke. And it was really interesting trying the different parts. Thankfully they had a pictorial to explain what I was eating!


2) Chicken breast sashimi, sea urchin and yam (above) – For this, I was told to eat it like a hand roll. And it’s cute that the seaweed had the restaurant’s mascot logo; The bear.

3) 10 skewers course (¥2800) comprised of:


(A) Skewer #1 (above) – Chicken breast with leek.

(B) Skewer #2 (above) – Chicken heart.

(C) Skewer #3 (above) – Chicken cartilage.


(D) Skewer #4 (above) – Meatball.

(E) Skewer #5 (above) – Chicken liver.

(F) Salad (above)

(G) Skewer #6 (above) – Didn’t get an introduction of this dish. But the skewer of meat contained some soft bones. So with that, I guess one could guess which part of the chicken. No? Keke.

(H) Skewer #7 (above) – Similarly, no mention of what I was eating. But this skewer had meat and skin. Maybe thigh?

(I) Skewer #8 (above) – Chicken skin.

(J) Skewer #9 (above) – Small sweet green pepper.

(K) Dish #10 (above) – Chicken wing.

  

4) Rice bowl with yolk (above) – The staff recommended the rice bowl which I was more than happy to order. Beside the chicken sashimi platter, this was the other dish that I came for! And I was told to poke the 2 yolks, pour them over the rice and mix everything well. It’s actually a pretty simple dish in terms of taste. But I enjoyed it much!

5) Ice cream, Complimentary (above) – The ice cream was seriously damn hard. They probably prepared it way in advanced by putting the scooped ice cream in the freezer and only taking it out when a customer ordered it. But nice flavour of pistachio!

6) Beer (above)

Despite the difficult start, I enjoyed myself! The staff didn’t speak much English, but it was really nice because they used a translator to introduce my various skewers. The 2 skewers which I didn’t receive any introduction was because the (waiting) staff were busy with other customers and those were passed to me by the chef (that’s in charge of grilling). Maybe he’s shy? Maybe he wasn’t confident with his English?

In all, I paid ¥9910 (including tax and service charge). And that included 2 cups of beer! Would I recommend Kumano Yakitori? Oh yes! Especially if one is a fan of yakitori, and is up for chicken sashimi! But just make sure one’s contact number is keyed in correctly when making the reservation. And bring sufficient cash too! They only accept cash.

KUMANO YAKITORI 熊の焼鳥 天六本店
6-3-26, Tenjinbashi, Kita, Osaka, Japan (大阪府大阪市北区天神橋6-3-26)
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 16:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 8
Service: 7

Dinner @ Yakitori UMA 焼鳥馬

November 28, 2016 in Japanese

Continuing our quest to uncover all yakitori joints in Singapore, my ‘yakitori buddy’ and I were off to check out Yakitori UMA located in Somerset. Keke.


It was a wet Tuesday evening that I arrived to an empty restaurant at 8pm. And I’ll be honest. Having reached before my friend, I did consider texting to ask for a change in our venue. But one thing that I learnt from years of checking out new eateries was that one shouldn’t make assumption of one’s upcoming meal based on first impression. While first impression is important, it can be deceiving. So, I pressed on… Haha.

I immediately noticed the interior decor of Yakitori UMA is pretty old school. Or should I better describe it as straight forward. It’s plainly done up with the counter taking centre stage. And that could be a good sign to show that their focus is on their food.

Upon seated, I was given the menu and difference sauces. And yes, I decided to go with booth seat instead of counter seat. The different sauces included mustard (karashi) and dipping sauces for breaded, deep-fried (katsu) and grilled (yaki) items. And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), we ordered:-

1) Tomato, $.40 (above, left)

2) Shishito, $5.60 (above, right)

3) Waka, $4.90 (above, left) – Tender chicken.

4) Negima, $4.90 (above, right) – Chicken & spring onion.

5) Tebayaki, $5.40 (above, left) – Chicken wing.

6) Tsukune, $5.40 (above, right)

7) P-toro, $5.80 (above, left) – Pork neck.

8) Tako-yaki, $6 (above, center) – Octopus.

9) Sasami, $4.90 (above, right) – Chicken white meat.


10) Uzura, $4.90 (above, left) – Quail egg.

11) Waka-kara, $5.50 (above, right) – Chicken.


12) Fillet Cutlet, $5.80 (above)


13) Isobe-age, $5.20 (above)

14) Koonyaku, $5.20 (above) – 2 sticks of konnyaku can be too many especially since it’s an acquired taste; My friend didn’t like it. So for the same price, one may want to get the dengoku set which entitles one to 1 stick of konnyaku and 1 stick of tofu. You know… More variety too! =)


15) Udon, $6.20 (above)

Did the food match up to our expectations? A definite yes. Besides grilled items (kushiyaki), Yakitori UMA also offered deep fried items (kushikatsu / kushiage) on their menu. So when we were placing our orders, we were often in a dilemma. To order as grilled, or to order as deep fried. And we were fortunate that all our bets were right. =)

But if one is looking for a stylish restaurant, then one would be disappointed. Instead, if one is alone in town and is craving for skewered food, I would recommend coming to Yakitori UMA. As my friend and I were dining, I noticed a few number of (Japanese) businessman came in solo for a quick (dinner) fix.

Yakitori UMA 焼鳥馬
150 Orchard Road, Orchard Plaza, #01-26/27/28, Singapore
6734 8368, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 00:00
Ambience: 6
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun