Dinner @ Chaco Bar (Sydney, Australia)

September 15, 2020 in Japanese

I was having a strong craving for yakitori some weeks back, and thus decided to google up ‘yakitori places in Sydney’. And that’s how I got to know of yakitori restaurants like Chaco Bar, Yakitori Yurippi, Yakitori Jin and Toriciya. But it was the launch of their new yakitori omakase menu that really piqued my interest in Chaco Bar. And I made my reservation for Wednesday because the yakitori omakase (AUD145) was only available on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On the day of my dinner, I received a text message to arrive 15 minutes before my reservation time. I ended up reaching at 7.40pm. And that’s 20 minutes early. But I wasn’t sure why we were asked to reach early because the first seating at 5.30pm didn’t seem like they would vacate by 7.45pm… Or even 8pm.

It’s probably because of COVID that the restaurant wasn’t operating at full capacity. But the closed wing/section doubled up as a waiting area for us. And at 7.55pm, when it didn’t seem like we would be seated any time soon, the staff offered complimentary yuzu punch to those who were waiting. Oh yeah… I intentionally mentioned ‘those who were waiting’ because not everyone arrived 15 minutes earlier. Some only came at 8.05pm. Hmm.

And it was only at 8.35pm that we were seated.

For the yakitori omakase menu, we were seated at the chef’s counter. And the counter could sit up to 8 people. Shortly after everyone settled down, chef came round and introduced the ingredients; Sommerlad chicken. Said to be the best chicken. Well… I googled it up and these were multi award winning Sommerlad heritage chicken! High welfare table birds bred, raised and grown outdoors on pasture.

And after chef finished his round, we commenced our yakitori omakase menu, AUD145 with:-

1) Hay smoked market fish (above) – We had swordfish (right) and bonito (left). And these were so good. Especially the swordfish! And the fact that I got to witness the chef cooking the fish, it made me appreciate the dish even more; Chef placed hay onto binchotan charcoal embers and (heavily) smoked both fillets. After which, the fishes were treated differently. The bonito was taken aside to a separate/side grill where it was cooked over embers. As for the swordfish, the chef fanned real hard to set the hay (on the original grill) ablaze to cook the bonito in fire. Beautiful.


2) Spanner crab meat (above) – And its shell butter. As the staff introduced the dish, he mentioned this dish is also on the regular tasting menu. But the crab chawanmushi (steamed egg) on the yakitori omakase menu was the upgraded version with it being presented in the crab shell.


3) Maremma duck, duck egg yolk (above) – This reminded me lots of the horse tartare dish I had at Acá 1°. Not just presentation wise, but even the way it was prepared. The chef slightly divided the duck meatball into half and placed the duck yolk on it, before mixing it with the other ingredients. Because my meatball was portioned for 1 person, only half of the yolk was used. And instead of toast which was what’s used at Acá 1°’s, the duck was placed on potato chips and tomato reduction. Same same, but different. But so, so good. I was tempted to ask chef if he got his inspiration from Acá 1°, but decided against it.

4) Sommerlad chicken breast, uni (above) – When chef came round earlier with the ingredients, he mentioned he would be serving the chicken breast medium rare and asked if we were fine with it. I appreciated that (he went round asking) because not everyone would be receptive to eating half-cooked chicken. But I was totally up for it. Served with Tasmania sea urchin and grated wasabi.

5) Pickles (above) – Interestingly, this was provided to be eaten with the skewered dishes only. I actually tried to save some for the rice course, but it was taken away. Sob.

6) Chicken arm and house-made seeded mustard (above)

7) Teba inari (above) – Chicken wing. Deboned and stuffed with sushi rice, salted kombu (sea kelp) and ginger, and served with ponzu dipping sauce.

8) Cold scallop somen (above) – Served in dried seafood broth with scallops from Hokkaido.

9) Truffle uni-wagyu Pork (above) – My beef dish was replaced with a pork skewer, grilled over cherry blossom wood. But I would be lying to say I wasn’t envious of what my neighbours were having. Mine paled much in comparison. What’s on the yakitori omakase menu was wagyu chuck tail flap skewer. But I guessed there must have been an option to upgrade, because they were served fancy truffle-sea urchin-wagyu on rice instead which was to be eaten in one big mouthful.

10) Sommerlad chicken thigh smoked over cherry blossom wood (above) – This was very aromatic. Could smell the cherry blossom smoke off the chicken thigh.

11) Tsukune, porcini, parmigiano-reggiano (above) – Chicken meatball topped with cheese. Didn’t really enjoy this. I was expecting to bite into juicy bouncy meatball, but this was loosely packed.

12) Hatsumoto with chocolate (above) – This was interesting. We were told to chew 4 times before having it with the chocolate and a sip of the red wine. Pretty odd combination. I preferred having the chicken ventricle/heart valve on its own.


13) Tasmanian sea urchin, salmon roe (above) – Served with Japanese rice.

14) Monaka ice cream (above) – Too cute! Chicken-shaped wafer biscuit (monaka). It was interesting that they slightly grilled these wafer biscuit. And! Ain’t sure if it’s just me but this reminded me of Ginza Shinohara. Instead of foie gras, Chaco Bar’s rendition was with ice cream. And I liked this. Especially when the wafer biscuit was used for dessert. Keke.

So a little history about Chaco Bar… Chaco Bar started out at Darlinghurst with a menu offering both ramen and yakitori. But in 2019, Chaco Bar relocated to Potts Point to continue serving their Fukuoka-style yakitori. But just yakitori, although their set menu offered non-skewered items. As for the unit at the original site? It was renamed Chaco Ramen. And yes, serving ramen as their main dishes.

And onto the main question. Would I recommend Chaco Bar? I would! I enjoyed myself. Although I’m going to be really honest too that I’ve only been to 2 yakitori joints in Sydney including Chaco Bar. So I can’t say Chaco Bar is the best. I mean, it wouldn’t be right to say that if I’ve only been to 2. But Chaco Bar certainly impressed. In fact, they have set the standard really high. And I definitely recommend going for their yakitori omakase menu even though it’s pricey than the tasting menu because it’s only with the former that one could sit at the counter. And one should definitely dine at the counter to get the full experience.

186-188 Victoria Street, Potts Point, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 8593 4567, Website
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sat : 17:30 – 22:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon & Sun
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.

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.

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