The Michelin-starred Torishiki in Meguro is one of Tokyo’s best yakitori restaurants

Like sushi, yakitori has humble beginnings. Basically, it means ‘grilled bird’Yakitori was originally a street food that featured chicken skewered on charcoal. Similar to sushi, yakitori has evolved from its humble beginnings as a street food. It can now be found in fine dining establishments, where it is elevated to a fine dining experience. 

Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

One such restaurant is Torishiki, a small, sleek joint near Meguro Station which comfortably serves some of the finest – and arguably even the best – yakitori in the world. Yoshiteru, the restaurant’s owner and head honcho, opened it in 2007 and has been awarded a Michelin Star since 2010. You can make a reservation at this restaurant 17-seaterIt is not easy to find these places, as availability can be booked two months in advance. 

Torishiki
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

As is the tradition of omakase-style restaurants, there are no menus here – just a row of wooden plaques on the wall with traditional kanji characters listing the seasonal items available for the day. Ikegawa will decide what the rest of the menu looks like. 

Torishiki
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa(L-R Yoshiteru Ichegawa and Hideo Yasuda his right-handman

There are many simple skewers, from chicken thigh tenders to sunagimo (chicken liver), and even the classics can be deceptively simple. For instance, chicken liver can often have a gamey, minerally flavor and a grainy texture. Torishiki’s ruby-red morsels are so delicious they melt in your lips

Torishiki
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

‘We only use a special breed of free-range chicken known as Date chicken from Fukuoka. The birds are a similar variety to French Bresse chicken, so the meat is more flavourful than other domestic chicken in Japan,’Ikegawa. 

There’s another element that’s crucial to the quality of Torishiki’s first-rate yakitori – the charcoal. ‘Using high-quality charcoal is important because it has to be able to withstand extremely high temperatures. It’s the heat that makes the chicken juicy.’  

Torishiki
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

To get an idea of how hot the grill needs to be to meet Ikegawa’s standards, you only need to look at his fingernails – some of them have blackened and melted off from years of flipping skewers with his bare hands. It’s this passion that captivates diners above all else. Despite having a Michelin star and a upscale restaurant, New York City OutpostIkegawa’s passion for grilling chicken skewers is what keeps him grounded. 

Torishiki
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

‘We’re a small restaurant, so we aren’t always able to accommodate those looking for an opening at the counter. I always feel sorry for turning people away when we’re full and I never want to take for granted that people are willing to go out of their way to eat here.’ 

Torishiki
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

The chef gestures at the kamidana(Miniature altar) Mounted to the wall at the entry. ‘That’Dedicated to Otori Shrine, Meguro. Before we start service every night, we take a moment to pay our respects to the deities for the restaurant and express our gratitude to all of our diners.’ 

The gracious Ikegawa was only able to answer one question about the overwhelming demand for a place at his counter. ‘Everyone loves yakitori,’He sighed. ‘We might only serve a small number of people here at this restaurant, but I’m looking forward to growing our business abroad in the future so more people can have access to this culture.’

Torishiki
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

‘That’s why it’s so great to have Hideo on our team,’ he says, beaming at his apprentice like a proud uncle. ‘He studied abroad in the States so he speaks better English than me. It’s really important that we’re able to converse with our diners no matter where they’re from because interacting with your diners is one of the most important things about serving yakitori.’ 

Torishiki
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Torishiki is available from 5pm-9pm, and closes every Sunday and Monday. You can try your luck and get a reservation. Call 03 3440 7656 to make a reservation.  

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