The area around Shinagawa Station has changed a lot since Shinkansen service began in 2004. But in the building where Toriteru is located, the atmosphere is still early Showa Era. Although you may be concerned that there are no clouds of aromatic smoke wafting from the entrance, one look at the fresh chicken meat and other ingredients in the glass case on the counter will reassure you as to the quality of the food.
The excellent chicken meat used here is a special type from Nara Prefecture - a bird bred from shamo game hen and two other kinds of chicken. Toriteru offers three full-course meals - 7 skewers (Y1960), 8 skewers (Y2200) and 10 skewers (Y2,700) We recently ordered the 10-skewer set, along with a lemon sour cocktail. The lemon sour is recommended - fresh-squeezed lemon juice and shochu are served in a glass with a coating of salt around the rim, like a margarita. The salt is bay salt from Koichi Prefecture, which is also used on the yakitori.
The meal started off with "sabi" - sasami white meat with wasabi - and although sasami is often an "alternate" choice for yakitori, here it's surprisingly juicy, and it goes very well with the wasabi. Next was liver, which was absolutely exquisite! The texture is like foie gras, and the sauce is neither too sweet nor too salty, maintaining the quality and flavor of the meat.
At this point we switched from lemon sour to "Gokuraku" shochu from Kagoshima. After the liver came gizzards, Yamato shamo game hen, minced chicken, bonjiri (rump meat), egg, leek, heart, and chicken wings. Though we were almost full, we ordered a few additional items - tomato, shishito green peppers, and grilled onigiri rice balls. The burdock pickles served with the onigiri were fantastic! Instead of green tea, we finished off the meal with a cup of chicken soup.
There are only ten seats in this small shop, and sitting at the counter with a glass of shochu, listening to the animated conversation and laughter of the regular customers, we thought - "This is what a yakitori restaurant should be like." In addition to various kinds of shochu, they also serve Burgundy and Bordeaux wines. Despite its old-style location, Toriteru fits in with the times. The fine-tuned service, reasonable prices and relaxed atmosphere are what we've been searching for in a yakitori restaurant for a long time.
by Hikaru Okabe