Tori Shin Yakitori

This was one of the most enjoyable (and funniest) meals I had all month. Maybe in about six months. And the omakase was only $65. I would absolutely return if they didn’t just blacklist me.

I have been going crazy having yakitori at Soba Totto every Sunday. But last Sunday, I was asked out on a date to Tori Shin which is apparently the granddaddy of yakitori places.

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There are 40 seats around a tiny kitchen area and sushi cases full of skewered meat.

I think I started off by pissing off the hostess by announcing a table for 2 under my name when it was in fact under my date’s name. We were then led to a scary dark passage toward the back of the restaurant where there was a giant air conditioner connected to a massive aluminum foil covered tube that leads to God knows where.

I was scared, but the waitress continued to beckon me. There around the corner of the wall were four hidden seats. I proceeded to spend the rest of the night turning the giant air conditioner on and off, taking videos of my hair billowing in the wind (sorry, snapchat only), and moving the vent up and down to counteract the encroaching smoke storm from the nearby yakitori grill with its useless hood.

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Dinner started off with pickles. Who doesn’t like pickles? 6.5/10

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Trio of appetizers: 8.5/10 Chicken with “Italian sauce” on the left, which is actually onions, olive oil, and mustard. Fried taro cut into the shape of a mushroom in the middle. On the right is mushrooms, mountain yam, fried tofu ball with seaweed, and salmon roe.

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Chicken liver: 9/10 Best chicken liver I’ve had in some time. It was plump and the dry texture of liver was barely there. The waitress came rushing out as we were almost done.

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“Oh am I too late?” She asked. Then she insisted that we have the liver with the black and green peppers from the cork-like containers. It did in fact make the liver better.

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We were also given this bowl of radish that seemed to be chopped by a random cut generator to clean our palates.

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Chicken breast wrapped in shiso leaves and plum sauce: 8/10 This is about as good as chicken breast over the grill gets. It was beautifully flavored. The shiso leaves and plum were strong enough to mask the fact that chicken breast is tasteless.

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Pork belly and cherry tomatoes: 8/10 The pork belly was a little too chewy, but this skewer is brilliant in flavoring. I would eat these over pigs in a blanket almost any day… basically except 4th of July.

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Corn: 4/10 I love corn. But they skewered it. Haha they actually did not. It was just difficult to eat. Come on people. I don’t want to get my hands dirty.

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Chicken wings: 7/10 There are bones in this. Otherwise this chicken is wonderfully flavored and charred. But I guess my hands were already dirty. Also at this point, the dirty places were piling up in front of me, and I couldn’t help but notice that the smoke was creating swirls above my head. I couldn’t point the AC up because my hair would get into the chicken. Life is tough.

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Asparagus tofu stuffed with crab: 9.5/10. Soft, silken, perfectly balanced and light. It was a great break from the salty smokey taste of yakitori.

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Chicken oyster: 10/10 this is the tender meat behind the chicken thigh… and the reason why I show up every sunday to yakitori places right when it opens. This is always a limited item on the menu. This is the most succulent meat on a chicken, and it happens to be surrounded by a thin layer of fat that crisps up like skin when cooked.

I have to wonder though – why is it almost twice the size of the chicken oyster at Soba Totto? Tori Shin doesn’t seem like the kind of place that uses gmo chickens. But in the end, the more chicken oyster the better.

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Shishito peppers: 8/10 perfectly blistered, nicely seasoned. Once again, a well placed palate cleanser.

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Throughout my meal I couldn’t help but notice the chef in front of me lighting trays of uni on fire and then covering it with chives, salt, and delicious seasoning. It’s then served with toast. I thought about ordering this for dessert and fell into a fit of giggles. But alas I was too full.

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Chicken meatballs: 7/10 They put little bits of soft bone inside to give it some crunch. I love soft bone, but I could have done away with that and had more herbs instead. Also this was clearly white meat because it was a tad on the dry side.

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Spicy cod roe (mentaiko) rice soup: 7/10 Mentaiko is an acquired taste. I’ve already acquired a taste for it, and my date hadn’t, so I quickly wolfed down the delicacy. The rice crackers floating around were soggy and not crunchy so that made me a little sad. The soup was delicious though, and had just the tiniest hint of seafood.

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Oyako don (rice bowl): 9/10 They did not mess around when cooking this egg. It was golden and properly scrambled. Inside the egg are islands of tender chicken. Even after my date spilled soy sauce into the bowl, it was delicious.

We ordered the 2 special bowls that cost 3-5 dollars extra. It’s worth it, I think, because the regular priced bowls included in the omakase were barely big enough to fit the soup spoon.

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This photo has the bigger of the two bowls in the front. The chicken bowl was so small it could have been a triple chicken shot. If you squint, you can make out the bowl’s outline behind the woman’s hand. Also I don’t know if it’s the fault of the dish or the eater, but one of the bowls exploded seaweed all over the table.

At this point our extremely attentive server has noticed that I’m going nuts with the air conditioner and she is offering to operate it for me. Also at some point during dinner, the food had to be delayed because the temperature of the charcoal grill dropped too much. I hope that wasn’t my fault.

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For dessert they had only 2 choices. A creamy green tea ice cream,

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And this extremely refreshing shiso sorbet that’s just a tiny bit sweet. It was not at all cloying and did not leave an aftertaste. Also it was amusing because someone seems to have formed it into a snowball by hand.

I would like to point out that we had no alcohol this night, but by the end of the day, I had to prevent my date from saying thank you to our wonderful hosts in Japanese because when he is possibly dyslexic and the phrase more often than not turned into something completely inappropriate.

When we were let out of our tiny hidden dining hole, I thanked the staff profusely. It was such a wonderful dinner, and I would really really really like to go back. And maybe next time I will save room for the uni toast.

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