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Tori Shin

Yakitori

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#1 LiquidNY

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 03:26 AM

The 2013 Michelin Guide asserts that Tori Shin is the best yakitori-ya in the country.  I don't profess to be a yakitori guru - aside from the occasional yakitori course at places like Kinnosuke, Raku in Vegas, and Yopparai - I don't order it that often.  But I can aver that Tori Shin is definitely worth a visit - even though it's a bit out of the way of the better food neighborhoods.

 

Tori Shin means "bird heart" or "chicken heart" in Japanese - and chicken is pretty much all they serve.  I count ~30 types of chicken skewers on the menu, plus about 20 or so other skewers (mostly veggies, a couple quail and duck).  Everything is grilled over binchotan charcoal - a very expensive, low-smoke variety of white charcoal produced in Japan.  The a la carte menu is vast, and deceptively pricey.  Skewers are around $5 each, but they're only three bites.  You're not getting out of Tori Shin for $15.  They offer two omakase options - 10 skewers for $50 or 6 + other stuff from the kitchen for $55.  I always go for the $55 option.  It's generally enough, although on occasion I've been known to add a couple extra skewers.

 

This is one of my favorite restaurants for a number of reasons.  Of course the food is excellent, although it's pricey for what it is ($55 for grilled chicken?).  They're open very late - generally you can walk in at 11pm on weeknights - maybe even past midnight on weekends - and get served.  Of course the bar is the only place you want to sit, but there are a few tables that are nice for groups.  The chef, Atsushi Kono, is a really friendly guy and loves to chat about food.  The wait staff isn't obsequious, but is extremely hospitable.  The atmosphere is transporting - they have the classic discreet entrance (I almost couldn't find it the first time I went); the setting is intimate - maybe 30-something seats in the whole place, most of them at the ~20 seat bar surrounded by Japanese businessmen and locals alike; the chefs cook for you omakase style - presenting one skewer at a time.  If you go at peak times there might be a wait, but I've never been shut out.  Just have a couple margaritas at Maya next door.  They also do sake tastings once a month, but for some reason I keep forgetting to go.

 

The food:  generally the omakase always includes pickled vegetables, grated daikon, a seasonal appetizer, 6 skewers, a rice course, and a scoop of shiso sorbet or a seasonal fruit sorbet (strawberry last time I was there).  I've always been given a different appetizer - among the best of these is a fabulous bowl of fried chicken with house-made tartar sauce.  Another time it was house-made tofu with chicken.  I also had one that included uni.  They usually have a cod roe appetizer on special, but I haven't tried it yet.  I don't think I've eaten my way through all the skewers, but I'm close.

 

Here are the menu highlights:  whole chicken hearts, kidneys, back soft bone (edible bone, yum!), chicken "oyster", tenderloin w/wasabi, wings, tsukune, special tsukune (contains duck), shishitos, grape tomatoes, potatoes w/butter, and shiitakes.

 

Highly recommended if you like this style of food.  At some point I have to try Yakitori Totto to see how it compares.


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#2 Daniel

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 01:05 PM

I agree, i love this place too.   Truly the best yakitori I have had.. The tasting menu is really special.. 


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#3 Daniel

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 01:09 PM

I wrote this a couple of years ago. 

 

 

This place should be renamed, The Chicken Temple...  If ever you wanted to experience a master in a field, then come to this restaurant and get the omakase.. We were hanging out with a friend last night and she loves chicken.. This was the first thing that came to mind..  We arrived last night around 9 or 10 o'clock and were quickly seated at the bar.. There you get to meet the man, Shu Ikeda, the man who literally buys 10 or 15 chickens for the day and then proceeds to serve ever part of it.. 

We have gone here several times and have always gotten the omakase.. We originally heard about this place because it is one of the few places that serves chicken sashimi in NYC.. We started our meal with this last night and it is still amazing. Originally, we just assumed it was a gimmick but, this chicken rivals some of the better sushi pieces out  there.. Cut relatively thin, marinated, and it appears to be slightly dried out, it is a marvel. 

We then proceeded to get skewer after skewer of just beautiful cooked and seasoned food. They have a traditional charcoal grill where they use the Japanese White Charcoal Binchotan.  The charcoal cooks at a very high temp and cooks very clean... Chicken oyster, chicken neck, chicken skin, chicken liver (the best liver i have tasted) chicken heart, gizzard (most likely pressure cooked, then grilled.. It was perfection), the list goes on... You might think some of those parts are strange, they are not.. They are amazing.. To prove what a expert Shu, is, he got me to like chicken breast!.  We spoke to him all night as he described each piece and watched our reaction... He noticed we were not stopping and since it was the end of the night, he was happy to give us the remaining pieces that would be tossed anyway.. 

Dinner ends with steamed chicken in a wonderful rice with a shot of a wonderful little glass of chicken broth... For this little chicken and rice dish, it's worth going to... 

Very nice sake collection, beer on tap, best chicken place going... I'm telling ya, go and get the omakase, sit at the bar, enjoy yourself..


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#4 LiquidNY

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 01:59 AM

Some news to report: Tori Shin still cooks with charcoal. According to the chef, Totto doesn't have the correct ventilation system, hence the switch to electric grills. Also, no toriwasa. He said they used to serve it, but the health department cracked down and said it's illegal.

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#5 LiquidNY

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 12:45 AM

Dinner last night at Tori Shin consisted of:

 

1) Japanese pickles

2) Fried chicken with house-made tartar sauce

3) Chicken liver

4) Chicken back with soft bone

5) Shredded daikon

6) Grilled, blistered grape tomatoes

7) Lightly-grilled sea urchin with garlic, shredded shiso, and crostini*

8) Chicken kidney

9) Matsutake mushroom

10) Cod egg soup*

11) Chicken oyster

12) Grilled zucchini with house-made mayo

13) Chicken breast with miso & shiso

14) Chicken & duck "special" tsukune with egg yolk

15) Oyakodon with broth

16) Apple sorbet + shiso sorbet

 

(* = supplement)

 

Everything was fantastic.  The fried chicken with tartare sauce is one of my favorites.  They seem to have it maybe 50% of the time.  Dinner almost always starts with liver - mild and earthy in flavor.  The chicken back with soft bone is crazy the first time you try it.  Who knew you can eat chicken bones?  But the texture is terrific.  Blistered grape tomatoes are hot and explode in your mouth.  The grilled sea urchin was new to me - six lightly grilled lobes presented on a wood plank, topped with lots of shredded shiso.  Excellent, although I thought eating it off crostini masked the delicate flavors a bit.  The kidney - one of my favorite organ cuts because of the texture.  Cod egg soup - had the texture of mucous.  Maybe there was mountain yam in it?  I'm not sure.  The special tsukune with chicken & duck is a must-order.  Dessert is always a choice between shiso sorbet or a seasonal fruit sorbet - this time it was apple.  They gave me both.  Still an excellent place for dinner.  Looking forward to going back.

 

Comped a few of skewers, a sorbet, and some beer.


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#6 LiquidNY

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 04:47 AM

This is kind of exciting news, at least for me. Chef Kono told me that Tori Shin is moving to the west side in September, somewhere around 57th St & 8th/9th Av. The new place is going to be a little bigger, and it'll have a private counter area where they will serve kaiseki-type stuff (including seafood). The original location's turning into a drug store or something (Maya may go, too).

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#7 Wilfrid

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 06:24 PM

Did the omakase, and indeed it's hard to imagine it being much better.  Thing is, it is a lot of chicken.

 

ETA: It hasn't moved. Or not to the West Side, anyway.



#8 Wilfrid

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 06:26 PM

Maybe we should have asked for the omakase to focus on the offal section of the menu.



#9 LiquidNY

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 06:42 PM

Yeah, it can get a little monotonous - but then again you know you're going to be getting mostly chicken at a yakitori place.  They do have some really nice offal cuts.  I like the kidney, and of course the popular chicken oysters.


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#10 Sneakeater

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 06:48 PM

Maybe it would seem more interesting if they called it "hen"?
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#11 Wilfrid

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 07:49 PM

You certainly can't complain about being served chicken.



#12 Lex

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 08:36 PM

You certainly can't complain about being served chicken.

 

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#13 joethefoodie

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 08:51 PM

My grandmother was eating the bones way before it became so hip.



#14 Sneakeater

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 08:51 PM

Now I can post this here, too.


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#15 joethefoodie

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 08:55 PM

Because you knew grandma?