As much as I appreciate fine dining, there’s something about the simplicity of meat on sticks and watching it all sizzling right in front of you that gets my taste buds tingling. Toritama Hong Kong, Tokyo’s famous and ‘most authentic neighbourhood yakitori joint’ has now opened in our city, bringing its meat on sticks mentality to Glenealy.
Tokyo’s Toritama is famous for serving over 30 different parts of the chicken on skewers. Flip over the menu and you’ll see a diagram indicating each of these parts and where you’ll find them. Hong Kong’s Toritama doesn’t serve quite so many, but there are still over 20 chicken parts on the menu, some a little more daunting than others. Apparently the discrepancy in numbers is partly due to chickens here being smaller than in Japan, and partly due to there being no market here for things like chicken ovaries – funny that.
Depending on your level of hunger and how much you trust the chefs, you can either pick and choose your skewers a la carte, or you can choose between a seven, 10 or 12 O-susume Course dinner, where the chef selects the skewers for you. If there’s anything you definitely don’t (or won’t) eat, you can let the chef know, otherwise you can just wait to be surprised. We cowardly opted out of trying any chicken organs, but let the rest be a surprise.
Whilst you await your skewer surprise, each set menu begins with a selection of crudités with homemade pickled onion sauce, and grated daikon with raw egg to nibble on alongside your sake. The house sake, by the way, is made especially for Toritama, and is refreshingly delicious and light.
We went for the seven-course option, the first of which were some beautifully charred meatballs. Whilst most yakitori joints I’ve been to offer one single meatball that melts in the mouth and offers very little in the way of texture, Toritama’s version is mixed in with some soft cartilage, giving it an unexpected yet pleasing crunch to sink your teeth into.
To follow came the hen tail, which also had an unusual, yet not unpleasant bite to it and an incredible flavour that was unlike any part of a chicken I’ve tasted before. Toritama is also known for its array of homemade sauces and dips, including chilli miso, fermented bean, shichimi and ground ginger, so it was fun trying each of them and finding the best fit for each and every skewer.
I have never before heard of, nor seen a day-lily, but now I want to know where I can find them! These had a sweet, delicious flavour that again completely surprised us.
Who knew that chickens had a significant calf muscle that is worthy of putting on a stick and grilling! And who knew a chicken’s knee gristle would actually be one of the tastiest parts of the bird! The former was succulent and surprisingly meaty, whilst the latter had that all-important buttery layer of fat that blended beautifully with the meat.
Another favourite of mine were the chicken wings, which were butterflied for ease of skewering and eating. The skin was perfectly crispy and the flesh beneath deliciously juicy.
The last of our seven skewers was the chicken neck. This had been lightly drizzled in mustard to bring out the flavour of the rich, fatty meat that was again cooked to perfection resulting in crispy skin and juicy meat beneath.
I think the chef could see how much we had been eyeing up the provolone cheese that other diners were devouring, so we were given one of these as well. Grilled cheese. Need I say more?
Toritama also offers a selection of sides and rice dishes, of which we sampled the chicken and egg rice bowl, which was warming and comforting to the core, something we found very necessary given the icy blast of the air-conditioning throughout the meal.
There is only one choice of dessert at Toritama, but once you’ve tried it you’ll realise why there isn’t a need for anything else. The idea of soy sauce ice cream might sound a little scary, but it was absolutely divine, similar to salted caramel, but better, with a drizzle of caramelised soy sauce on top for good measure. I’m still dreaming about this soy sauce ice cream…
A set dinner costs between $288 and $588, whilst set lunches are around $148. Service at Toritama is in line with the excellent food. The whole experience is completely authentic, to the point where yakitori master Hironobu Matsumoto speaks to diners almost entirely in Japanese, even if you have no idea what he’s talking about. It’s a fun, delicious experience that is 100% worth the hype.
Toritama, G/F, 2 Glenealy, Central, Hong Kong, 2388 7717, www.toritama.hk. Closed on Sundays.