Toritama (Hong Kong)

Toritama (Hong Kong)

Where:
Toritama
G/F, 2 Glenealy (it’s just up from Fish & Meat off Wyndham Street)
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2388 7717

Price:
The Chef’s 12 skewer omakase set (including rice bowl/donburi, chicken soup + dessert) is HKD588 (+10% service charge).  Booze is not cheap here, so hold onto your wallets, kids.

The deal:
Toritama is a yakitori (grilled skewer) joint which is famous in Kagurazaka, Tokyo for going beyond the standard chicken meat, liver and skin skewer experience and instead offers the full beak-to-tail experience, with the chance to eat 33 parts of the chicken.  If you ever wanted to eat chicken heart, oesophagus, comb, soft chest bone or gizzard skin – Toritama has got your shit covered  If that’s not on your agenda, don’t worry there’s still four different cuts of thigh and some very pedestrian breast meat you can order.  Eating snout-to-tail, is one of those hot phrases to throw around in reference to how you treat produce these days.  Punters get to have pork belly, smear some bone marrow or patê onto some bread and then charge their glasses to being a conscientious eater, before giving themselves a hearty ‘GO ME! GO SUSTAINABILITY!’ pat on the back before throwing back some air freighted sparkling water and teeing up a chicken breast salad for lunch the next day. But on a serious note, it makes sense for us to be eating as many parts of an animal as possible, not just because you can score ‘foodie hipster badass’ points but to get preachy on yo’ ass for a second, rearing animals takes a shit tonne of resources so why would you only eat one choice part of an animal before wasting the rest? Waste not, want not my environmental loving homies.

Toritama HK is modelled after its Tokyo counterpart, with less than 20 seats and its dark, minimalist interiors.  I’ve heard there’s tables but of course you want to be ring side, around the counter.  I had to rely on the kindness of a FYN Homie who had messaged me about random shit and as we shot the breeze, he mentioned that Toritama was fucking amazing.  I messaged him to let him know that I couldn’t get a booking and he helpfully managed to get me a booking under his name (versus booking it under FUCK YEAH-san).  HK restaurants, Y U like to make things so hard for normal people? Yes, I fucking checked that he doesn’t work for them and made sure he didn’t make me sound like a food bloggin’ asshole by giving them a heads up on the serious fucking endeavour that is FYN.  Shit son, I don’t want no special treatment, just gimme dem chicken ass and intestines. Despite having to get random FYN readers to pull strings for me to get a booking, Toritama HK didn’t seemed totally rammed when we got there, so I’ll assume that some HK assholes were being flakey fuckers who ditched their bookings at the last second.

Toritama HK has shipped in grill master Hironobu Matsumoto from Japan and Hermanus van Dyk adds the impressive white dude speaking Japanese factor (apparently he trained at Toritama in Tokyo for 6 months before trucking out to HK).  In a promising sign, we were flanked by Japanese homies on both sides who helpfully helped me identify what we were eating or give us hot tips on what to order next time.  As it was my first time, I wanted to do the 12 course omakase skewer selection, salad, donburi (rice bowl) + dessert.  Partly because I was convinced I was going to starve if I went for less skewers (cause eating skewers in HK restaurants usually results in bankruptcy, food for ants and hunger in equal parts) but also because I wanted the chef’s recommendations (osusume me baby, I’m fucking ready for your shit).  I fucking get it though, while on paper we all love the idea of healing the world (for you and for me and the entire human race), when actually faced with organs and chewy, gristly textures the best laid intentions can crumble.  The Toritama homies are cognisant of this and will very kindly ask you if there are any organs that you don’t eat.  My less adventurous dining companion smiled with palpable relief and immediately ruled out anything too controversial.  On the other hand, I turned food wanker bravado up all the way to 11, puffed up my chest and told the chef to come at me bro, cause I eat fucking everything.

There’s no point doggedly taking you through every single skewer I ate at Toritama because the chef will change shit up depending on what you ask for and also what they’re feeling.  But some fuck yeah highlights – we started with the tsukune (chicken meatballs) which have finely minced bone cartilage to give it texture, which some people might find gristly but I thought it was fucking awesome.  The leba (liver) was a fuck yeah of epic proportions and in an extra win for the night, my less adventurous homie surrendered hers to me after she took one bite. The kokori nokori (aorta) was my favourite skewer of the whole night – I was asking the chef how to say it in Japanese and the Japanese homie next to me let me know that he didn’t even know what it was called prior to trying it that night as well.  After dislocating my shoulder from giving myself a self-congratulatory food trailblazer pat on the back, Chef Matsumoto-san explained it as the top part of the heart – it’s almost squid like in texture, but grilled to crisp up some of its finer parts but remaining chewy in others. The kappa (chest soft bone) and tokkuri (neck) were also serious fatty, cartiledge filled fuck yeahs for me – partly because it made a change to eat the other parts of the chicken which undeniably still taste like chicken but are so different texturally to what we associate with it.

It’s not all just chicken times too and a vegetable course of two skewers – the kinshinsai (day lily flower) and the ginnan (gingko nut) arrive to break up the chicken fest.  The presentation is so thoroughly Japanese, with the sweet day lily bulbs arranged in ascending size. Fuck yeahhhh, precision!

As we rounded into the final skewers my less adventurous homie was thoroughly thrilled with her skewer of mitsubamaki (chicken breast wrapped around some Japanese wild parsley) and while I’m sure that Toritama’s chicken breast is probably an exemplary demonstration on how to make it a fuck yeah, I avoided dat boring as fuck lean breast meat and was served sunagimo (chicken gizzard) which was a magnificent meaty, chewy and densely iron flavoured fuck yeah.

There’s a break in the skewers and you are served a small bowl of fuck yeah opaque chicken broth which has obviously had the benefit of boiling down a shit tonne of chicken carcasses so it’s full of collagen.  Just like at a HK wedding banquet, to ensure you’re full as fuck, a very decent sized oyako donburi appears (but the Japanese homie to my left told me next time to order the Toritama donburi).  Cause you know, more chicken cooked with egg, served over a large bowl of rice is exactly what I needed at this point.  I feel a bit fucking sad that I didn’t eat most of the rice but I ate my way through the fuck yeah tender chicken and egg which topped it.  It made me think of one of my homies who won’t eat chicken and egg together cause she feels like a sick fuck, snacking down on mother and child in one delicious as fuck bite.

The final course is a small scoop of mitarashi  ice-cream, which riffs on the mitarashi dango that originates from Kyoto, Japan.  The dango is a glutinous rice ball, served on skewers with various sauces – in this instance, the mitarashi sauce is a sweet and sour glaze, made with sugar, soy sauce and mirin.  To replicate this in ice-cream format, Toritama serve a dainty scoop of salted caramel ice-cream with a reduced down soy sauce vinegar sauce, reminiscent of a reduced balsamic vinegar glaze.  Fuck yeahhhhh to dat salty, sweet combination.

The staff asked if we wanted anything else and I didn’t push my luck and ask for the off-menu chochin.  Poetically, chochin means ‘lantern’ in Japanese.  In stark reality though, it’s the unborn ‘proto’ egg taken from the chicken and I’ve heard that in the Tokyo branch it’s served skewered with the fallopian tube just chillin’ by the side.  I disappointed myself that I ran out of firepower and I wasn’t entirely convinced my squeamish dining homie was gonna deal with the arrival of a half developed chicken egg plus Fallopian tube despite her best protests that she was cool with it.

The omakase course takes over two hours to complete and despite all my earlier concerns, I was full as fuck.  Before we left, I checked out the toritama menu complete with a diagram of all the potential chicken parts to eat to see what I’d missed for next time.  Toritama HK, imma comin back for your chochin (unborn egg), shiro leba (a white liver found in one out of 30 chickens) and the maruhatsu (whole heart) – cause turn around bright eyes, every now and then I need some heart.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah on pay day cause with booze I reckon you’re looking at HKD1000+ a person. While my less adventurous homie who wasn’t super keen on offal or weird shit, still really enjoyed it I think the best way to get yo Toritama Times on is to take your homies who are most interested in offal and unconventional textures and get dem chicken organs in your life.

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