Yakitori Tori Shin

I am a Japan-o-phile. I love everything about it. The people, the history, the artwork, and – of course – the food. Japanese food is prevalent in New York City, but I rarely have yakitori here. I had just never found a restaurant that made yakitori in a way that comes close to what you can find in Japan. 
Enter Yakitori Tori Shin.
Yakitori means “Grilled Bird,” and in Japan, tiny yakitori stands run all underneath the elevated train stations, so people coming home from work can sit, have a beer, and eat every part of the chicken roasted to perfection over charcoal. 
Oh yeah, baby. Every. Part.
From the moment we sat at the sushi-style counter, we knew that this was going to be a totally Japanese experience. EVERY meal in Japan, even at the smallest, least expensive ramen joint, starts with a warm moist towel. We went with the ten skewer yakitori set, and let the chef make the decision.

We received a small dish of housemade pickles. The cucumbers were nothing much, but the daikon was excellent-crisp and sour with that particular radish-cabbage taste that daikon tends to have.

Tenderloin Meat with Wasabi. This was breast meat but was as juicy as dark meat. It had that same moistness but the light flavor of breast meat. The wasabi was the REAL stuff – nose clearing, mouth searing paste that totally brought the chicken to life. It just tasted so…chicken-y. It was simple but totally intoxicating.
Dark Breats Meat with Yuzukoshu. Now we were getting into some serious stuff. The chicken was all cooked medium rare, which is not way that I usually eat my poultry, but the chicken was totally amazing this way! It was so moist and the outside was charred and crispy while the inside retained its familiar chicken-y taste. The yuzukoshu marinade added acidic and spicy notes that perfectly complimented that nicely charred exterior.

Skin. That is what this skewer was called. Crispy, salty, meaty, fatty…is there any adjective there that does NOT sound amazing?

Zucchini. Sounds simple, right? A throwaway course?
Or…a freakin revelation.
This was HANDS DOWN the best zucchini that I have ever enjoyed in my life. It was salty and a bit caramelized on the outside and the inside was moist and bursting with that fresh zucchini flavor. Dragged through the slightly spicy mayonnaise, it was refreshing but also substantial with a meaty texture. Soft by not mushy, and with a tiny bit of bite, it was pretty outstanding.

Chicken liver. One of my all time favorite things. I especially love it yakitori style, and this was excellent. The combination of smoky, crunchy exterior wit that soft, minerall-y tasting interior is really special. Dipped in the house made ponzu, the liver was rich, soft and caramelized, with citrus form the ponzu. The heart, which I neglected to photograph, was even better, with a positively velvety texture and a taste in between liver and steak.

Gingko beans. The only miss of the night. The texture of cannellini beans, but I hated the taste. It was very bitter to me.

Quail. I have started to really love quail. It is similar to duck, with a meaty, moist flesh and skin that gets delightfully crispy. It is best served medium, or medium rare, which is how we got it here. It was just served so simply – you could totally taste the wonderful taste of the bird. 

Our last dish was the Chicken Oyster-a little piece of chicken near the thigh that is always the most delicious part. Each chicken only has one oyster, so this is a highly prized piece of meat. And it is utter perfection. Fatty, light, rich, salty, crispy, and the pure essence of chicken. A great way to end the meal.

Here is where all of our yakitori sticks went. We clearly had a grand old time.
Yakitori Tori Shin is a great spot! It is delicious, traditional food served for a more than reasonable prices. The owner and all the chefs are kind, informative and know what they are doing. The only problem now is…
How can I convince my building to let me install a yakitori grilling station in my kitchen? Cause I just can’t go back to plain old grilled chicken after this.

Tori Shin on Urbanspoon


  1. My buddy used to go quail hunting with his dad when we were teenagers, and I used to eat the quail they shot, right off the grill in the backyard, basted with some version of a Chinese barbecue sauce (my friend is Asian). Every few bites you would grind your teeth on a piece of buckshot, but it was well worth it: it was the best quail I have ever had.

  2. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Justin-I am sure the quail was AMAZING…so jealous I have never had fresh quail! I need to make myself a gun-toting Asian friend…


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