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Nov 5, 2006 10:46 AM

Best Yakatori

I'm looking for Yakatori joints in midtown. Tory opened up in midtown but I think its just OK. Anyone know of any other late night Yakatori restaurants in midtown opened late?

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  1. yakitori totto? i dont know how it compares against tory.

    1. I will weigh in as a FANATIC fan of Yakitori Totto. I haven't been to Tory's yet so i can't say whether Totto is different/better but there is no other restaurant in NYC than Totto that consistently makes me as happy.

      Two friends and I had dinner every other Friday at Totto for more than a year. We reconvened Saturday 11/11 and plan to rejuvenate our tradition. Here is what we ate:

      Yakitori: universally exquisite chicken wing, liver, gizzard, soft knee bone, skin, heart. Unfortunately the tail was already sold out, always get this when available. Chicken meatball with brown sauce dipped in raw quail egg: superb. The meatball with shiso and plum also fantastic. Special of teriyaki skirt steak (quickly becoming my favorite cut of beef, saturated with flavor); the BEST $6 grilled lamb chop available in NYC, hands down. Organic Berkshire pork with ponzu/scallions or with lemon and mustard. Veggies: shiitake, shishito peppers, garlic, gingko nuts, enokis wrapped in bacon. Starter of nebaneba, a study in sublime slime: okra, sticky freshwater plants, mountain yam. Kyona salad with tiny fried fish, nori, cream cheese and half-cooked egg. Yuba shabu: soy milk simmering in a crock at the table, forming a skin you can scoop up and dip into a sesame sauce; with enokis, greens, carrots and more yuba to cook and dip. Finish the rest with spoons. Dessert: puddings of apricot stone and green tea.

      With copius amounts of Sapporo Reserve this feast cost us $80 each with tax and tip.

      Other items that are not to be missed at Totto: rice cooked in a crock at the table, chicken soup, chicken breast with Korean spicy sauce or with miso, baby tako sashimi, ice banana dessert with tapioca. If duck is available, always order this, especially thigh. Yakitori of chicken thigh is also great.

      Sadly, the era of chicken sashimi seems to be over at Totto. They served supple, subtly (non-chicken) flavored slices of raw organic chicken breast three ways: with fresh wasabi; "sumo style" with raw egg/garlic for dipping; or rolled in shiso with plum sauce. This was one of the highlights for us and we ate their beautiful raw chicken at least 30 times (with no ill effects for those taught to fear raw chicken by barbaric American chicken production methods; these chickens are free range organic birds from upstate NY). We hope they will bring it back one day; if they have it when you are there do not hesitate to order it, you will not be disappointed.

      Yes, Totto is open late, but the tail and soft knee bone is often gone by 7pm. They take reservations until 7pm. If you arrive at 7 without a reservation the wait is likely to be 2 hours.

      1. Was at Tory's last night, essentially Totto east, food almost identical in selection and execution.

        I was really excited to hear that they have chicken sashimi on the menu, it is listed as Korean spicy style or with sesame oil...sadly, they didn't have it last night. They say during the week they are more likely to have it.

        Inspired by Meehan's Times review this week and since we had been meaning to try it, we got a skewer of breast bone. Loved it, smoky chicken flavor, nice crunch, actually a complex finish with the deep chicken flavor that bones have. Great for adding yet another texture, will probably become a fixture.

        Another wonderful item we haven't had at Totto (I don't know if it is on their menu) is eringi mushroom. Meaty and juicy, these were awesome, we had to order more.

        We also tried the tuna liver-cream cheese, which did seem like it would be good on a bagel (as Meehan wrote).

        We tried the rice porridge to finish up and it was wonderful.

        Other differences between the two places: no Sapporo Reserve in bottles at Tory's, they have Sapporo on draft yuba shabu at Tory's...shishito and shiitake at Tory's served with a dollop of dark miso on the side instead of ponzu and bonito as at Totto.

        Tory's is a bit less cramped than Totto but decor similarly simple. Now we have a back up if one or the other has no reservations left!

        1 Reply
        1. re: kenito799

          2nd visit to Tory's last night, in an attempt to get chicken luck. Everything was good, but execution may have been ever so slightly less perfect than Totto on a couple items (for example, skin, gizzard). They were also out of some favorites, maybe just because it was Wed. We also decided that we would rather get bottles of Sapporo Reserve (not available at Tory's) than draft Sapporo (easier to share and ends up costing less).

          The main problem, however, was the grill ventilation--sitting at the bar we were bathed in smoke all night (brought back memories of pre-smoking ban days). Once they fix that problem, the bar is very nice, more spacious than Totto. However, we will be returning to Totto for the time being, despite the lack of chicken sashimi.

        2. DesignerBoy,

          As a long time yakitori fanatic and japanese ex-pat, I tried all the so-called yakitori-ya's. Tory's is good, Totto is fine if you like that kind of atmosphere, but if you want REAL yakitori, and I mean, the stuff Japanese people will want to pay to eat, it's got to be none other than Tori Shin on 1st ave. It's a little out of the way, but worth it.

          Full yakitori menu, meaning all the right chicken parts, no made up, americanized items. The menu has a choice of 2 tasting menus. I went for the bigger one, and it was a lot of food but i didn't feel grossed out.

          The chicken was amazing, vegetables are organic and flown in from japan ( I don't know if the flight makes them better but they certainly tasted better than the produce from dagostino's. The finale, the dessert was simply the best. Well, it was simple. Shaved ice of shiso leaf. This simple sorbet was cooling and refreshing after all that chicken and felt good to be full.

          I love this place and cant wait to be back next wednesday. I already have reservations to go back with my foodie friends. will post again!

          12 Replies
          1. I've been to both totto and torys many times, and i have to say torys has gone slightly downhill since it opened.. the service can be pretty slow, and they recently removed their "tokusen oyako don" from their menu.. how can a yakitori place not serve chicken rice.. i think totto still has oyako don so i recommend totto

            1. re: manhattan foodie

              Did you guys know that Totto, Torys, and Aburiya Kinnosuke are all owned and managed by the same person? Totto is the flagship.

              1. re: raji212

                After three visits to Tory's, the execution was noticeably not up to par with Totto. Maybe they are as good sometimes but I will just keep going back to Totto...after (literally) hundreds of visits, their consistently high quality is pretty remarkable.

                1. re: kenito799

                  The staff at Totto was trained intensely in the weeks before it's opening; this is several years ago. The staff there, kitchen and waitstaff, haven't turned over much. I guess the staff at Torys didn't undergo such intense training. Which is a shame if the prices and chicken are the same.

                  1. re: raji212

                    The staff at Totto and Torys were interchangeable for a time, so it's certainly not a training issue. I'm not sure if they still split shifts between the two.

                    1. re: E Eto

                      Maybe your sources misled you. I'm just not sure how else to explain the lack of consistency at Torys vs. Totto. I also tend to see the same faces at Totto.

                      1. re: raji212

                        My sources lead me straight to the horse's mouths, e.g., the managers at Totto. I'm not sure how else to explain my sources, unless they were just lying to me.

            2. re: MystrEater

              I agree about the shiso leaf sorbet at Tori Shin. It's very delicious and unexpectedly so. It's one of the best desserts I've ever had. I'm not a big yakitori fan but I felt everything else at Tori Shin was not as good. It was ok but not exciting and too expensive for what you get. I had the smaller tasting menu and I left hungry.

              1. re: MystrEater

                For those confused, this poster's negative comments are directed towards east village places like Taisho, Yokocho and (yuck) kenka.

                Good to hear that this poster was not grossed out or that the vegetables tasted better than D'agastinos, but as it's their first and only post I'm kind of doubting the validity....

                I'd like to hear more directly Totto vs. Tori Shin - I think totto is still a lot better.

                1. re: MystrEater

                  I agree about the sorbet. It is out of this world. But, and it’s a big but, maybe because you are a Japanese ex-pat you have all that money to throw around, I don’t. my wife and I spent $280 and I must say that we both agreed that the only amazing dish was the shiso sorbet. We got more than a couple of overcooked/burnet skewers, and I don’t care how good the meat/vegies are they don’t taste good that way. And the place as very smoky all the time. I’m going with totto as well

                  1. re: KNC

                    Been to Tory's and Totto. Both are great although I prefer the original Totto. This is the best Yakitori restaurant in Manhattan. This view is shared by all of the ex-pat Japanese I know in Manhattan.

                  2. re: MystrEater

                    Hey thanks for the rec. Yep, I'm looking for the real McCoy with all chicken parts. I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for the rec!

                  3. Tori Shin on 1st avenue. Quietly opened in January, running smoothly now, with full liquor license. Hands down the best yakitori in NYC, having just returned from 2 weeks eating my way through Japan, I cant assure you, Tori Shin's yakitori is even better than many in Japan. Great value for the $, for the courses. (secret #1, their homemade desserts like shiso sorbet and edamame ice cream are out of this world, but only limited production per-day!)

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MystrEater

                      I'm curious why you felt the need to repost your thoughts on tori shin. Just because you came back from a trip to Japan?

                      I personally feel Totto is the best in the city. Taisho, etc.. please stay away from them!

                      1. re: eatfood

                        Well yes, of course! I really cant compare yakitori of New York to yakitori in Japan, but Tori Shin was exceptional. Even a few places in Japan were not cooked as beautifully as Tori Shin's.

                        I really prefer Tori Shin for the superior quality and tasteful preperation. Many yakitoriyas will drench all the chicken parts in the secret sauce, but to bring out the real flavors, nothing beats a sprinkle of sea salt-which is how all but a few at Tori Shin are prepared.

                        And the set-courses are a better value than totto's. There's a a whole bunch of dishes that come before I even order! And lastly, the ambiance is much more refined and relaxing.

                        Just my 2 cents

                        1. re: MystrEater

                          At yakitori-ya, you have a choice of "shio" or "tare"- salt or sauce for whatever you order. It's a standard option, not just a Tori Shin practice. Many cheaper quality shops default on tare, but you usually have a choice.