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The Newest L.A. Treasure! The Stunningly Delectable Roast Chicken Skewers of Yakitori Master (*and* Kyoto-Style Oden Specialist) Torihei! [Review] w/ Pics!

(Formatted with All Pictures here:
http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2009/03...)

After the tragedy that befell one of L.A.'s best hidden gems - Yakitori Bincho - last year, I was eagerly counting the days until Chef Tomo and Yakitori Bincho could move to a new location that would allow them to continue making their legendary Yakitori (Roasted Chicken Skewers over Japanese White Charcoal). Chef Tomo elevated Yakitori to such a level that all the other offerings I tried around L.A. / O.C. became a disappointment (this same problem struck all of my Izakaya and Yakitori Hounds that tried Yakitori Bincho as well).

I had pretty much given up on sublime Yakitori until Bincho was able to move and reopen again, but then on a fateful night last week, I stumbled upon a newly opened restaurant with a plain, simple sign: Torihei. Coincidentally, I was with the most discerning member of my Izakaya Hound group, and we decided to give it a try.

Torihei sits across from the long-time South Bay powerhouse, Musha, and entering Torihei revealed a warm, stylish interior with a long bar perfect for its menu offerings...

which is what got us completely excited when we sat down to order: They had two simple menus, the first one showing off a variety of Yakitori (Roasted Chicken Skewers) and Kushi-Yaki (Roasted Skewers of Meat and Vegetables). That was interesting enough - a new Yakitori specialist - but then the 2nd menu was the big shocker:

Kyoto-fu (style) Oden (Variety of Items Stewed in a Dashi Broth)! There was an entire menu of classic items that reminded me of Japan and its wonderful Oden cuisine, all available for order right then and there! Stunned, we quickly placed an order and waited with nervous anticipation. :)

While waiting, I noticed the little touches, like how their Utsuwa (earthenware) was just gorgeous in a humble, down-to-earth way (I later discovered that they imported all of their Utsuwa from Japan).

It turns out that Torihei is the dream of Chef-Owner Masataka Hirai, who had previously owned a Yakitori-ya in Yokohama, Japan, also called Torihei. He learned his craft from his mother, who was the original Yakitori chef for Torihei (Yokohama). His mother also opened up a second restaurant in Yokohama, Japan called Tsukinone, focusing on Oden cuisine, which Chef Hirai took over as well. And currently, his father still runs a Kappo restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, known as Hirai.

Chef Masataka decided to move to the U.S., and brought along his #2 Chef, Chef Masakazu Sasaki, an Oden specialist, focusing on Kyoto-style Oden. This could be very good. :)

We began with an amuse-bouche: Tori Miso Salada (Homemade Miso Chicken Salad). The Homemade Miso was quite tasty, but a touch too sweet. The Chicken Breast meat was decent, but nothing standout.

I then glanced over the counter and saw a gigantic stewing pot that signaled the potential for glorious Oden! :) It was divided up into quarters and each section contained a classic Oden ingredient, gently stewing, ready to be served. I couldn't wait!

In So Cal, one might find an "Oden" dish on a menu, which is usually a variety of items all stewed together in a small clay pot. Another more common way to enjoy Oden in Japan is picking out individual types of items (e.g., freshly stewed Daikon Radish, Eggs, etc.) and enjoying them piece-by-piece along with some of the delicious soup. This is how it's presented at Torihei.

The first item to arrive was from the Kyoto-style Oden menu: Daikon (White Radish). Served with some great Karashi (Japanese Mustard), the Daikon was topped with Katsuobushi (Dried Bonito Shavings) and served with the homemade Oden broth.

The first bite was a tone-setter for the rest of the evening: The Daikon was so clean and pure, tender, completely permeated with the made-from-scratch Dashi Broth. Chef Sasaki explained that Kyoto-style Oden stood out from other regions' Oden by the type of Shoyu (Soy Sauce) used and slight differences in broth structure. The Dashi Broth was truly a thing of beauty: Completely focused and pure, the notes of Konbu (Kelp), Katsuobushi (Dried Bonito), and special Shoyu (Soy Sauce) worked in harmony to bring about a broth that was so soothing and soul-warming that all I could do was smile. (^_^) He also mentioned that his Tsukune (Chicken Meat Balls) added in flavor, since he used the Oden broth to cook those when ordered. We finished the Oden Soup within seconds. Overall this was simply excellent! :)

Then the first item from the Yakitori (Roasted Chicken) menu arrived: Sunagimo (Chicken Gizzard). It was marinated and prepared Shio (Salt-based) style. It turned out to be *moist* and so pure in its taste. Most Sunagimo can be dried out, or a bit tough. Not so here: It was tender, yet still retained a nice texture. This was the work of a true Yakitori grill master.

(Note: For those new to Yakitori cuisine, feel free to use a bit of the Shichimi Togarashi (a spice mixture of seven different ingredients that is lightly spicy, but not overpowering). In another nice touch, it's beautifully presented at Torihei.)

The next order arrives: Jikasei Tsukune ("Torihei" Meat Ball), which is a house specialty, made of a special blend of spices including Shiso Leaf, mixed with fresh Ground Chicken and then roasted over their Binchotan charcoal.

Most Tsukune can be really dry and/or mealy, but Hirai-san's Tsukune are *outstanding*! Not since Yakitori Bincho and Tomo-san's Tsukune (and before that the Tsukune specialist in Kyoto) have I had Tsukune this good! The Marinated Ground Chicken Meat Balls are juicy, moist and bursting with flavors! Light notes of Shiso and Pepper and other spices combine with a fresh, pure Chicken taste. I would say Yakitori Bincho's Tsukune beats this one out by a touch, but since Yakitori Bincho is no more, this is the best we have in L.A. :) Simply wonderful.

Continuing on is Reba- (Chicken Liver). As some of you may know, I'm not a huge Liver fan, but my guest was, so we ordered one skewer to try it. Ostensibly, it looked like it was something different, but after taking a bite, it was a total flashback to the magic of Chef Tomo and Yakitori Bincho's amazing version: Hirai-san captured the same expert cooking style with this Liver Skewer. It was *so* buttery, light and creamy(!), almost like a Foie Gras, but with Chicken Liver, and with none of the metallic / chalky / chunkiness that is usually found with Roasted Liver. Wow.

The next item was Momo (Chicken Thigh), Shio (Salt-base marinade). Like the other skewers so far, this was another highlight! Moist, juicy, pure Chicken goodness. I would say Tomo-san's Momo Tare at Bincho surpasses this one, but as of right now, Torihei is the best until Bincho comes back. :) Very good!

Their Wafuwafu Tori Tsumire (Chicken Paste Ball) arrives from the Oden side. Finely minced Ground Chicken is formed into Meat Balls and cooked in the Oden broth. Unfortunately the Chicken Meat Balls here are too mealy and chunky, but that's the nature of boiling Ground Chicken. It's comfort food, but it just wasn't that appetizing. The Oden Broth was once again gulped down by the both of us within seconds. :) Delicious!

Here's another pic of their gorgeous Utsuwa (Pottery).

The Jikasei Gobou Age (Fried Burdock Root) is another house specialty. Chef Sasaki takes fresh Burdock Root and gathers a few slices together and binds them with a special coating and then deep fries it. After it's cooked through, he quickly places it in the Oden Broth to simmer for a brief instant before serving.

Burdock Root is inherently fibrous, and Chef Sasaki's preparation retains the crunchiness and fibrous nature, while still making it complementary to the Oden Broth. It's not for everyone, but I enjoyed the healthy crunchiness of the Gobou and it was a great diversion from the usual Burdock Root dishes around town.

The next dish was another classic that goes perfect with alcohol :) - Marugoto Ikayaki (Whole Roasted Squid).

Cooked with a Tare (Soy Sauce, Mirin) marinade, the Ika (Squid) was just perfectly cooked through. It had a nice elasticity while still being tender and easy to break down. They included the Ika Wata (Squid Innards) which were delicious as well, and the Tare marinade gave each bite a light sweetness (just a touch), to tease the palate.

But the next dish was something I couldn't easily forget: Hanjyuku Tamago (Egg with Cod Roe)! Neither the English nor Japanese name did this dish justice. This was a flash-boiled Chicken Egg, with the Yolk still creamy and luscious, filled with Ikura (Salmon Roe).

This Hanjyuku Egg was so silky smooth, with the Ikura (Salmon Roe) breaking and mixing in with the soft, creamy flash-boiled yolk from the larger Chicken Egg... this put every version of Tamago in So Cal Ramen houses to shame. :) It wasn't as divine as Menya Kissou's Hanjyuku loveliness, but this was beautiful.

And then came more greatness from Chef Hirai's side: Tebasaki (Roasted Chicken Wing). Prepared Shio (Salt) style, these Chicken Wings reflected more of the grill master's technique, with a moist interior and crispy exterior; just flawless execution. :)

As if it couldn't get any better, along comes their Tontoro (Fatty Pork). The first thing that came to mind when I took a bite was: "Pork Lovers of the World... Unite!" (^_^) Taking Pork Cheek, Chef Hirai roasted it to perfection - There was enough lean Pork to provide a good meatiness, but enough marbling to impart pure, sexy unctuousness! Probably the best porky goodness you can have outside of pork belly. :) A must order.

The Kurokonnyaku (Konjac Yam Cake) arrived next from the Oden side. Topped with a special Miso blend recipe that Chef Sasaki calls Genkaku Miso, with a touch of Goma (Sesame Seeds) on top, this was a nice, hearty chunk of Konnyaku, which normally has very little taste on its own, but has a nice firm gelatinous texture. The special Miso was a touch too sweet for my tastes, but it worked. The Oden Broth was again, wonderful. :)

Sasaki-san then finished up the Gyu Suji (Beef Collagen).

Presented in a pretty covered serving cup, this was a dish of long-stewed Beef Tendon in a mixture of Soy Sauce, Black Peppercorns and Green Onions. The Beef Tendon was silky smooth and to the point of melting, and it was utterly delicious.

One of the only hiccups of the night, their Asupara Maki (Asparagus with Pork) arrived with 2 long-stemmed Asparagus wrapped in Bacon, with a Sweet Curry Sauce.

The Asparagus was cooked just right, with the Bacon being just fine (and a classic pairing), but the homemade Sweet Curry Sauce overpowers the dish. It would've been just fine without it.

But things rebounded nicely with the Tsunagi ("Special" Chicken Heart), Tare (Soy Sauce, Mirin Marinade) Style. As with many Chicken Organ dishes, Chicken Heart might turn out to be a bit too tough or dried out at many places, but not here: Chef Hirai's version of Tsunagi was very moist and supple yet retained an inherent texture, and the Mirin and Soy notes were present, but never overpowering every bite of the Chicken Hearts.

And then another surprise arrives with their Nankotsu (Chicken Cartilage). It turns out to be Yagen Nankotsu, made from the Chicken Breast Cartilage, instead of the more commonly found Dark Meat Cartilage portion (which is more fatty).

It's moist and very good, but still behind Yakitori Bincho's amazing version (which again, can't be had for now). It's still better than most versions easily, and is a delight to have expertly made again. :)

The Sasami Umejiso (Chicken Breast with Japanese Plum) arrived at the same time. Hirai-san presents perfectly cooked chunks of Chicken Breast topped with Japanese Plum and Shiso Leaves. It's a great match, with the fragrant herbal notes from the Shiso and nice tartness from the Ume mixing together against the backdrop of moist, white meat Chicken. Very nice. :)

Rounding out the evening was a pair of favorite Kushiyaki items: Okura Maki (Okra with Pork) and Yaki Shiitake (Shiitake Mushrooms). The Okura Maki was a solidly executed version of the dish, very good, with the Okra cooked through without drying out, and the Bacon imparting enough fat to make the whole dish sing. :)

The Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms were fragrant and earthy in a way that only Shiitake Mushrooms can be. They were a perfect way to end the evening. :)

On my 2nd visit to Torihei, I found more friends to enlist and try out some items. We started off with an amuse-bouche of some Jikasei Nukazuke (Home-made Pickles). The Daikon was the best of the pickled vegetables - lightly tart, but still carrying a freshness - with the Ninjin (Carrot) being the weakest (not bad, but nothing too noteworthy).

And then it started again (the goodness :), with their Itawasa (Home-made Fish Cake). Essentially a hand-made version of Kamaboko (Fish Cake), Chef Sasaki's version has a much more tender consistency than the usual firm gelatinous Fish Cakes. It's also served with a tiny dab of Wasabi and a blended Shoyu (Soy Sauce), and the result is a perfect balance. It engages your tongue and taste buds, and is a great starter.

The first main dish to arrive was their Tori Kawa Ponzu (Chicken Skin with Ponzu Sauce). This dish took me by surprise: Thinking about the Yakitori side of the restaurant, I had thought that this might be open-roasted Chicken Skin (roasted to a crisp) and then served with Ponzu, but instead, it turned out to be *Stewed* Chicken Skin, lightly poached actually, and served with Negi (Green Onions) and Momiji Oroshi (Grated Daikon Radish with Red Chili Peppers). It's surprisingly good and buttery, probably due to the Chicken Fat and Skin. The Momiji Oroshi helps to add a small bit of spiciness while still helping cut through the fat a bit.

Next up is Hatsu (Chicken Heart), Shio (Salt) style. This turns out to be Chef Hirai's favorite (even over his "Special" Hearts dish). The Salt marinade brings out a completely different facet to the Chicken Hearts than the previous night's Tsunagi, with a good chew (just lightly), with a flavor that's so clean and direct.

And then the Gyu Tan (Beef Tongue) arrives, with an encore of the Tontoro (Fatty Pork). While I had recently had some amazing Gyu Tan Shio at Tsuruhashi, this was a mouth-watering, luscious, thicker cut of Beef Tongue and it was absolutely delicious! (^_^) I can't stop thinking about it, it's that good (along with the Tontoro (again))! There's this deep, mesmerizing beefiness to each bite, being extremely juicy as well. Just outstanding!

Another shot of their beautiful Utsuwa (Tableware).

The Musubi Konbu (Sea Tangle) arrives next. Gorgeously presented to look like a giant, cute Bow made out of Kelp, this is long-stewed Konbu (Kelp) in the made-from-scratch Kyoto-style Oden Broth. It's simple and delightful, and for fans of Konbu, this is a definite must-order. And like the previous visit, this visit's Kyoto-style Oden Broth is just as addicting as before! :)

The next item is even more beautiful and kawaii in its presentation: Mochi Kinchaku ("Mochikin" Rice Cake). Chef Sasaki takes Aburaage (Deep Fried Tofu) and stuffs it with Mochi (Rice Cake), and then ties it at one end, to resemble a Kinchaku (traditional Japanese Purse) (^_^). After stewing for a while, the Mochi inside gets softer and softer until it becomes a luscious melted core, and a nice match for the Oden Soup and the Tofu exterior. Light and simple.

And then the Marugoto Tomato (Whole Stewed Tomato) arrives. Also from the Oden side, Sasaki-san takes a whole Tomato and stews it in the Oden Soup, and then tops it with a puree mixture of Mashed Potatoes and Soy Milk.

It's surprisingly very sweet and so fresh. The Mashed Potato and Soy Milk mixture works really well with the Stewed Tomato and the Oden Broth is again a great complement.

While I tried the Whole Squid on the first visit, on this visit, they had another dish that was totally different in preparation: Ika Geso Oiru Yaki (Roasted Squid Legs in Oil).

Chef Hirai uses a blend of Sake, Shoyu (Soy Sauce), Ika Wata (Squid Innards) and Oil to roast and create a beautifully oceanic sauce that the Squid Legs sit in. The Squid Legs are cooked just right and the sauce is a great match.

And then the Tori Soboro Gohan (Ground Chicken Rice Bowl) (w/ Soup) arrives as dinner is winding down. Normally, Soboro bowls are pretty boring and quickly prepared, but Torihei's Tori Soboro Gohan reflects the same love and care that's put into their other dishes. Their version captures the essence of a good Soboro Don: It's lightly sweet from the Mirin and Light Soy, and the essence of the Chicken comes through. Chef Hirai serves it with Uzura (Quail Egg) and mixing it all up adds a nice creaminess to the dish. This is a great way to end a meal. :)

The Tori Su-pu (Chicken Soup) that comes with the Soboro Rice is a homemade Chicken Soup from scratch that has a good purity with lots of vegetables, but it's undermined by being served in a plastic bowl (there's a distinct plastic-y, chemical taste that comes through here). This is the only item on the menu that's served in a plastic bowl, while everything else is served on a variety of their gorgeous Utsuwa. Hopefully they switch the soup over to an earthenware Utsuwa bowl which will help with the taste and aroma.

Finally, we had forgotten about the Robata-Yaki Onigiri ("Robata" Rice Ball) since it takes so long (normally) to slowly cook on the Yakitori grill. This was a very good version of the Roasted Rice Ball, with the Rice being cooked to a crisp and served with some of the Homemade Pickles.

Torihei is run by only 2 Chefs (Chef Hirai for the Yakitori menu and Chef Sasaki for the Oden) and 1 assistant. They have only 2 servers working at present, but it was more than enough for both of our visits. The staff was friendly and we had no complaints. Prices range from an absurdly low $1.80 - $5.25 for items on the Yakitori menu, and $1.95 - $2.80 for the Kyoto-style Oden menu. We averaged about ~$30 per person including tax and tip (and we over-ordered).

A word of caution about Oden for those that are new to it: Oden represents the simplicity and lighter side of Japanese cuisine. Those that enjoy bold, big flavors may find Oden to be "bland," but all my Izakaya Hounds I've taken here so far have enjoyed it (and I just love Yakitori and Oden in general (^_~)).

Torihei is a stunning development in the L.A. landscape: One restaurant that houses *2* Master Chefs and 2 Styles of Cooking that rise to the top of the list in their respective areas - Yakitori (Roasted Chicken Skewers) and Kyoto-style Oden. While Yakitori Bincho exceeds Torihei in many of the offerings (some of it due to the use of Japanese Binchotan (White Charcoal) at Yakitori Bincho vs. low-cost alternate Charcoal by Torihei), the skill of Chef Masataka Hirai is undeniable: With Yakitori Bincho shuttered, Torihei is easily my new favorite Yakitori in Southern California, turning out mouth-watering Roasted Skewers of Meat and Vegetables expertly cooked and unrivaled currently.

Add to that the excitement from finally having an Oden Specialist (let alone a Kyoto-style Oden Specialist) that serves individual pieces of Oden like they do back in Japan, with a made-from-scratch Oden Broth that is *so* pure and genuine in its purpose - all under one roof(!) - and you have the makings of a new L.A. treasure that's worth celebrating. Highly recommended.

*** Rating: 9.0 (out of 10.0) ***

Torihei
1757 W. Carson Street, #A
Torrance, CA 90501
Tel: (310) 781-9407

Hours: 7 Days A Week, 5:30 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. (Alcohol Last Order @ 10 p.m., Food Last Order @ 10:30 p.m.).

 
 
 
 
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  1. Attaching more pictures. For all remaining pics, please see Link in Original Post above. Thanks.

     
     
     
    1. Thanks, as always.
      I am on my way this weekend. The tsukune look too good to pass up.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cls

        Hi cls,

        Thanks. :) I hope you enjoy the visit. Definitely the Jikasei Tsukune is worth it, and the Gyu-Tan and the Tontoro... the list goes on. :)

      2. Torihei sounds like a great place. Thanks for the introduction. I like Kansai-fu oden better than Kanto-fu oden, but what's the difference between Kansai-fu oden and Kyoto style oden? Is there a difference other than the way it's served? Also, Gyusuji is known to most as beef tendon, like you get in pho noodle soups. They like to use the word collagen a lot in Japan as a way to promote its healthy properties.

        Was the suimono bowl really plastic? Maybe it was a lacquered wooden bowl, especially considering that they take such care with the presentation of their food with their choice of utsuwa. Maybe the lacquer was giving off some of that chemical-y scent? It wouldn't make sense for them to use cheap plastic for the suimono with such attention to detail that they've shown up to that point. Suimono wouldn't be served in heavy earthenware.

        1 Reply
        1. re: E Eto

          Hi E Eto,

          Thanks. Nice to see you on the LA Board again. :)

          Yah, I'm more versed with Kanto-fu Oden, and lots of exposure to Tokyo Konbini-fu Oden (^_~), but haven't had much Kansai-fu Oden except a little bit in Kyoto and now Torihei. So I leave the comparisons between Kansai-fu and Kyoto-fu to you. :)

          Regardless, I'm so happy to have an Oden Specialist in L.A.! :)

          Yah, Gyusuji is Tendon, but I listed their official menu name "Collagen"; it was delicious.

          That's a good point about the Suimono Bowl. It might've been a lacquered wooden bowl, but it would've been really really thin wood / lacquer (thinner and flimsier than what I normally encounter). Otherwise, it was plastic. Definitely off-putting.

          Let me know if you end up going. :)

        2. Exilekiss, great review as always - am I sounding redundant? :) The food looks amazing, but the earthenware - IMHO, beautiful in its simplicity and geometry - definitely not Pier 1. So what's the 411 on the beer and sake?

          3 Replies
          1. re: bulavinaka

            Hi bulavinaka,

            Thank you. Ah the Beer and Sake selection was the one small chink in their armor (but they just opened, so hopefully they expand it soon).

            They had a cool hand-written menu of Drinks, but only had 3 Sake: Kubota Manju (epic and great :), a mid-priced Sake (forgot the name, but will check later today), and a House Sake. Kubota will work just fine, but of course it's a bit on the pricey side. I'll post more info when I check my photos tonight. Thanks.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              Hi bulavinaka,

              I double-checked my photos and here's the Sake and Beer they sell:

              * Kubota Manju - always nice. :)
              * Shirakabegura
              * House Sake (Koshu)
              * Sapporo Draft

              They were asking all tables to give them suggestions for different beers and sake to carry, so I mentioned trying to get Koshihikari Echigo Beer and Take no Tsuyu (Yamagata Prefecture, Japan). If they get those two, then this place will be out of control! :)

              1. re: exilekiss

                You're out of control! Thanks for the current list and making those great suggestions! I've never tried Take no Tsuyu, but what a poignant name - it's on my must-try list now... Thanks again for the info and pushing some great suggestions.

            2. Thanks for the review! I'm so excited I'm putting out the call tonight to round up the crew to go!

              1 Reply
              1. re: jdwdeville

                Hi jdwdeville,

                Thanks. Please report back and let us know how it went. :)

              2. Thanks for another amazing review! I will definitely check out Torihei sometime soon.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Nicole

                  Hi Nicole,

                  Thank you. :) I look forward to your thoughts on the place. I personally can't wait to go back soon. :)

                2. Ummm.. address of this place???

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: AnnieMar

                    It's at the bottom of his review.

                  2. Adding updated Chow Place link.

                    -----
                    Torihei
                    1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

                    1. torihei is still in a 'pre-opening' phase, and from my understanding, still serving a partial menu as of last thursday. when i talked to the chef, he said that he wasn't sure when they would have an official grand opening as they're still training the staff. the kyoto-style oden is excellent and very distinctive, and the light broth truly does "taste of the sea," to use the cliche. as for the yakitori, it's good but not quite bincho-esque, at least not yet, but the restaurant has a lot of potential, a great pedigree, and the absolute right attitude in going about establishing itself in town.

                      i'd temper expectations a bit; just in case anyone comes away disappointed (although exile seems to love it as is already!) i'd give torihei a wide berth of leeway at least for now, as they've yet to "officially" open.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: rameniac

                        Hi rameniac,

                        Thanks for your report back. Actually from what the Manager said on my final visit before the report, they are and always have been "officially open," and are probably not going to expand the menu. They realize that there's too many logistical problems with serving Oden, Yakitori *and* trying to do Izakaya dishes. He said that they might expand the menu in 1/2 year or longer, or not at all at this point.

                        Yah, I definitely enjoy many of the items from Tomo-san (Yakitori Bincho) more, but it's pretty darn close with many items, and a few items I enjoyed just a touch more here. But overall, I'm just happy there's an excellent Yakitori and Oden Specialist in L.A. (^_~). It'll tide us over until Tomo-san is able to move and open up Yakitori Bincho again.

                        1. re: exilekiss

                          Great write-up as always exilekiss. Just curious as to what other restaurants you have reviewed have garnered a 9 rating or above? Keep up the good work!

                          1. re: LakerFan

                            Hi LakerFan,

                            Thank you. :) Let us know if you end up trying it.

                            Hm, other places with 9 or greater? I'll have to go back and check all my reviews (^_^;; but a few of them are:

                            1. Menya Kissou (Tokyo, Japan)
                            2. Ryugin (Tokyo, Japan)
                            3. Sushi Mizutani (Ginza, Tokyo, Japan)
                            4. Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)
                            5. Hyotei (Kyoto, Japan)
                            6. Yakitori Bincho (Redondo Beach, CA)
                            8. Providence (L.A., CA)

                            There are some others, but I'll have to dig through my reviews when I have a bit more time. Thanks. :)

                          2. re: exilekiss

                            exile, when i spoke with the chef, he said they'd only been open a few days, and there was in fact a signed taped to the door with the limited menu and "pre-open" disclaimers. i asked when they'd have a real grand opening, and it was then that he said they were still training. he admitted things could stand as they are, so you could conceivably look at it that way and consider the soft-opening over.

                            i'd prefer to leave them some room for improvement, especially since the service was a bit lacking (the waitress said she'd bring us tea, and then promptly forgot about it while we waited an extra 10 minutes at the end of the meal. it was no big deal really, but their ship could sail a bit tighter.)

                            irregardless, i do hope they'll eventually add a few more things to round out the menu; what they've got is good but i found myself wishing for a few more chicken parts and maybe another fish cake or two.

                            on that note, there was an item at the bottom of the Torihei menu: "wagamama (selfish) order" with an unspecified ??? price. apparently, what that means is that you can ask them to make you anything you want (assuming they have the ingredients on hand, and know how to make it!) i didn't try it, but if anyone does, give it a shot and report back!

                            some pics courtesy of my friend who was there the night before i went:
                            http://pbabida.smugmug.com/gallery/75...

                            his menu was actually different from mine... the "selfish order" had yet to be added, but it was definitely there the next day!

                            1. re: rameniac

                              Hi rameniac,

                              Oh, you must've gone a few days before I did. Thanks for the pictures, the menu I got had more items than that one.

                              In regards to service improvement, sorry to hear that they forgot your tea. :( I was lucky enough not to have run into that in my 2 visits, but I can see them having issues with only 1 waitress and 1 waiter/manager (no busboys). Like you, here's to hoping they only continue to improve each day. :)

                              Yah, a few more chicken parts would be good :), and if you get a chance try their Gyu-Tan and Tontoro Kushiyaki. It's SO good! I seriously want to go back right now.

                              I saw the "wagamama order" as well! I was curious, but couldn't think of anything for a special request so I held off. My friends couldn't think of anything at the time either, just happy to be getting the Kyoto-fu Oden and good Yakitori. If you try it out, let me know. I'll have to try this next time I go. :)

                              1. re: rameniac

                                The grand opening is in June....

                          3. nice write up!
                            will try for sure.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: modernist

                              Hi modernist,

                              Thanks. I hope you enjoy the visit with Masa-san and Sasaki-san. Let me know how it turns out. :)

                            2. EK, another great review; so much so that I went this wknd. And OMG, the flavours were out of this world! My three particular favourites are the chicken egg/salmon roe (hanjyuku tamago), the oil-roasted squid legs and the house-pickled squid legs. The oil-roasted squid legs were sooooooo good (particularly if you like the flavour of squid ink) that I wanted (but did not order) a small bowl of rice to finish the remaining squid sauce.... The light-handed brine of the house-picked squid legs was also sublime. We ended up ordering another to go so we could savour it at home. And for those who love runny eggs and salmon roe, WOW! The flavours are a match made in heaven; who would've thunk?

                              You mentioned a shichimi togarashi; this I'm familiar with. However, there was another spice on the table (san-something) which I encountered for the first time. It was green and had a slight citrus flavour. Having never had it, I was particularly pleased with the flavour it added to the various yakitori pieces.

                              And another note. On our house-made pickle dish (daikon, cucumber, rakkyo and carrot), the rakkyo (perhaps a recent addition) was nice and crisp and not too salty as I've found them in other places. What surprised me in this pickle quartet was that my favourites were (like you) the daikon and (unlike you) the carrot. The thing about carrots is that I don't particularly care for them in uncooked form; this, however, was an exception. I couldn't stop eating them, and there were only a few to be had.

                              OMG...thank you so much for putting this on the chow map! Though a bit of a drive from OC, it is certainly of our favourites now. I think I now have to plan a day in Torrance, to start off with lunch at Ichimian, kill a few hours and then head toward Torihei.... Thank you!

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: OCAnn

                                Wow - you're making me feel really sorry that I didn't put up with the front-end abuse my mom was going to dish out for taking her to an "unknown place," and now knowing that Torihei has some kick-ass ika dishes - my mom's achilles heel. We ended up going to Sanuki no Sato last night - she has finally become accustomed to this place and actually is able to enjoy it now.

                                I think the other spice/seasoning/herb mix you've mentioned is sansho. It's not nearly as well known here, but adds a nice bright accent to so many things. Glad you enjoyed it, and we hope to hit it in the next couple of weeks.

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  Why wasn't she able to enjoy SnS before?

                                  And thank you for identifying sansho. Now I can look it up to see exactly what it is.

                                  1. re: OCAnn

                                    My mom gets pretty set in her ways - it takes a lot of coaxing to have her try something out of her comfort zone, no matter how good it is. She was born, raised and pampered in a cozy comfortable neighborhood in the Old Country - how she made the great leap over here sometimes baffles me - I guess my dad was pretty hot stuff back then... "Too far!", "I don't like ______ food!" and "Too expensive!" are her typical complaints. She's 80, doesn't like to try new things, still thinks a meal should cost no more than $10, and only like a few cuisines (literally) and isn't willing to go further than 10-15 minutes for it. So when she calls us up to go out to eat, we often have frowny faces - unless we "make a wrong turn," and end up somewhere new. We're thinking of high-jacking her to Torihei - that's what we did when we first took her to Sanuki no Sato. You should have seen the stink she raised when we took her on a Saturday afternoon to Mei Long Village from the Westside!

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      Thank you for the insight; for a moment there, I thought the reason for your mother not being accustomed to SnS was in the restaurant itself (and am glad to hear that it's not).

                                      In any case, kidnap her one evening and make her eat the three different preparations of squid at Torihei. Hopefully, she'll be grateful and hold off on the monku. =)

                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                        Monku is her middle name... :)

                                  2. re: bulavinaka

                                    Hi bulavinaka,

                                    Perhaps it's time to "make a wrong turn" to Torihei soon? (^_~) If nothing else, I hope you get a chance to try it yourself and see how it is. :)

                                    1. re: exilekiss

                                      EK, yes - we're going. The exuberance in your post closely reminds me of your Yakitori Bincho post from last year. I missed that opportunity, but am still very high on Izakaya Bincho which is great and seems to be just as much a darling in slightly different clothes. We usually go to dinner early because of the kids, but also to dodge okaachan if we're going somewhere that might induce her to start shooting flack. But after reading your take on Torihei's ika dishes, and after OCAnn confirmed, okaachan will be ecstatic that we forced to out of her comfort zone.

                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                        Hi bulavinaka,

                                        Nice! :) I hope okaachan enjoys her meal there. Perhaps she'll also enjoy their Kyoto style Oden as well. (^_~)

                                  3. re: OCAnn

                                    Hi OCAnn,

                                    Doumo! :) I'm so glad you enjoyed your visit. Yes, the Hanjyuku Tamago is just... delicious! Creamy, flash-boiled Egg Yolk stuffed with Salmon Roe... definitely a winning combination. :) And the Ika Geso was delicious for us as well.

                                    Oh, did they finally get in the Sansho Pepper? :) Yes, that's another classic combination at Yakitori restaurants. Feel free to use either the Sansho or Togarashi Shichimi.

                                    Very nice that they added Rakkyo! :) Thanks for the info.

                                    Did you get a chance to try some of their Yakitori / Kushiyaki skewers, or only the Oden? Give those delicious skewers a try the next time you go. :)

                                    1. re: exilekiss

                                      Yes, we did try a few of their yakitori/kushiyaki: we had the thigh/momo, hearts, liver (?), wings/tebasaki, the whole squid and the pork-wrapped asparagus. We enjoyed EVERYTHING.

                                      Sometimes, when the flavours are too subtle, I don't get it--which means that it's a taste that I'm unfamiliar with, so my untrained palate doesn't appreciate the various subtleties. This was the case of the house-pickled squid. In one instance, I tasted yuzu; the next moment it was gone. So when we ordered it a second time, there it was: a little strip of yuzu skin nicely tied and placed on top. The flavour was there for a few pieces; not the entire dish. It tasted like magic.

                                      When I ordered the whole ika-yaki, I had in my mind, memories of ika-yaki you can buy from outside temples or festivals in Japan, most of which, IIRC, are not sweet. So while the slight sweetness caught me off guard, it wasn't over powering. It was cooked well and had a slight crunch; the sauce/tare kept it moist and flavourful. I really liked this dish too.

                                      I don't recall all the dishes we had, but another memorable one was the robata-yaki onigiri. The rice was very flavourful; I can't put my finger on the exact ingredient, but I loved the way the rice tasted.

                                      The chicken soup and the chicken skin ponzu were good too. All had, it came to $30/person including tax, tip & alcohol (shouchu). A very excellent--and affordable--meal.

                                      EDIT: My last trip to Japan was a dozen years ago, on a month-long professional exchange program. And while we were treated to excellent meals at various restaurants, one of my favourite memories is actually buying oden from 7-11! And Torihei surely beat that....

                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                        Hi OCAnn,

                                        Ah, so you got to try their Kushiyaki as well (nice)! :) I love their Momo (Chicken Thigh) and Hearts and Tebasaki (Wings), etc. :)

                                        Oh, so you've had Tokyo Konbini (Convenience Store)-fu (Style) Oden as well? (^_^) Yah, Torihei has that beat by a mile, but I'm so glad just to have an Oden Specialist where you can sit down and order these simple items and relax. :) Thanks again for your thoughts.

                                  4. I...

                                    I...

                                    I want to shake you until your eyeteeth rattle for those photos. It's 21.45 on a Sunday and I am hungry and this all looks ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS and as soon as I can convince my wife to trek to Torrance for Japanese food without the baby I will be there... and until then I'll be drooling. Those tsukune look OUTSTANDING.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      I'm curious as to whether it would be ok to bring your little one - we have two rug-rats that are older than yours, but still rug-rats, and we're planning on bringing them. Maybe we'll call and I'll post on the response.

                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        Hi Das,

                                        Hehehe. :) It was indeed VERY delicious. I know you'd love this place. Or if Das Ubergeeklette is quiet enough, maybe you can go right when the restaurant opens (to beat the dinner crowd)?

                                        Either way, I hope you get a chance to try this soon; I'd love to hear your thoughts on the place. :)

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          DU - kids are allowed. I almost ran over a rugrat as I walked in. Go early - we showed up at 1945 tonite, waited, and waited, and waited. After one hour, we had to blow - two kids and two seniors in our party were starting to pass out from starvation. We probably would have waited another 30-40 minutes before being seated. Torihei's yet to have their grand opening but they're already filled to the gills. 10 seats at the counter, probably another 24-26 seats at the adjacent tables. We'll try again soon, but don't let your munchkin stop you folks from going - he'll be more than welcomed.

                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            Hi bulavinaka,

                                            I'm so sad that you weren't able to try it this weekend. :( Doumo sumimasen, I should've mentioned that this place only seats 30 according to the sign posted and probably less than that given the generous spacing between tables.

                                            I'm glad to hear it's getting busy now (in this economy), and it's probably a good note to anyone to call ahead and reserve a table (or show up early or later). I hope you get a chance to try it sometime. :)

                                            1. re: exilekiss

                                              EK, it was our fault for starting so late. We usually attempt to get in the doors of an eatery by 6:30-7:00 at the latest. We had a larger group. Sitting so many in a place that I had assumed would be on the smaller side was a gamble at best when we rolled in close to prime time. I know how fast good word travels in the South Bay, between word-of-mouth and incomparable write-ups like yours. I was talking with a few folks as we were waiting, and some were associated with the staff, others heard from so and so, and sure enough, others had read about it on CH, i.e., you! :) We'll give it another go in the next week or two.

                                              Smelling the simmering oden as well as the yaki while waiting was torture. Watching folks pounding down all of this with sake poured from those iced bamboo tokkuri was criminal. ;)

                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                Hi bulavinaka,

                                                Wow, that was a lucky coincidence I suppose (about someone reading CH post (^_^;;...

                                                I look forward to your thoughts on this place soon hopefully. :)

                                          2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            Hi Das,

                                            I just remembered one interesting thing about my 4th - 6th visits:

                                            * Each time, there was a couple / family with a baby there dining away.

                                            Thankfully there was no crying or loud outbursts, but I just wanted to say that there didn't seem to be any issues with bringing a kid to Torihei. :)

                                            Hopefully you'll be able to try out some of the Oden and Yakitori menu soon. Would love to hear your thoughts. :)

                                          3. i've been a huge fan of your blog and usually go to most places that you mention, so i hit this place up on saturday since i live so dang close.

                                            sadly, the kitchen was kinda broken so it took FOREVER to get any skewers... but to be fair we were warned about that before we signed up to be seated.

                                            the prices were damn good. most yakitori items were $1.80, with the second tier items being $2.30. my friend and i got out of there spending $19 each after tax and tip, without alcohol. that's a damn good deal, as our adventures to shin yakitori with more friends usually comes out to $50+ which is outrageous for chicken skewers.

                                            the gobou / burdock root was really good for being so simple. the broth tasted like the good udon broth at sanuki no sato, but without the trailing kick that they usually have which is good for their vegetables.

                                            for yakitori, the momo (thigh) was awesome and excellently seasoned, perfectly cooked and juicy. my favorite item had to be the chicken hearts, i don't know what they did to them but they were just melt in your mouth and juicy and delicious in every way. they were also free, sent by the owner because they lost some of my order and because it was slooooooooooooow, and free always tastes better.

                                            tsukune was good but it wasn't zomg good, my okinawan friend said "it's hard to mess it up anyway." it had a nice crisp exterior though, different from the tsukune i usually have. the gyutan (beef tongue) was good but not great; for me the standard of excellence is the snake river wagyu gyutan at tama-en. the fatty pork was very good and apparently i got the last one of the day, which sucked because i wanted more.

                                            i definitely wanna come back when their kitchen actually works and try more oden dishes as well. it's definitely worth it for the momo and chicken hearts. i could probably eat just those two for the entire night.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: kainzero

                                              Hi kainzero,

                                              Thank you so much; you're too kind. :)

                                              Sorry to hear the kitchen had some equipment malfunctions. Hopefully that was fixed with the start of this new week. But I'm glad Masa-san took care of you for the inconvenience.

                                              Great point on the prices - Yah, $19 per person (including tax and tip) is an absolute bargain for the quality you're getting. :)

                                              I love their Hatsu (Hearts) as well! :) And the Momo... Thanks for the info on the Gyutan at Tama-en (I've been meaning to try that place :).

                                              If you like Hanjyuku (Flash-Boiled) Eggs, give their Hanjyuku Tamago a try... so creamy and delicious! :)

                                            2. rolled in last night wtih two friends. we got more or less one of almost everything we wanted to try. rolled out completely stuffed with a pitcher of beer for 30pp.
                                              nice recommendation!

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: modernist

                                                Hi modernist,

                                                Nice! :) I'm so glad you liked it. :) What were some of your favorite items?

                                                1. re: exilekiss

                                                  well the most interesting thing was the hanpen, which i had never had in such a fluffy cloudlike form before.

                                                  all the yakitori was great. well seasoned, good texture. i liked the chicken meatballs with little bits of cartilige in it. mmm. now i'm getting hungry again.

                                                  have you been to shin, the okinawan izakaya? (not the yakitori shin) i'm going there next.

                                                  1. re: modernist

                                                    Hi modernist,

                                                    Thanks for the thoughts on the Hanpen (it was the one Oden item we didn't order because one of the guests didn't like it). I'll definitely have to get the Hanpen next time. :)

                                                    Shin? Hai. I've been there before. It's hit or miss - some items you should stay far away from (e.g., stay away from their Okinawa Soba, Tempura), but there are specific items that are just very good, such as their So-ki Buni (Simmered Pork Spareribs - wow! I miss those), their Rafutei (Simmered Pork Belly) was pretty good. Pictures and more thoughts here:

                                                    http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2008/10...

                                              2. Stopped here tonight, fantastic.The chicken meatballs, special heart, skin,thigh, oden with egg, and a little shochu. Brilliant, EK. I just happened to be in the area, and will be going back.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                  Hi streetgourmetla,

                                                  Very nice! :) Thanks for the report back. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Give their Tontoro (Pork) a try next time and the Beef Tongue. :)

                                                2. I went there last night, and everything we ate was very good. My personal favorites were probably the egg with cod roe, the chicken meatballs in broth, the fatty pork, the whole squid, and the okra wrapped in pork. We also enjoyed the special chicken hearts, fish cake, beef tongue, yakitori meatballs, and shortrib. We are eager to continue exploring the menu!

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Nicole

                                                    Hi Nicole,

                                                    Very nice! Glad to hear your dinner was a success. The Okra wrapped with Pork wasn't on the menu when I went (nice to see they added that). Thanks. :)

                                                    1. re: exilekiss

                                                      Yes, thanks again for the rec. Actually, there were several things on the menu marked "new!" which I thought was funny for such a new place, but I guess that is to guide people like you who have already tried much of the menu. :)

                                                      1. re: Nicole

                                                        Hi Nicole,

                                                        Very nice. I'll definitely keep my eye out for the new items on the menu. Thanks.

                                                    2. re: Nicole

                                                      Mmmmm...I love that chicken egg/salmon roe dish!

                                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                                        That was my very favorite too! I want to try new things next time, but I will order that dish every time.

                                                    3. Man this cold windy weather gives me a craving for oden. I guess since I work just up the street I should go check this place out. :)

                                                      Great review as always and special thanks for reviewing all the wonderful restaurants so close to where I work!!!

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: huaqiao

                                                        Hi huaqiao,

                                                        Thank you. :) Definitely this is the perfect weather for their heart-warming Oden. Please report back if you end up going; I hope you enjoy it. :)

                                                        1. re: exilekiss

                                                          So I dropped by tonight and had a great meal. My only experience with oden is from night markets in Taiwan so I really can't compare it to anything, but everything was really delicious.

                                                          Anyway, what I had:

                                                          From the yakitori menu, I got thigh, meatball, liver, special heart, wing, cartilage, and beef tongue. From the oden menu, I got the daikon, hanjyuku egg, hanpen, mochikin, and rolled cabbage. Then I had a yaki-onigiri to finish up. I think that's all I had, but I might have missed something. I over-ordered because I wanted to try stuff out and it still came to only $35 with tax and tip.

                                                          My yakitori tastebuds aren't refined enough to do subtle comparisons between the best places, but the stuff here definitely falls into my top tier of "really really good yakitori".

                                                          One interesting thing about the oden is the rolled cabbage came out with pureed tomato on top. Very unexpected and the first thing that popped into my head was a Eastern European style stuffed cabbage. One bite, though, and you can taste the delicate chicken inside. Once you finish the cabbage, the tomato mixes into the dashi and it becomes a very light Japanese-style tomato soup. Talk about your comfort foods!

                                                          I showed up at 5:30pm when they opened and I was the only person there until I left around 6:30pm when a couple came in. This is one of those places where I wish more people would come enjoy the food, but I know that once they get popular, the place is going to fill up quickly and you'll have a long wait for a table. Lucky for me I live so close so I can hit it up on weekend nights.

                                                          Since I was the only one there, they asked me how I heard about them. I told them I saw a great review on the internet and had to try it out. When they asked me if the review said good things, I pulled up exilekiss' superlative review on my iPhone and the guy showed it to the people working there and they were all very thrilled.

                                                          The lady that was there(Chieko?) chatted with me a bit and told me they were still working on expanding the menu. On my visit, I saw stuff on the menus that other people haven't mentioned yet. They had some sashimi and a few other of the special higher-priced items(higher-priced meaning more than $3!). I only remember a garlic in foil dish, but there were others. Chieko highly recommended that I try the deep fried catilage next time and I definitely plan to. As I was finishing my meal, they were working on a new dessert in the kitchen. A homemade Japanese flan with fresh fruit, whipped cream, and toasted almonds. They asked me to try a serving and who am I to refuse?! It was yummy as expected.

                                                          As exilekiss took pains to note in his review, this is oden and you shouldn't come in with the wrong expectations. To me, this is great Japanese comfort food, simple and delicate. If American comfort food is like a fur stole(thick and luxurious), this type of comfort food is more like a pashmina. It's something to admire for its lightness and delicacy.

                                                          Anyway, long story short, another fantastic unique Japanese restaurant in an area already packed with great Japanese food. The food is tasty and authentic and the price is really quite reasonable. Since I work so close by, I plan to drop by here quite often.

                                                          1. re: huaqiao

                                                            Nice addendum to EK's write-up! I don't think Torihei will have a problem filling up. I was foolishly there last saturday night with a larger group with no reservation and waited over an hour before giving up. We knew it would be at least another 40 minutes before we even got seated. We left at around 9PM and there were still a lot of folks waiting for a seat. I think a few posters mentioned that Torihei still isn't "open" yet. They're still working out the kinks, the menu items, etc., so you will be our constant eyes, ears, and tastebuds on the goings-on here, as well as CH's ombudsman, okay?

                                                            1. re: huaqiao

                                                              Hi huaqiao,

                                                              Nice report back! :) I'm so glad you enjoyed your dinner there. :)

                                                              The Deep-fried Cartilage is pretty good there, but I like Izakaya Bincho's version better. I'll have to try the homemade Japanese Flan (thanks for the thoughts on that). :)

                                                        2. Funny thing.. I was at Musha having a wonderful meal and once I was finished, I saw this place called Torihei across the parking lot. They were apparently scheduled to have their grand opening in a few days. As a foodie I was intrigued to find out what kind of place this could be. Grabbing a business card sitting on the door, I was told by a friend that Torihei has a counterpart in Japan in the prestigious Ginza district. This aroused my curiosity even further.

                                                          A day or two after the grand opening I came by to try out their dishes. To my surprise there were people lined out the door. I guess they must have advertised big time to get this many people the first two days after the grand opening. I didn't feel like waiting so I decided to come by a couple of days later for early dinner. Luckily there was no waiting.

                                                          I ordered a wide variety of items from the Yakitori to their Oden and some fresh Sashimi dishes. Now let me tell you that I have had some of the best Yakitori out there but they had the freshest chicken I have ever tasted. Their chicken livers were the creamiest I have ever had and their chicken breast was incredibly juicy. My current favorite Yakitori place is called Torimastu, but this place beats them hands down in freshness. However Torimastu still has a significant advantage in their taro or sauce used in Yakitori.

                                                          The second area of expertise is their Oden. Oden is like a Japanese stewed dish typically eaten in Japan as comfort food. This type of fare is not commonly served in Japanese restaurants in the states. Torihei serves their Oden Kyoto style and I was surprised how they had elevated this common mans food into something cutting edge. Trying their "half raw egg with cod" was amazing. The flavor combination of the dashi (soup broth) and the semi-boiled egg topped with the saltiness of the cod eggs is something any foodie should not miss. Even their common items like white radish or dikon was elevated to a new level..

                                                          Finally their fresh fish department. I tried their "chopped raw tuna w/seaweed". This dish is like a tuna tar tar topped with a raw quail egg. Mixing the egg in yourself, the seasonings used were amazingly flavorful. The nori (dried seaweed) used as the conveyance for the tuna was disappointing. The seaweed combination completely detracted from the subtle flavors of the tuna and was a complete disaster. If they had used crispy fried wonton skin instead of the nori, this dish would have been a perfect 10.

                                                          Finally for desert, I decided with the basic "chocolate parfait". It was a fine desert rounding off a fine meal. The only thing standing in the way of a perfect 5 star meal was the tuna dish (so basically just eat the tuna without the seaweed).

                                                          Overall I would recommend this place to all my friends, taking food to the next level. For everyone else, its a place you Must try at least once to experience the freshness of their chicken and uniqueness of their oden dishes. You bet I'm going back!

                                                          Decor: 4 Stars (classic Japanese tavern)
                                                          Service: 5 Stars (self explanatory)
                                                          Atmosphere: 5 Stars (the interaction of people, staff, surroundings)
                                                          Food Quality: 5 Stars (amazing freshness)
                                                          Quantity of Food: 3 Stars (somewhere you will not be going to pig out)
                                                          Price: 4 Stars (The cost of food in relation to what you get)

                                                          For a Grand Total of 4 Stars.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: SteveBr

                                                            I understood their grand opening to be in June...maybe June 30.

                                                            1. re: OCAnn

                                                              Hi OCAnn,

                                                              Actually, they moved it up to April 15.

                                                              1. re: exilekiss

                                                                =(

                                                            2. re: SteveBr

                                                              Hi SteveBr,

                                                              Glad to hear you enjoyed your visit to Torihei as well! :) I love this place. And as you said, the Chicken Liver Skewers are *so* creamy. :) I enjoy this place more than Torimatsu as well.

                                                              Part of what makes their Chicken so delicious is that they use only Jidori (All Natural, Free Range) Chicken.

                                                              If you haven't tried it yet, give their humble Hanpen from their Oden Menu a try. :)

                                                            3. Hi All,

                                                              Here's a report on my 4th, 5th and 6th visits and Torihei's new, expanded Menu(!).

                                                              *** Dreamy Fish Cake and Juicy Japanese Fried Chicken! A Return to the Amazing Kyoto-style Oden Specialist and Yakitori Master Torihei ***

                                                              (Formatted with All Pictures here:
                                                              http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2009/04...

                                                              While it had only been a few weeks since my last visit to Torihei, various circumstances resulted in me returning for a fourth, fifth and sixth visit. :) As So Cal's new Kyoto-style Oden (Variety of Items Stewed in a Dashi Broth) and Yakitori (Roasted Chicken Skewers) Specialist, Torihei has expanded their menu since their debut last month.

                                                              Sitting down for an early dinner, the first thing I notice on my fourth visit is the expanded Sake drink menu. Originally, Torihei only had 3 brands of Sake on their menu, but they've expanded and added a few new brands, including my all-time favorite Sake: Takeno Tsuyu ("Dew of the Bamboo") Junmai Sake from Yamagata Prefecture, Japan! (Note that this is only the 2nd Japanese restaurant in So Cal that I've found that serves this silky smooth, clean finish Sake.) Torihei has just significantly improved with this addition alone. (^_~)

                                                              In addition, they've added a special Takejoka Sake Service, where they serve the Sake of your choice in their own homegrown(!) Bamboo. Chef Masataka Hirai decided to utilize some of the Bamboo growing in their garden and fashioned them into serving devices for the Sake. :)

                                                              While initially they had some nicely presented Shichimi Togarashi (a condiment of seven different ingredients that is a classic pairing with Yakitori skewers), they also added another classic condiment: Sansho Pepper, but unlike the more commonly found variety, Torihei found a rarer, premium quality Sansho and the difference is amazing. Super-refined, powdered Sansho Pepper gives off a lush, herbal and citrus fragrance, and an engaging numbing effect to the tongue! :)

                                                              For those new to Yakitori cuisine, feel free to add a little bit of Sansho Pepper or Shichimi Togarashi (the red-colored pepper) to your skewers.

                                                              We start off with something from Chef Masa's side of the menu: Gyu-tan (Beef Tongue) Skewers, roasted over their Binchotan charcoal. This was a bit too thick cut for my tastes, and thicker than my first few visits. Fortunately by the fifth and sixth visits, the Gyu-tan cut has been back to normal again (thinner and easier to eat). It's been perfectly roasted each of my visits, with a good juicy interior and nice, light smokiness.

                                                              The first item from Chef Masakazu Sasaki (Torihei's Oden Chef) is their Hanpen (Hanpen Fish Cake), a made-from-scratch, wondrous creation. Taking the first bite, it's *so* light and airy, fluffy and truly like eating a cloud or a dream, if dreams could be made physical. (^_^) It was *that* good! And of course, it's served with their housemade Oden Broth (made from Konbu (Kelp), Katsuoboshi (Dried Bonito) and special Shoyu (Soy Sauce)), which is just as soul-warming and light and delicate as my first three visits.

                                                              We try a new item next: Nankotsu Karaage (Fried Chicken Cartilage), made with Jidori (Natural, Free Range Chicken), as all their Chicken dishes are, which is a nice touch. :) Like their Yakitori version, they serve a Yagen Nankotsu (Chicken Cartilage from the Chicken Breast area, instead of the Leg and Thigh portion). It has a nice, extremely crunchy exterior, and a good, peppery inflection with each piece, but it's a touch salty, and overall, their Yakitori version (Roasted) is better.

                                                              Next up, we try their Jidori no Karaage (Fried Jidori Chicken). It's a very good version, juicy and tender and moist, with a nice crunchy exterior. (More on this later.)

                                                              The Okura Maki (Okra wrapped with Pork) arrives next. The Okra is cooked just right, but if there's one complaint about the dish, it's that there's not enough Pork Belly. :) In the 3-4 times I've ordered this dish, each of my guests have said the same thing. It's still delicious and allows the Okra to shine, but it feels just a little too meager.

                                                              From their Oden menu, the Ro-ru Kyabetsu (Rolled Cabbage) arrives next. Like most Oden, it's simple fare, and Chef Sasaki takes fresh Cabbage and poaches it in the homemade Oden Broth to soften it, before rolling it into cylinders and finishing it off with some Tomato Paste and Parsley while steeping in the Oden Broth. It's lightly tart and sweet from the Tomato Paste, but mellowed out with the Cabbage base and Oden broth. It's decent, but not something I'd order again.

                                                              From their cooked dishes menu, we try the Torotoro Tamago no Oyakodon (Chicken and Eggs on Rice Ball, served with Soup).

                                                              This is a classic Japanese comfort food dish, and Torihei's version is simply wonderful: Extremely tender, succulent pieces of Jidori Chicken, mixed with a lightly poached / scrambled Egg with their housemade Tare Sauce atop steaming Rice. :) Delicious.

                                                              For my fifth visit, I was honored to meet up with my 'dachi Noah and some more of the amazing Man Bites World crew: Mr. Meatball, "Danielle" and Dara-chan of Man Bites World's Iran Day's fame, and a few more guests as well. When we arrived, there was a waiting list with people lining up out the door. We quickly got seated and ordered up some of the legendary Takeno Tsuyu Junmai Sake to kick off the evening just right. (^_~)

                                                              The first item to arrive is a new menu item: Jikasei Ika no Shiokara (Homemade Squid Guts Pickled in Salt). With the Man Bites World crew in the house, it's no surprise that this would be one of the first items to be ordered. (^_~)

                                                              The striking color of this dish comes from the combination of fresh Ika Wata (Squid Innards) combined with Sea Salt and Togarashi (Red Chili Pepper). The result is an intensely briny, pungent aroma and taste that is at once shocking, powerful and, if you get used to it, delicious. We got mixed reactions from everyone on this dish (some loved it, some, not so much :).

                                                              The Daikon (White Radish) from the Oden menu is the first dish to arrive from Sasaki-san. It's just as amazing in its simplicity and masterful execution as my first few visits. While it is humble, simple food, it is offset by the soulful purity of the amazing Oden Broth which permeates every bite.

                                                              And like before, Torihei's Mochi Kinchaku (Mochikin Rice Cake) is beautifully presented and a hit with the table. :) The melting, oozing silkiness of the fresh Mochi Rice Cake that's stuffed in the center of the Aburaage (Deep Fried Tofu) (and cutely tied together as before :) is light and understated (in a good way), allowing one to further enjoy the wonderful Oden Broth.

                                                              More dishes arrive, and the made-from-scratch Hanpen (Hanpen Fish Cake) is just as dreamy and airy as before. It's nothing like the dense, chewier manufactured versions, and brings a smile to everyone's face. :)

                                                              A few items from the Yakitori & Kushiyaki menu arrive with similar consistent results: The Gyu-tan (Beef Tongue) skewers have improved, actually, and the Sunagimo (Jidori Chicken Gizzards) are also moist and tender. Excellent!

                                                              And then the biggest hit of the night arrived: Jidori no Karaage (Fried Jidori (All Natural, Free Range) Chicken). Visually, it looked simple enough, but taking a bite, this dish elicited hushed exultations from around the table, and caused Mr. Meatball to grab me by the shoulder and proclaim that he could eat a bucketful of this amazing Japanese Fried Chicken! (^_^)

                                                              Of the 3 times I've ordered this dish, 2 times have been very good, but tonight the execution was truly *flawless*: A nice crispy crust; super-fresh, clean, moist and very juicy, all natural Chicken within. This was truly amazing! (^_^)

                                                              The next dish raised some eyebrows and understandably so: Shaolonbao (Xiao Long Bao). I realize we were probably setting ourselves up for disappointment ordering a traditional Chinese dish in a Japanese restaurant, but we were curious as to what this would turn out to be.

                                                              Torihei's Xiao Long Bao turns out to be nothing like the real version, unfortunately. They are basic Wontons in a modified version of their Oden Broth with Sesame Oil and ample amounts of Negi (Green Onions). When I ask about why this came to be on the menu, our server mentions that there's a large Chinese community in the South Bay, so the kitchen is trying to cater a little bit to them. It's not something I'd order again, as there are much better executions of real Xiao Long Bao and Wonton Soups around town.

                                                              The next dish is another curious dish: Jidori no Nanban Tarutaru So-su (Special Fried "Jidori" Chicken with Tartar Sauce). Unfortunately, this is another odd dish that doesn't quite work out (but fortunately, this and the XLBs were the only two that disappointed this evening). Torihei takes their Jidori Chicken and fries it up in Katsu form. They top it with a housemade Tartar Sauce, and the result is not so good: Tartar Sauce is just one of those flavors that is made for Fish. On the Chicken, it's just out-of-place.

                                                              More skewers from the Yakitori menu arrive at this point with the Momo (Chicken Thigh) and Lebaa (Chicken Liver) being the essence of tender and juicy. Chef Masa seems to be settling into the new restaurant more and more, as the Chicken Thigh tasted even more deftly executed, being moist and tender with a hint of smokiness from the Binchotan, but also having a nice exterior without any charring.

                                                              The Miso Chikuwabu (listed on their English menu as Miso Chikuwabu :) is another new item recently added to their menu. Chef Sasaki takes a star-shaped Chikuwa (a Fish Cake made of Surimi (Fish Puree), Egg and basic seasonings) and adds a blended Miso Paste which creates an interesting Fish Cake and Peanut combination.

                                                              The next item to arrive is their Washugyu (Special Beef Skewer), using American Kobe Beef. While the Beef is more tender than if they used a standard cut, it's a bit overcooked (it was about medium-well for doneness), so it's tender, but much of the fat has been cooked out, so it's not as buttery as it should be.

                                                              Another new item is their Sasami Mentaiko (Jidori Chicken Breast with Seasoned Cod Roe). Masa-san shows off his deft grilling skills presenting Chicken Breast that isn't overly dry (like most Sasami skewers around town), still juicy and topped brilliantly with Mentaiko (Spicy Cod Roe) and a bit of fresh Shiso Leaf on top. The light spicy brininess of the Cod Roe and the floral, spring-like aromas of Shiso match well with the Jidori Chicken itself. Very nice. :)

                                                              The next dish is another big hit with everyone: Marugoto Tomato (Whole Stewed Tomato) from the Oden menu.

                                                              Like the first time I ordered this dish, Sasaki-san presents a perfectly cooked-through, stewed whole Tomato, topping it with Mashed Potato Puree and Soy Milk in the freshly-made Oden Broth. The result is a lush, satisfying Tomato dish. We were fighting over the remaining broth - wonderful, buttery goodness - as it was that good. :)

                                                              While working in Yokohama, Japan, Sasaki-san was also trained as a Sushi Chef. He's taken that love for fish and added a few items on the menu, including this evening's special: Saamon Toro Sashimi (Fatty Salmon Belly) from Norway.

                                                              The execution was surprisingly good: No gristle / connective tissue, a very buttery, creamy quality with a pointed, salty, inherent Salmon flavor. It's fresh, but not overnighted-from-Norway-fresh. It's enjoyable, but not something I'd go out of my way to order again.

                                                              Their Torihei Ramen (Torihei Special Ramen) is a dish that I'm too curious to pass up. :) According to Masa-san, this dish originated at their original Torihei restaurant back in Yokohama, Japan. It became so popular over there that they decided to give it a try here in the U.S. and have added it to the menu.

                                                              Torihei makes their Ramen Broth with Jidori Chicken and Torigara (Chicken Bones) with a few other spices and cooks it for hours before serving. They use no Pork nor any Fish, surprisingly. They add a little bit of MSG, unfortunately, which undermines their efforts. They use a straighter, white noodle for the Ramen instead of the ubiquitous yellow, curly noodle, and this straighter noodle matches the broth nicely.

                                                              But the biggest surprise is their Chashu: Traditionally Pork Slices, Torihei's is made with Jidori Chicken! The Chicken Chashu is delicious: Fresh and succulent, this is the highlight of the Ramen.

                                                              Overall, it was an excellent evening, topped with some ridiculous Man Bites World duets next door at the South Bay's hottest Karaoke, but that's a story for another day. :)

                                                              For my sixth visit, I met up with Jotaru to try some more of the new items on the menu (and some old favorites to see how consistent it's been). We begin with Bonjiri (Chicken Tail) which usually sells out fast at Torihei.

                                                              It's perfectly cooked: A nice, crisp exterior giving way to decadent fatty, juicy goodness. :) Delicious.

                                                              The Wakame (Seaweed) from the Oden menu arrives next.

                                                              Another simple dish that's flawlessly executed: Soft, thin strips of Wakame are marinated in the Oden Broth, served with a touch of Sesame Oil and Sesame Seeds and Green Onions. This is clean, light, fragrant food; just wonderful. :)

                                                              The Burikama no Nitsuke (Simmered Yellowtail) arrives next. The adult Yellowtail Collar portion of the fish is stewed for hours in Chef Masa's recipe of a dark Shoyu (Soy Sauce), Mirin and blended spices.

                                                              It's one of the boldest, strongest flavored dishes on the menu: Sweet, Salty (a touch too much, but perfect with some Steamed Rice), an enticing Ocean aroma, and the Yellowtail meat is still tender (not overcooked).

                                                              Their Ninniku Oiru Yaki (Garlic Wrapped in Foil) arrives next. This is just simple goodness: Cloves of Garlic are roasted in Sesame Oil until tender, and it's the perfect complement and snack for Garlic Lovers. :) Beautifully fragrant from the Garlic, as well as the Sesame Oil.

                                                              Torihei has also added 4 different types of Ochazuke (a Liquidy Rice Dish made with Tea and different toppings) to the menu. We decide to try their Jikasei Ika Shiokara Ochazuke (Rice & Squid in Oden Soup and Green Tea).

                                                              The beauty of their Ochazuke is that they use a blend of a good quality Houjicha (Roasted Japanese Green Tea) and their amazing, made-from-scratch Oden Broth as the base with the Rice itself. With a good base, the Ika Shiokara (Squid and Squid Guts) topping is nicely diluted and blended into something milder and still very flavorful. It's not as potent, nor pungent as before (with the standalone Ika Shiokara dish), and it's a good way to end the evening. :)

                                                              For those wanting to try a milder version of Ochazuke, Torihei also offers a Jikasei Okaka (Finely-minced Dried Bonito), Gyusuji (Beef Collagen) and Kaisen (Seafood) versions.

                                                              Their Honetsuki Karubi (Beef Short Ribs) from their Robata-yaki portion of the menu arrives next. This is essentially an open-grilled version of Karubi (or Galbi) Short Ribs, and there's a good clean, meatiness with each bite. The Beef Short Ribs have a sweet sauce that's made in the spirit of a good Korean BBQ marinade, and the overall execution is great.

                                                              We finish off dinner with their Buran Manjie-fu Annin Tofu (Blanc-Manger aux Amandes "Annin-Tofu").

                                                              Sasaki-san makes a made-from-scratch Almond Tofu dessert that is decadent but not heavy, smooth and silky. Topped with Coconut Milk, fresh Strawberries, Lychee and Oranges, it's delicious! (^_^)

                                                              While Torihei has added an additional waitress and an additional assistant in the kitchen (to compensate for the booming business), service is still a little uneven. It's not that the servers are bad - they are quite the opposite, being really friendly and always welcoming and earnest - they are just overwhelmed when they run at full capacity (in these last 3 visits, Torihei has been at 100% capacity, and with only 3 servers and no busboys, it can be tough at times to get refills on Tea or other needs, etc.). Still, the staff and the chefs are always eager to please and warm and cordial.

                                                              Prices range from $1.80 - $5.25 (Whole Squid) on the Yakitori Menu, and $1.95 - $2.80 for the Kyoto-style Oden Menu. Their cooked dishes menu ranges from $1.95 - $7.95.

                                                              Torihei continues to improve and expand upon their foundation of Kyoto-style Oden and Yakitori / Kushiyaki Skewers. With Chef-Owner Masataka Hirai's grilling techniques only improving as time goes by, Torihei is easily my favorite Yakitori (Roasted Chicken Skewers) restaurant in So Cal, delivering juicy, top-notch skewers. It still doesn't reach the level of Tomo-san at Yakitori Bincho, but until they come back, I'm happy to have Torihei as a destination. :)

                                                              And what never ceases to amaze me is that that's only *half* of what makes Torihei so great. Chef Sasaki's Kyoto-style Oden Menu is humble, simplistic, soul-warming food. Down-to-earth and oh so good! Add to that some juicy, outstanding Jidori no Karaage (Fried Jidori Chicken) and homemade Almond Tofu, and the wonderful Takeno Tsuyu Sake, and Torihei is a truly delightful way to enjoy the evening. :)

                                                              *** Rating: 9.0 (out of 10.0) ***

                                                              Torihei
                                                              1757 W. Carson Street, #A
                                                              Torrance, CA 90501
                                                              Tel: (310) 781-9407
                                                              (Reservations recommended.)

                                                              Hours: 7 Days A Week, 5:30 p.m. - 12:00 a.m. Midnight (Last Order @ 11:00 p.m.).

                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: exilekiss

                                                                Mmm...must go back!!! I absolutely adore their shiokara/house pickled squid. Last visit I had to order an extra to go. I love your reviews; always compelling!

                                                                1. re: OCAnn

                                                                  Hi OCAnn,

                                                                  Thanks. :) I'm glad you enjoyed the Ika Shiokara - it's a potent, but compelling dish. (^_~) I hope you enjoy your 2nd visit.

                                                                2. re: exilekiss

                                                                  Attaching more pics from the 4th - 6th visits. For all remaining pics see the Link in the April 26 post above. Thanks.

                                                                   
                                                                   
                                                                   
                                                                   
                                                                  1. re: exilekiss

                                                                    OK, the chicken tail put me over the top. I must leave my OC nest and travel to the South Bay.

                                                                    1. re: JAB

                                                                      Hi JAB,

                                                                      Nice! :) Let me know how your visit goes. Their Bonjiri is definitely delicious! :) (Be sure to order some Takeno Tsuyu Sake as well. :)

                                                                  2. re: exilekiss

                                                                    This meal (and the karaoke that followed) was absolutely incredible. Thanks for being such an amazingly gracious host!

                                                                    1. re: mollyomormon

                                                                      Hi mollyomormon,

                                                                      Very glad to hear you enjoyed the dinner! :) It was a blast. :)

                                                                  3. How do you think this place compares to the likes of Nanbankan, Sakura House, and the OLD Yakitori Bincho?

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: banquisha

                                                                      Hi banquisha,

                                                                      I enjoy Yakitori Bincho more than Torihei, but until Tomo-san can move to a new location, Torihei's easily my favorite in So Cal. :) I like Torihei more than Sakura House for sure - the quality of execution of the Yakitori / Kushiyaki from Chef Masa (at Torihei) is top-notch. Nanbankan... I think I was taken there once years ago, but it's been a while so I can't say for sure.

                                                                      Please report back if you end up trying it out. :)

                                                                    2. exilekiss - i finally made it to torihei! great discovery, totally worth it!

                                                                      here's my review: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/635024

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                                        Hi Lau,

                                                                        I'm so glad you finally were able to visit Torihei on your latest LA visit! :) Isn't it delicious? :)

                                                                        I just went back to introduce a good tomodachi of mine to this restaurant, and as of a few days ago, it's still *so* delicious! :)

                                                                        Their Jidori Karaage (Free Range, Natural Fried Chicken) was outstanding again.

                                                                        Their Kyoto-style Oden... the Hanpen (Homemade Fish Cake) was still so light and airy. The Daikon Radish... the Broth... :).

                                                                        1. re: exilekiss

                                                                          yeah really great place...quality is excellent

                                                                          i always drag my mom and grandmother to random restaurants to try and they both agreed this was one of the best that i've taken them too...this was one of those times when i probably had high expectations and those expectations were met, which is usually not the case, so i was very pleased

                                                                      2. exilekiss -- Thanks for your very detailed write-up of Torihei. We were just about to walk into Musha across the parking lot when I remembered your great review of Torihei.
                                                                        We immediately did a 180 and took the last two seats at the Torihei bar. What a wonderful dinner we enjoyed here! I am glad to see how busy they are!

                                                                        One question for anyone with an answer: what is the green powder (spice) on the counter with the other seasonings? It smells like a "cousin" to cardamom. It appears green in the container. It is a very fine powder. When it hit my tongue, the back turned completely numb; although it was not painful, it remained numb for much of the evening. What is this spice?

                                                                        I asked our server and the chefs, but no one could tell me in English. Perhaps a Hound knows? -- thanks!

                                                                        34 Replies
                                                                        1. re: liu

                                                                          Hi Liu, I am guessing what you had was sansho. The fresh stuff is very aromatic - small leaves that look like Chinese Elm. It is used fresh in Japanese cuisines - soups, chirashizushi. Typically, one puts a small sprig in the palm of the hand and slaps it with the other to release the essential oils, then place it as a garnish.

                                                                          The powder is different - the smell of the essential oils isn't so prevalent - it's more spicy - I think it's a combination of the dried leaves and berries, which is basically the Sichuan pepper berry; thus, the numbing effect.

                                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                            THANKS, bulavinaka! I so appreciate your response and all the information.

                                                                            Yes, it sounds exactly like what you have described. One of our home pepper mills is filled with Sichuan pepper berries, and I believe you hit the target. There did seem to be some Sichuan pepper in the mix! Maybe it was the Sichuan pepper that reminded me of cardamom.

                                                                            Is the sansho leaf related to the shiso leaf that is used in sushi bars? Is the shiso leaf ever powdered in this manner for a sprinkle-on seasoning?

                                                                            Also, might I find sansho mixed with salt as a tempura dipping seasoning? I have been to tempura bars that have various dipping salts, although I don't remember such a mix.

                                                                            1. re: liu

                                                                              Shiso is more like a Japanese equivalent of basil. It's a relatively small plant like basil. I personally haven't seen shiso in a powdered form. When not consumed fresh, it usually seems more prevalent in a seasoning role (the red/purple variety) with things like umeboshi.

                                                                              Sansho is actually from a shrub/tree. The branches are very thorny and the leaves are about the size of your avatar. I don't know if you're familiar with Chinese Elm, but that it was the shape and size of sansho reminds me of. I don't know why, but fresh sansho seems to be very hard to find here in LA. It grows here no problem - my parents have a shrub in their backyard.

                                                                              I'm not positive, but I think sansho might be used as you describe, but more so with yaki. I seem to tie this together with yakitori-like things. But I can easily see this being mixed with fine salt granules and being sprinkled on tempura.

                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                Sansho is Sichuan pepper -- Zanthoxylum piperitum. The young leaves are normally called kinome, but I've never seen them powdered and certainly never seen them fresh in the U.S.

                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                  Thanks, Das, for making this connection and for adding info about its availability.

                                                                                  So, I have had no trouble finding Sichuan peppers, but you are saying that I would not be able to find the powdered leaves as a seasoning. Do you think I had the powdered leaves at Torihei or do you think it was just very finely ground Sichuan peppercorns? Might it have been a combination of the two?

                                                                                  Is the powdered leaf a spice that might be commonly used in Japan or are they using the ground peppercorn?

                                                                                  1. re: liu

                                                                                    I've never seen the powder. That doesn't mean anything except that I've never come across it. It wouldn't shock me to find out powdered kinome leaves are available, though. I've never seen fresh here, and I would think dried, ground sansho would be reddish brown, but perhaps I'm wrong.

                                                                                    You may have discovered a new taste trend! :-)

                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                      Again, I thank you, Das Ubergeek, for your interest and experienced input.
                                                                                      In the Torihei light, the powdered spice at the bar appeared to be greenish-gray. Next time we are there I will look at it in the daylight.

                                                                                      1. re: liu

                                                                                        Yes it's on the greenish/gray side. I love that stuff!

                                                                                        1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                          This is the problem with being green-brown colourblind...

                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                            "...green-brown colourblind..."
                                                                                            I'm laughing!

                                                                                            1. re: liu

                                                                                              But it's true!!

                                                                                          2. re: OCAnn

                                                                                            So, do you think it was a mixture of the peppercorns and the leaves -- or just the ground leaves? It was the consistency of a fine powder rather than a granular seasoning.

                                                                                            1. re: liu

                                                                                              I'm not sure what's in the sansho; upthread, it was Bulavinaka that told me what it was. But yes, it was a superfine (and supertasty) seasoning. I want to buy some if they're available somewhere.

                                                                                              1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                Sansho (the pepper flowers, hua jiao, Sichuan pepper) is available in many places, including Penzeys.

                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                  Nice! Thank you for the 411.

                                                                                  2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                    Again, interesting information...and much appreciated!
                                                                                    I recall seeing shiso available as a plant at the San Gabriel Nursery! We rejected it at the time because we could not imagine using very much of it in our everyday cooking.

                                                                                    Next time we are wandering the San Gabriel Nursery (I do love it there!), I will look for the sansho shrub...I would not be surprised to find it there.

                                                                                    1. re: liu

                                                                                      There is an old Japanese lady at the Irvine FM who sells shiso. She says it's for juice but I use it to wrap yakiniku. When I told her, she laughed and said nobody would think to do that in Japan.

                                                                                      She also, in season, sells the most unbelievably good white sweet potatoes I've ever had in my entire lifetime, bar none. I can't wait for them to come back!!

                                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                        Love those!! When we get them here I put them into African Lamb Stew... they come out like cotton candy and work well with the rough curry flavor and concentrated lambiness... :)

                                                                                        --Dommy!

                                                                                      2. re: liu

                                                                                        You can always try growing them from seeds. I tried a couple years back (in a pot) and had no trouble....

                                                                                        1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                          Hi, OCAnn! Growing it from seed...good to know.
                                                                                          I'm not really sure that I am interested in cultivating it, however, as much as I am in finding it on a store shelf. If I had a plant, I just don't think I would use it very much. Still, I do appreciate this information!

                                                                                          Is your plant still growing? Do you use it...and how?

                                                                                          1. re: liu

                                                                                            The plant is no more; it was during the spring/summer when I was planting other herbs & tomatoes.

                                                                                            I used it in salads, grilled it w/veggies & fish...like you would for basil, but for Japanese dishes.

                                                                                            1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                              I love "different," and this sounds like it gave your dishes something special.
                                                                                              Where did you find the seeds? (As you can see, I'm becoming more and more interested!!!)

                                                                                              1. re: liu

                                                                                                Marukai (Gardena), in the fresh veggie section, there's a small section against a wall/door that had a variety of seeds.

                                                                                                1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                  Thanks, OCAnn!
                                                                                                  I frequent Marukai as often as possible, and feel a little anxious if I am not there at least once every few weeks!!!! It is SO much fun!

                                                                                                  OK -- I will check the seeds. I am not sure if I ever looked there seriously -- and with a mission. Thank you for the focus.

                                                                                2. re: liu

                                                                                  Hi liu,

                                                                                  Sorry for the late reply. I'm glad you enjoyed your dinner at Torihei! :) Did you end up having any favorite dishes for the evening? :)

                                                                                  It looks like bulavinaka, Das and others have answered your question about Sansho (one of my favorites :). Note also that the Sansho served at Torihei is a premium grade version. At most Yakitori restaurants around town, it's a much more tame / muted mass market version. Masa-san said he spent quite a while searching before settling on this particular premium version from one source in Japan (I'll have to think back and see if I can remember what company that was).

                                                                                  1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                    Hello, exilekiss!
                                                                                    As other posters have articulated in various ways, I, too, am most grateful for your having written such a detailed and glowing report of Torihei. We were actually headed into Musha when I remembered your raves...and I am so glad that we made that 180 turn into Torihei.
                                                                                    Masa-san's Sansho took me by surprise! I loved the flavor...and then my tongue went numb. My mouth was tingling for the next 24, but we thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

                                                                                    For me, it is not so much about one special dish; it is more about the abundance of variety and the contrast of textures and colors and tastes. It is about the mixing of bites so that there is so much flavor through the entire meal...one can never be bored as I frequently am with a single order of, for example, steak or chicken! It is about izakaya...how much fun it is!

                                                                                    Sansho in my kitchen...I don't know what I would do with it! It works well at Torihei and I will enjoy just a teeeeeny bit there next time!

                                                                                    1. re: liu

                                                                                      how is musha? ive been meaning to try it for a while

                                                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                                                        Hi, Lau!
                                                                                        Musha Torrance is VERY fun! They have a large community table that is always my first choice because then you can oooogle what others are eating. It has a good vibe about it, although the space is pretty tight. They fill quickly, so if you are planning to go, I suggest waiting by the door before 6:00 which is when they open on Saturday night. I'm not sure if they take reservations, but it is worth the call.

                                                                                        The Torrance Musha is very different from the Santa Monica 4th Street Musha. The Santa Monica Musha is calmer and a little more sophisticated -- although not stuffy at all. It's still an izakaya -- with all the fun that that means -- and I like it, too.

                                                                                        1. re: liu

                                                                                          great i was hoping it was good b/c it looks good...definitely high on my list next time i come home

                                                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                                                            Lau --
                                                                                            Is it the Torrance Musha that you are considering -- as opposed to the one in Santa Monica?
                                                                                            I wouldn't even hesitate...it is really fun...BUT, how will you decide between Musha and Torihei? Now that I know both, I am going to have a difficult time deciding next time I stand in that parking lot.

                                                                                            1. re: liu

                                                                                              i'd definitely go to torrance

                                                                                              haha yes it will be a hard decision b/c my experience at Torihei was one of the better japanese meals i've had in quiet sometime, but since i've never been to musha i guess i'll just have to try it

                                                                                              1. re: Lau

                                                                                                Lau --
                                                                                                Go!

                                                                                      2. re: liu

                                                                                        Hi liu,

                                                                                        Thanks for the report back! :) I'm glad to hear you enjoyed Masa-san's cooking. The Premium Sansho Pepper that they use at Torihei is definitely a nice touch and something that adds to the enjoyment of the Yakitori there.

                                                                                        1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                          exilekiss --
                                                                                          You are amazing!
                                                                                          Thank you for sharing so many of your delicious finds...and for following up on your extraordinary reports so thoroughly with those who respond. You really show how much you care and your spirit is contagious. We applaud your efforts and very much appreciate your leadership!

                                                                                  2. I recently went back. It's still good as ever, and I can't believe that with as much food as we ordered (we had GOBS of food, so much so, that at one point, we barely had room on the table for the plates that kept coming in), it only came out to $30/person (food, beer & tax...pre-tip). They had a new? fried cheese tofu on the menu which was really, really good: it was lightly fried, having a tofu consistency but slight/delectable cheese flavour. I saw a Mexican salad on the menu, which seemed curious. And after having spent $25 or $30 for a pitcher of beer at a similar restaurant in Las Vegas (Aburiya Raku), Torihei's pitcher for $10 was dirt cheap.

                                                                                    I am forever thankful that you've (EK) alerted CH to this restaurant. The flavours here match my tastebuds nearly perfectly. There are other restaurants on CH that others love that I don't always "get" or places where some dishes are great while others are just okay...but THIS restaurant can almost do no wrong....

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                      The Japanese are kings of fusion... so we had no qualms about ordering the Mexican Salad...

                                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/dommichu...

                                                                                      Okay... Disclaimer.. they used Doritos... Cool ranch we believe... but...

                                                                                      It worked... TOTALLY... Overall the salad was a great mixture of tastes and textures and VERY fresh.... we especially loved the Yolk crumblies.... they were like nothing else... if only I could get them to make me a cobb salad with those crumblies... Hmmmmm....

                                                                                      --Dommy!

                                                                                      1. re: Dommy

                                                                                        Oh wow! Thank you for reporting. Seeing them on the menu gave me pause, but your review makes me want to try them! Nice pic. =)

                                                                                        1. re: Dommy

                                                                                          Hi Dommy!

                                                                                          Wow, so that's what it looks like. :) Thanks for the pic and thoughts. It does indeed like more interesting that it sounded.

                                                                                        2. re: OCAnn

                                                                                          Hi OCAnn,

                                                                                          I'm glad to hear they're still as good as ever! :) Thanks for the follow-up thoughts on this place, and the new Fried Tofu dish. I'll have to try that next time. :)

                                                                                          1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                            OCAnn, I hear you!
                                                                                            I love when I am overwhelmed by how good everything is...when I can blindly order and know that I will enjoy the diversity and contrast of the various plates as I take a bite of this and a bite of that and the flavors blend in a very unique way each time because no two "mixtures are alike." (Apologies for the run-on sentence, but izakaya is like that! It just keeps flowing!)

                                                                                            Torihei was a memorable dinner and we look forward to our next visit.

                                                                                          2. I wanted to report that there are many other additions to the menu! One was a utterly delicious (if just a tad salty) cucumber salad. Another was a foil-wrapped octopus dish that had was cooked in pesto-oil; unfortunately, it was a bit overdone. Others we saw (but did not order) include Korean-style bbq meats, ochazuke (four ways) and two desserts.

                                                                                            I have Musha & Izakaya Bincho on my to-go list, but Torihei is so compelling, that I'm not sure I'll ever make it to the other two....

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                              Hi OCAnn,

                                                                                              Very nice. :) Thanks for the update.

                                                                                              We just went 2 weeks ago (some friends visiting) and their Karaage (Fried Chicken), Kyoto Oden (Airy Fish Cakes, Daikon Radish) were all still (thankfully) consistently delicious. :)

                                                                                              I think you'd like Izakaya Bincho: Down-to-earth, humble Japanese Izakaya food expertly made (don't forget the Zosui and Onigiri and Agedashi Tofu and Yu Rin Chi and Buta no Kakuni (Pork Belly) :)...

                                                                                              1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                I feel the same way, OCAnn!
                                                                                                As I posted, we were on our way to Musha just across the parking lot when Torihei caught our attention. We have always enjoyed Musha (both the one in Torrance and the other in Santa Monica). However, now that we have been to Torihei, I don't know if we will ever be able to get back to Musha. I wish they weren't so close together!

                                                                                              2. Hi All,

                                                                                                I had a dear friend from Tokyo visiting, and rounded up a few Japanese Hounds to revisit Torihei. And...

                                                                                                It's still as absurdly delicious as before. :) They've added a new House-made Chicken Liver Pate (which sadly, in our flurry of orders, I forgot to order, and we were too full by the time I realized it :).

                                                                                                Their Jidori Karaage (Natural, Free-Range Fried Chicken) is even better than before: A delicious, perfect combination of crispy crust and super juicy Jidori Chicken.

                                                                                                Their Kyoto-style Oden is still wonderful: The Hanpen (Homemade Fish Cakes) are light, fluffy and airy.

                                                                                                And the legendary Takeno Tsuyu Junmai Sake, still as sexy as ever. My guest from Tokyo was quite impressed with Torihei's quality and taste. Sorry if this sounds like I'm gushing; the food was so enjoyable, it moved me to write about this follow-up visit. :)

                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                Torihei
                                                                                                1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

                                                                                                22 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                  Agreed that Torihei is delicious and possibly the best yakitori restaurant I've been to in the US. Not only are the skewers delicious but the oden dishes are also very good.

                                                                                                  I'm not trying to start a fight with anyone here but I do think Torihei is better than the places in NY like Totto, Torys, Tori Shin which I've been to dozens and dozens of times. It's also not nearly as pretentious as those places.

                                                                                                  1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                                                                    dude torihei is lightyears better than all of those place which i also go to fairly frequently...its not even remotely a contest

                                                                                                    i just ate there recently again on a trip to california, i think its one of my favorite places in LA / OC or NY

                                                                                                    1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                                                                      Hi hong_kong_foodie and Lau,

                                                                                                      Thanks for the perspective on Torihei vs. Totto, Torys and Tori Shin. It's good to know and saves me some time for other places to eat at the next time I'm in the area. :)

                                                                                                      What were your favorites from your most recent visit?

                                                                                                      And yes, Masa-san (chef-owner) and Taigo-san (manager) are down-to-earth folk; it's great seeing them chat with everyone at the bar as they prepare and serve food.

                                                                                                      1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                        well basically everything i've had there has been good. If I had to pick I'd go for the that tsunagi (special heart yakitori) that they run out of early, i think that is definitely my favorite dish, i ordered like 3 sticks for myself b/c i liked it so much. i also love their daikon oden...the daikon is so tender and the broth they use is the best oden broth i've ever had, so light and not too salty, just right

                                                                                                        ive got some interesting places in OC for you that i'll post about soon, i'm finding that the garden grove-ish area is my new favorite place to eat in OC, i think i spent almost as much time dragging my gf around to random food spots as I did hanging out at home in newport

                                                                                                        1. re: Lau

                                                                                                          Hi Lau,

                                                                                                          Love their Oden Broth. :) Did you get a chance to try their fluffy, light-as-air Hanpen (Homemade Fish Cake)?

                                                                                                          Also their Tsukune (Homemade, Free-Range, Natural Chicken Meat Balls) are outstanding as well. I can't stop thinking about those. (and the Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) of course. :)

                                                                                                          I look forward to your Garden Grove recommendations.

                                                                                                          1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                            Some of my favorites include the homemade fish cake, the tsukune, the deep fried breast cartilage, and the special hearts yakitori.

                                                                                                            Looks like we all share similar tastes.

                                                                                                            1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                              Hey exilekiss - i know i owe you some GG recs, finally got around to writing them up..here you go:
                                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/712316
                                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/712305
                                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/712307

                                                                                                              1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                Hi Lau,

                                                                                                                Thanks for the Chow links. I can't wait to read through them. :) If you're back in town and have some time to spare, you might wanna consider RH at the Andaz. Had a lovely time there and recently posted some thoughts on it. :)

                                                                                                                1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                  just read your blog on it, looks great, french is my favorite of european food and I actually will be back towards the end of June, so I will definitely eat there

                                                                                                                  actually great timing on the rec, i'll be coming from asia and i always go up to LA once or twice when i'm home and i needed a good non-asian rec. I haven't been able to rip myself from going to pizzeria or osteria mozza that last 3 times, but i need to switch it up

                                                                                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                    Hi Lau,

                                                                                                                    Nice! :) Hope you have a great Asia trip. Yes, if you like French food, definitely give RH at the Andaz a try and let us know what you think (don't miss out on the Beef Daube (Cheeks) and Duck Confit and Perigourdine Poached Egg :).

                                                                                                                    BTW, I noticed in your other post that you said you like Steamed Buns? Have you ever tried Noodle House (Fu Fang Yuan)? You might give that a try and see how you like it.

                                                                                                                    Lastly, you *have* been to Animal before, right? (^_~) If not, you MUST go! :)

                                                                                                                    1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                      you're talking about Noodle House in monterey park? I've been meaning to go there for a long time, I might go when I'm home next time

                                                                                                                      I haven't been to animal either although i know where it is...too many places and not enough time! haha, its tough b/c even though i'm home alot, LA / OC there is just so many damn places that i want to go to

                                                                                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                        Hi Lau,

                                                                                                                        The one I'm talking about used to be there, but they moved to City of Industry now (you can look it up via Chow Place links, or my site).

                                                                                                                        You haven't been to Animal yet?! (>_>)

                                                                                                                        Lau, OK, on your next LA visit, go to Animal first, then visit RH at the Andaz and let us know how they both go. :)

                                                                                                                        1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                          definitely, im coming back on the 26th and those are both top of the list

                                                                                                      2. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                        So I managed to try 2 of their newest menu items over the weekend (due to a friend's birthday party):

                                                                                                        * The House-made Chicken Liver Pate (humorous typo listing it as "Putty" :) - Outstanding. Color me shocked that a Kyoto-style Oden specialist is serving up an excellent, rustic, house-made Chicken Liver Pate. It's light, buttery, soul-satisfying and so delicious. We were all pretty surprised.

                                                                                                        * Kawa (Chicken Skin) Skewers! They finally added Kawa to their Yakitori menu, and it was... so-so. It's crispy but slightly overcooked in some areas. I think they're just getting the hang of Kawa because it's so easy to burn (that, and their Yakitori chef, Masa-san, was out on our visit).

                                                                                                        The other Yakitori Skewers and Oden were thankfully as consistent as before. :)

                                                                                                        1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                          I was there this weekend too! I didn't try the two new dishes you mentioned, but had plenty of the usual. What I found really strangely different was the daikon oden, but I probably didn't read it right, b/c it was strangely hefty and mealy--it may have been mixed with something else.

                                                                                                          Everything else was delicious as usual. My three favourite dishes are the soft-boiled egg w/salmon roe, squid legs cooked in its ink and the yakitori thighs--probably the most heavenly three dishes in all of Southern California! I soooo love this place and wish it didn't take 45 minutes to get there...or I'd be there all the time!

                                                                                                          1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                            Hi OCAnn,

                                                                                                            Nice! :) The Daikon sounds weird; perhaps it was an off-day? I've been lucky enough never to have had that consistency with the Daikon.

                                                                                                            The New Menu items are on their large, single sheet, paper (8.5" x 11") sitting separate from the usual 3 Menus w/ Pencils. Definitely try their Chicken Liver Pate next time. :)

                                                                                                            And I love those 3 dishes you listed, but what about their Jidori Karaage (Natural, Free-Range Fried Chicken)? :)

                                                                                                            1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                              Ohhhhhhhh yes...I LOVE that jidori karaage! How could I forget?

                                                                                                              Unfortunately, we were not presented the new items menu. =( I will definitely have to ask for it next time...though normally we chat with Hirai san, everyone seemed realllly busy that night, as it was a full house with a handful of people waiting for their reservations....

                                                                                                          2. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                            I was also there this weekend! I also didn't try those new items, but I will have to try the chicken liver pate next time, it sounds amazing. I also found the skewers and oden very consistent. The only thing that was inconsistent was the service, which was much more rushed than it had been on past visits. When I called to make a reservation, the person I spoke to emphasized, with repetition, that we could only sit for 2 hours max (no problem for us). In past visits, we ordered everything at once and it came out in a reasonable pace. On this visit, the dishes came out at turbo pace, one right after the other. Although we are pretty quick eaters, there was no way we could keep up...so a lot of our food was cold by the time we consumed it. We ended up eating 10 dishes within 1 hour. While they were quick to bring out dishes, which made us feel rushed, they left certain empty plates on our table for the duration of the meal. Getting a refill on my tea took considerable effort. So I felt that the service had a negative impact on our experience, especially since the food would have been better if eaten at the correct temperatures. Next time we are not going to order everything at once, which hopefully will help.

                                                                                                            1. re: Nicole

                                                                                                              Hi Nicole,

                                                                                                              Oh nice. :) Bummer about the service. I noticed they hired 2 new servers since my last visit, and they were completely swamped (with a good wait of people outside). Definitely block out the "rushed feeling" next time by taking your time w/ ordering; I second your suggestion. :)

                                                                                                              Just place a few items for order, and that's it. They'll bring out (or ask for) another set of blank paper menus for you to order a 2nd round of items. That way you get to control what comes out when.

                                                                                                              Also, Taigo-san is the manager for Torihei, so if you're getting bad service from the new staff you should consider letting them know. Let me know if you end up trying their Chicken Liver Pate. :)

                                                                                                              1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                Yes, they were quite busy, and I think they just need to get over the learning curve as they now find themselves immensely popular--with good reason. Ordering everything at once worked just fine in my several previous visits, but I will definitely adopt a new strategy in future visits. I'm wondering if they've had problems with people lingering forever, and that's why they emphasized the 2-hour time limit, and everything was so rushed?

                                                                                                                I'm sure we'll try the chicken liver pate next time. Like OCAnn, we didn't get a new items menu so I'll be sure to ask for it (another example of potential service issues?). So far, our favorite yakitori are the okra with pork, chicken thigh, chicken hearts (both regular and special), and our favorite oden are the fish cake, the egg with roe, and the chicken meat balls.

                                                                                                                1. re: Nicole

                                                                                                                  Hi Nicole (and OCAnn),

                                                                                                                  Actually, that new Seasonal Specials Menu is a flimsy 1 sheet of paper (usually) buried behind the Laminated Regular Menu sandwiched next to the wall of each table. We almost missed it when we went.

                                                                                                                  If it's not there, then ask your server for one.

                                                                                                                  Love their Tsukune (Homemade, All Natural Chicken Meatballs as well! :) (and their Hanpen (Fish Cake), and all the items you listed. :) Thanks.

                                                                                                              2. re: Nicole

                                                                                                                You're not alone! My experience has been similar to yours. Half the time, the food is paced well (as was this last visit) and the other half, they come out almost all at once! However, I can forgive them their service issues as the guys running the place are attentive & apologetic when you have a chance to chat with them...and the poor girls are overwhelmed with a full house and a line out the door!

                                                                                                                Darn, I missed the okra w/pork! There were only three pieces in our order and there were five of us! =( I'll have to give it a try next time.

                                                                                                          3. We went tonight and just want to report that everything was exquisite. We don't recollect anything disappointing, but the standout items tonight were the hanpen, the tsukune (both yaki and oden), the grilled cherry tomatoes, the tako sashimi with garlic, bacon-wrapped okra and the deep-fried cheese tofu cubes. There were six of us and we ordered the heck out of that menu - we ate royally. The sake was wonderful as well. Sipping Kubota Manjou and Hakkaisan with our meal was ethereal.

                                                                                                            Note to self: Always remind each other to consider using the sansho. The food is wonderful unadorned, but the sansho takes certain dishes to another level.

                                                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                              Oh, NO!
                                                                                                              No sansho?
                                                                                                              My tongue was numb for several days after...gotta sprinkle on the sansho!

                                                                                                              1. re: liu

                                                                                                                Sorry liu, I should have elaborated. We love the sansho here - I recall your post upthread a while back specifying your fancy and interest for sansho. It's head & shoulders above any auxiliary seasoning I've experienced at a Japanese eatery. But the problem for me remembering to use the sansho plays in because I am so easily distracted by the food here. When the chicken thighs are presented and the outside is still sizzling; the deep-fried cheese tofu is so cute and fluffy (darned tasty too!); the bacon-wrapped okra hitting the nose before even seeing it. At Torihei, one's actions seem to be driven by reflex, "the siren's call" that mesmerizes and takes over one's better judgement - that is what their food does to me. I'm normally not one to season much. So it is just after I am enjoying one of those rolling-back-the-eyes moments after taking in a bite of Torihei's food, I realize that just a hint of the sansho would have left me breathless. And that is why I have to constantly remind myself and have others remind me and each other that the sansho should be considered whenever possible.

                                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                                Torihei
                                                                                                                1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

                                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                  Nice defense, bulavinaka!
                                                                                                                  The judge has ruled in your favor...with a hint of a smile!

                                                                                                                  Seriously, bulavinaka, you have articulated it so well. I, too, am totally focused on such deliciousness. For me, it is very distracting to eat in a group unless the others are enjoying the food to such an extent.

                                                                                                                  1. re: liu

                                                                                                                    >>For me, it is very distracting to eat in a group unless the others are enjoying the food to such an extent.<<

                                                                                                                    Agree 100%. And am I to fault if I'm not the avid conversationalist while eating at such places? :) While eating a meal, if there's steady chit-chat that has no bearing on the deliciousness of the food, then I know I've entered a Chow dead zone.

                                                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                      Yes! When I am savoring every bite -- and even enjoying the visuals -- I want only to converse about that! And even conversation at that moment is second best...you have to be there! I am quite present when I am eating. I don't have any 'hounds around me that are as "passionate"("crazy"!) as I am, so I appreciate these Chowhound boards and true Hounds like you.

                                                                                                                      With summer here and the lighter-later factor, it now will be easier for us to get back to Torihei. It is far from home for us, but I just crave another visit. It was memorable!

                                                                                                              2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                Hi bulavinaka,

                                                                                                                Thanks for the report back. :) Glad to hear Masa-san is still putting out some great Yakitori (and Oden as well). :)

                                                                                                                Kubota Manju is always great, but have you tried Takeno Tsuyu Junmai Sake yet?? :) Torihei's one of only 2 restaurants I know that serves this locally. If you haven't, you must. :)

                                                                                                                Tako Sashimi with Garlic sounds intriguing. Was it Raw Garlic? It just sounds like it might be overpowering. And as liu points out, you must use the Sansho Pepper. Torihei has the best Sansho in So Cal. :)

                                                                                                                1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                  Hi exilekiss,

                                                                                                                  We haven't tried the Takeno Tsuyu Junmai - didn't know it was such a rare commodity here. Is that the sake that they serve in the bamboo pitchers? We'll be sure to give it a go the next time around - thanks for the tip!

                                                                                                                  The tako sashimi with garlic is very Italian - like crudo. Sliced octopus topped with finely minced garlic, dried oregano and olive oil and the obligatory slice of lemon. I think it also had a slice of tomato as garnish. While the garlic wasn't as strong as I initially thought, it was noticeable. My assumption is that the garlic was raw, but I could see just heating it ever so slowly on a saute pan to cut the sharpness. I wouldn't put it in Torihei's menu category of "Outta Left Field dishes" like the Mexican salad, but it was somewhat peculiar, given the flavor ranges and preferences of the Japanese palate. At the same time, Torihei's menu is broad enough that there's room for more unusual dishes like this.

                                                                                                                  The sansho at Torihei is like an herbal fairy dust that springs magic on everything it touches (okay, maybe not everything). The bottled stuff at stores isn't even in the same universe. I'm fortunate as my parents have a sansho shrub growing in their backyard - I should take greater advantage of it when cooking at home. My guess is Torihei has a source back in Japan that provides the same for their parent eateries over there?

                                                                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                    Hi bulavinaka,

                                                                                                                    Actually, you can order any of the Cold Sake to be served in the Bamboo Pitchers. :) Takeno Tsuyu Junmai is just one of the selections on the Sake Menu. If you happen to be back, please give it a try, onegai~ (^_^) I want to see what you think of it.

                                                                                                                    Re: Sansho Pepper - Hai, Masa-san sources that from... I'll have to find my notes as to which Prefecture, and it's one of his proudest items he's imported from Japan (rightfully so - like you said, it's *so* good! :).

                                                                                                                    1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                      Seriously, he needs to bottle that stuff & resell it!

                                                                                                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                                        Had another good meal at Torihei this week but was disappointed by a couple of the dishes: (1) the beef tongue skewers were average (2) the fried chicken cartilage had too much meat stuck on the cartilage and (3) the chicken liver pate was not that smooth.

                                                                                                                        Speaking of the chicken liver pate, does anyone know what special herb or ingredient they use to make it? There's something fennel-like but not quite, and at times it almost had a taste of smoked mushroom. Odd.

                                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                                        Torihei
                                                                                                                        1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

                                                                                                                        1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                                                                                          Hi hong_kong_foodie,

                                                                                                                          Thanks for the report back. Bummer about the Gyutan you had there; I hope it's just an aberration (we've been lucky to get some pretty tasty versions each time we've gone, but they are nowhere near as good as the Jotan (Premium Beef Tongue) at Tsuruhashi (but it's a different type of restaurant). :)

                                                                                                                          I adore their new Chicken Liver Pate; the last time we went (I had some guests visiting from New York), their Homemade Pate was even better than the previous 2 times we had it. It was really amazing. As for the herb included in it, I'm not quite sure (I've been too busy inhaling the Pate to pick it apart :).

                                                                                                              3. Hi All,

                                                                                                                I recently had some guests from Canada visiting, and I couldn't wait to take them to Torihei. It seems Torihei has just debuted a new Seasonal Menu with about ~10 new items (nice!), so that was a pleasant surprise.

                                                                                                                Besides some of the usual suspects - the amazing Jidori Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken); various Yakitori skewers of goodness; airy, delicate Homemade Hanpen (Fish Cake) and other Oden specialties (all great as I remembered it) - we managed to try some of their new Seasonal Menu Items:

                                                                                                                1. Renkon no Nikuzume Yaki (Skewered Lotus Root with Pork) - Wow. I didn't have any expectations for this dish, and wasn't sure they'd be able to top Tomo-san's amazing version back at the legendary Yakitori Bincho, but Torihei's version is surprisingly delicious! Firm, lightly crunchy, but tender slivers of Lotus Root are marinated in their Homemade Chicken Broth, and then stuffed with a blend of Marinated Ground Chicken and Ground Pork with Mirin, Shoyu and wonderful Shiso Leaf. It's delicate, but packs a flavorful punch. Wonderful. :)

                                                                                                                2. Salmon Harasu no Ochazuke (Homemade Salmon Belly Rice Soup! listed on the menu as "Salmon 'Chazuke'"). This is now their best Ochazuke on the menu. :) They use some delicious chunks of fatty Salmon Belly mixed with Hojicha (Roasted Green Tea) and Rice. It's clean, yet has a really satisfying finish because of the Salmon Belly.

                                                                                                                3. Tokusei Bi-fu Kare- (Homemade Beef Curry) - I'm usually suspicious of ordering Curry in a Yakitori restaurant, but considering all the Non-Yakitori small plates that Torihei has done right (like their amazing Homemade Chicken Pate), we decided to give it a try.

                                                                                                                It's... ~OK. A bit too sweet and fruity, and very mild. It's not going to dethrone Foo Foo Tei's Homemade Curry anytime soon, but the highlight of this would have to be the use of Beef *Tongue* (yes, Gyu-Tan!) for the Curry, which was quite tender if a bit too mild.

                                                                                                                4. Chingensai (Poached Bok Choy) - Not a new menu item, but it had been so long since I ordered this, I forgot just how amazing this dish was. Sasaki-san lightly poaches the Chingensai vegetables in their delicate, made-from-scratch Oden Broth, and then finishes it with a quick, pan-fried Light Soy Sauce-based Sauce that's lightly sweet, fragrant and reminds me of some great Chinese cooking.

                                                                                                                I'm also glad to see their Homemade Chicken Pate "making it" to their latest Seasonal Menu; it's too good to get rotated out. :) Hopefully they add it to their permanent Menu soon. :)

                                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                                Torihei
                                                                                                                1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                  Attaching more Pics for the rest of the new dishes.

                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                  1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                    Yum! Thank you for the update! =)

                                                                                                                  2. I have been slowly working my way through the menu at Torihei, and have been so happy with my meals there. I thought I would just add onto this thread, because it was the one I studied before really delving into the menu.

                                                                                                                    I have been a couple times with friends and about 4-5 times on my own. I like going on my own because I'm super likely to get in, even when they're quite busy. There is often a negotiation about how long I can have the table or the bar seat for, and they squeeze me in before a reservation. I can't overstate enough that you will have a much better experience here if you can plan ahead and make a reservation. The place gets very crowded and I've heard them quote 2.5 hour waits.

                                                                                                                    All recommendations to use the sansho pepper are spot-on. It is amazing, and seems fresher than any I've had in the past. You really get a numbing quality, and the floral notes to the pepper are lovely and enhance the food -- especially the yakitori.

                                                                                                                    I should say that while I have had dishes that I dream about at Torihei, not every dish is a hit for me. I admire that this place seems to be so traditional that they don't dumb down the menu for American palates. And there are no "are you sure" questions when I order things like you sometimes hear in other places. The good thing is that the low prices encourage exploring and I haven't minded that some dishes just don't work for me.

                                                                                                                    While I agree with exilekiss that there are many yakitori dishes that Izakaya Bincho does better than Torihei, Torihei has something important over Bincho: open every day (I mean 365 days a year), dependable, and not randomly closed. And they answer their phone. Also, Torihei wins at the overall menu because there are so many non-grill iteams to order.

                                                                                                                    I don't have the menu in front of me, so apologies if anything is misnamed here.

                                                                                                                    Highlights I've found on the menu:

                                                                                                                    Cucumber with sesame oil. I am almost loathe to order this dish every. single. time. because it is on their "most popular" list and I like to be an original, but it is craveable and delicious.

                                                                                                                    Cabbage salad with spicy dressing. This is literally a pile of raw shredded cabbage with a delicious spicy dressing that is made of sesame oil, chiles and dried shrimp. Tons of flavor. Delicious.

                                                                                                                    Chicken liver pate with baguette. This is terrific, and a great example of the wafu style of great izakayas. Funny story: one night I asked if I could order it to go. I was too full, but would have loved to have it for breakfast. There was much discussion, and the chef refused. He said it was because it is "raw" and therefore he wouldn't send it to go. I haven't had the guts to order it, not touch it, and then ask for it to be wrapped up to go.

                                                                                                                    Fried cashews. I think this is on the menu as fried "cashews" which prompted me to ask the server if they were really cashews (which they are). It's just a bowl of salty, hot nuts that goes perfectly with a beer.

                                                                                                                    Oden dishes. I find them so comforting and delicate and wonderful. I have not worked my way through most of them yet, but really enjoy the daikon, the chicken meatball, and the turnip.

                                                                                                                    Ground chicken rice bowl. This is a delicious & incredibly comforting dish, and I am obsessed with the chicken soup that it's served with. The only issue I have is that it is a large serving. So if you're eating alone, skip it, or just go in for this and maybe one or two other smallish things.

                                                                                                                    From the Grill:

                                                                                                                    Tsukene. Everyone raves about these chicken meatballs, but I have to pile onto the chorus. These are fluffy and light in texture and little flavor bombs.

                                                                                                                    Special Chicken Hearts. A must-order when they are available.

                                                                                                                    Jidori bonjiri. I think these are called "chicken tails" on the menu. Little bites with a bit of crunch and a bit of delicious fat. I find them quite rich, and can barely finish one stick myself.

                                                                                                                    Okra with Pork. This is basically okra wrapped with a thin slice of bacon.

                                                                                                                    Yaki onigiri. I am a fiend for a good version of this dish, and Torihei does it right with perfect toasting and good crunch. The menu warns that this takes 30 minutes to make, but I have never found this to be the case. I have a funny habit these days of keeping the leftover sesame oil dressing from the cucumber dish and dipping my yaki onigiri in it. Probably totally uncouth, but it makes me happy.

                                                                                                                    If you are event slightly interested in this sort of food, I would encourage you to go. It's an exciting experience, the cost is relatively low, the servers are always happy to help and to explain (if quickly, because they are slammed), and the dishes are delicious.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: Fig Newton

                                                                                                                      This is a great report, Fig Newton!

                                                                                                                      Thank you for all the details. I haven't been there in many months, but you have inspired my next visit -- sooner than later.