Torihei - Really great yakitori and oden
So after the disappointment of my last visit when I went to Torihei with my gf and family and they were fully booked, I made sure to make reservations this time and I am super glad that I did.
I ate here the day after the 4th of July with my mom and grandmother. The restaurant is located in that mainly japanese strip mall next to the Mitsuwa in Torrance on the corner of Western and Carson. It's somewhat narrow restaurant with a large open kitchen area to the left when you walk in, you can see steaming compartmentalized steaming metal pots where they are cooking oden as well as the grills where they are cooking yakitori. It's got very high ceilings and its sort of dark inside, with dark wood tables and chairs and sort of reddish walls. The clientele was mainly japanese.
The service was nice albeit a bit confused as three different servers seemed to be attending our table, but they were all reasonably attentive, so it was fine.
Anyhow, onto the food, I ordered a ridiculous amt of food b/c there was alot of stuff that looked great. I believe the waiter's exact quote was "you must be really hungry". Yakitori and oden are two of my favorite japanese dishes and my grandmother was very happy about it being an oden specialist as she loves oden (and makes it at home sometimes). Unfortunately, I left my camera in NY, so no photos.
Here's what we got:
- special heart yakitori: i asked the server about his favorite yakitori and he said this is definitely one of the best and that I must try it b/c they usually start running out around 7 or so, so I got an order of it....wow this was so good after the first bite, I immediately called him back and got two more skewers of it. The hearts are skewered in between pieces of roast garlic and brushed with tare sauce (soy sauce and mirin). Heart is a muscle, so its normally sort of chewy (lack of fat does not lend itself to being tender), but here it is really quite tender especially for being heart and has a great flavor with the tare sauce and garlic. My mother even liked it and she doesn't really like heart
- chicken liver: this was great, I like liver if prepared right and its definitely done right here. It's very smooth and creamy here. Our server said this was another one of his favorites and described it as being like foie gras and that is a pretty good description of it as it wasn't "liver-y" at all really
- chicken meatballs: this is the one thing I was slightly disappointed in, tsukune is one of my favorite yakitori dishes. The meat was tender and the sauce was very good, but i thought the meat was almost too soft (mushy) and there were too many "stops" (i.e. things you cant bite through)
- chicken thigh: this was excellent, potentially the most tender chicken thigh I've had, pretty self explanatory, but it was really good
- chicken tail: wow this was really good as well, super tender and crispy on the outside
- chicken gizzard: standard gizzard, chewy, but they do it well here
- beef tongue: this was alright, I didn't love it, the tongue was slightly overcooked and it had a certain flavor that I can't put my finger on that i didnt really like (i generally like beef tongue)
- soft boiled eggs with salmon roe: this was excellent as well, i love soft boiled eggs done right (i like yolk when its still all runny), the salmon roe is the right salty kick which compliments it well...another winner
- bacon wrapped asparagus: this was interesting, it had this creamy sauce on the outside that had curry in it, i didnt love the sauce, but the asparagus itself was good
- hanpen fish cake oden: really liked this, this was definitely made in-house...super tender, very light and delicate flavor...the broth was outstanding
- daikon oden: this was great, its a big circular block of daikon in their oden broth, the daikon is super tender and covered with a seaweed topping and bonito shavings...really great (i love daikon); their oden broth is amazing, so simple and done so well, i kept drinking the broth out of the bowls
- fried burdock root (gobo): this was very good, im not a huge fan of burdock root, but my grandmother likes it, so i got it. I think they slice them and somehow bind them together and lightly fry them and then put them in the oden broth, it turns out pretty nice esp if you like burdock root
- xiao long bao: sort of surprising to see on the menu and the server recommended it, so I tried it against my intuition. It was basically a dumpling in a dashi broth that they use for the oden. It was decent, but nothing special, I think they should stick to japanese food
- miso chikuwabu: this was a fish cake in a miso broth, the fish cake was pretty good, it had an interesting texture....the miso broth is incredible, not too sweet or salty, i dont know how else to describe it other than its really good
- simmered yellowtail collar: this was a yellowtail collar that had been stewed in some sort of soy sauce, the sauce was slightly sweet and the fish itself was very tender. I liked it, but I thought it might've been a bit much, the flavors were pretty strong and it was a bit on the fishy side...i generally like yellowtail collar and this was good, but didn't blow me away
- tori soboro gohan (ground chicken rice bowl): this was one of my favorite dishes of the night. its a ricebowl with ground chicken marinated in a mirin and soy sauce and topped with a quail yolk, nori and scallions. The chicken is still tender even though its ground and the mirin and soy sauce compliment it really well, slightly sweet, but slightly salty as well, but neither is overpowering. I really liked this
Overall, this is the best yakitori place I've been to in LA and the only oden specialist (I love oden), so this is definitely one of my new favorite japanese places in LA. They really do a top notch job on everything and the attention to detail is really great from the quality of the meats to the dashi (broth), this is a really awesome place; if they opened this in NY, they'd be able to charge through the roof and have lines every night. I'll definitely be coming back next time I'm in town. Definitely high up on my list of great new finds
You may not have caught the review that Exilekiss did back in early May of this place. Definitely worth a look if you didn't: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/602793 and then, if you scroll down to the end of that very long thread Exile does another review of the multiple visits (visits numbers 4, 5 & 6) to try out even more of their new, extended menu that they were offering by that point: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6027...