For more than 55 years, the smell of yakitori or grilled chicken skewers has gotten locals and foreigners lining up at Toritake in Shibuya. While yakitori places in Japan maybe a dime a dozen, Toritake stands out with its no-frills, affordable izakaya-style of dining offering respite to Tokyo train commuters who want a breather to go with a few juicy skewers before heading back to their homes.
Pinoys who have visited Toritake also swear by the hole-in-the-wall’s fun and energetic atmosphere catering to their whim for the perfect skewer-sake tandem or at the very least, a cold beverage to go with any small-plated pulutan.
With a strong Filipinos following, it’s no wonder why the owners of Toritake decided to bring their signature skewers here in the Philippines. For its sophomore branch, the traditional yakitori place set up shop at UP Town Center. But rather than catching commuters, Toritake in Manila caters outright to mall goers who want to enjoy yakitori, sake, and everything in between.
Feel free to enter Toritake with its casual yet elegant wooden décor and well-spaced interiors reminiscent of a modern izakaya. Just like its Shibuya branch, passersby can even view the chefs turning and rotating the signature skewers over electric grills loaded with charcoal in order to permeate that charred aroma and taste onto the yakitori.
To uphold the standards of its yakitori, Toritake insists on using only select chicken meat with strict specifications on weight and quality. These conditions include choosing chickens that are at least 2 kilograms in weight as well as an implementation of no freezing of meat to ensure consistency in texture and size with every skewer.
Toritake maintains a traditional menu resonant of authentic yakitori spots in Japan. Guests can either choose to have their skewer flavored with tare (a special soy glaze; served on white plates) or enjoy it simply sprinkled with salt (ajishio-style; served on black plates) and sometimes with a side of wasabi for good measure. The tori (chicken) selections include chicken yakitori (chicken pieces & leeks), tsumire (green bell pepper with meatball), kawa (chicken skin), bonbochy (chicken tail), and momoyaki (chicken leg quarter) while seasonal vegetables selections are fresh shiitake mushroom, negi (onion leeks) and the seasonal shishitou (Japanese chili).
For those who like a heartier fare, Toritake also serves donburi meals like the Yakitori Don complete with miso soup and pickled vegetables.
The skewers though are not limited to just grilling. The restaurant also serves deep-fried items like battered yakitori and chicken cartilage. We do, however, have a soft spot for their deep-fried Chicken Karaage. These ultra-crispy chicken pieces are bite-sized perfections—from the lightly battered golden exterior to the flavorful and juicy chicken meat. We suggest squeezing in a bit of lemon juice to complement the saltiness of the chicken and to heighten each morsel with some zest.
Best to pair the former with Toritake’s Chicken Rice. It’s like an omurice sans egg omelet and honestly, we like it as it is—deliciously-cooked Japanese fried rice flavored with tangy tomato sauce with bits of chicken, onions, and green bell peppers.
For those who prefer a meal that’s worth sharing, have the nabe or Japanese hot pot. Guests either can go for the sasaminabe (tenderloin) or the torinabe (thigh & breast). Both choices are served with fresh vegetables, soft tofu, assorted mushrooms, and chewy glass noodles. Guests can cook for themselves or have it prepared tableside. The secret to this unique hot pot though is the salty soy-based broth that flavors everything in the pot. Now do as the Japanese do and dunk each ingredient into the side serving of raw scrambled egg to temper out the saltiness and add a bit of richness into each slurp. We promise, it’s worth the dip.
If you’re still not satisfied then have your fill of the Dashimaki Tamago. This traditional Japanese rolled-up omelet may look simple, but it takes a certain level of skill to make this dish and Toritake’s version can certainly impress and satisfy.
For some unfounded reason, grilled and deep-fried dishes go oh-so well with alcoholic beverages—good thing Toritake’s collection of premium sake and sake-based cocktails make for perfect pairings.
Toritake’s proud heritage of serving quality yakitori has certainly made a mark in Japan. And we’re honored that they are sharing this piece of culinary culture onto Filipino tables with plans of expansion around Manila. So, the next time you’re craving for Japanese food, visit Toritake, where authentic yakitori and izakaya experience can be found.
2F, UP Town Center, Katipunan Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City
Monday to Thursday: 11:00AM – 9:00PM, Friday to Sunday: 10:00AM – 10:00PM
Photographed by Yukie Sarto of Studio 100