This is the first yakitori restaurant that we’ve welcomed to the TABLEALL family. While charcoal-grilled skewered chicken is commonly loved as street food, the complexity of Torisho Ishii’s cuisine has astonished us. Using supple Kumano cage-free chicken, each skewer is grilled to perfection. Winning a Michelin star just within a year, gourmands have become instant fans of Chef Yoshitomo Ishii’s impeccable techniques, and continue coming back for more. The wine list is also excellent.
Opened in February 2016, Torisho Ishii became an immediate hit, now known as one of the most difficult restaurants to get a reservation at. A stop away from Umeda Station, the restaurant is tucked away on a little alley behind a jungle of tall skyscrapers. Follow the trail of tiny chicken footsteps engraved onto the pavement to find its entrance.
Inside, you will find a beautiful hinoki wood counter that hugs around the open kitchen, the stage where Ishii performs his mastery. The binchotan charcoal grill is set level with the counter to create an open view for the ten guests sitting across it. Even the ventilation ducts are installed on the side of the grill, instead of above, to keep a minimalist decor. Here, yakitori is no longer a casual bite but a work of art that you can enjoy with all your senses.
The chicken served at Torisho Ishii is the Kumano jidori from Mie Prefecture, among the best quality free-range chicken produced in Japan. A hybrid of local Yakido gamefowl, Ise Akadori and Nagoya Cochin, the meat is famous for its juiciness and rich flavor. And Ishii’s precise application of heat unleashes the chicken’s umami even more.
“To enjoy the yakitori, please don’t take the meat off the stick but bite into it,” he says as he fans the crackling charcoal with a big ripped fan he was given by one of his mentors years ago. “You don’t want to lose the flavor or the heat.”
Reflecting his passion to create something superb, the character for “sho” in the restaurant’s name means craftsmanship or great skills. Also trained at one of the most famous kaiseki establishments in Kobe, Ishii’s small dishes and side menus are as exquisite as the grills.
First Yakitori for TABLEALL
The single item on the menu is the chef’s omakase meal that flows through a parade of seasonal grills, side dishes and a warm bowl of soup at the end. The menu changes constantly depending on what seasonal ingredients the chef can get his hands on.
“I want to entertain the guests with a highly sophisticated cuisine,” he says. “I want to keep the menu fresh all the time so that the regulars can enjoy it each time.”
Using the high-grade Kumano jidori chicken from Mie Prefecture, Ishii’s team starts preparing the ingredients from as early as 8 a.m. every morning. On some days, they procure different varieties of chicken such as Nagoya Cochin and Tokyo Shamo to offer a tasting sampler menu.
For the grill, Ishii uses the highest grade of Kishu binchotan charcoal from Wakayama Prefecture, known for its rich fragrance and solid endurance. The black charcoal is spread across the 120cm grill, designed to give high heat up close. This allows the outside of the meat to come out nice and crisp, while the meat underneath stays juicy.
Each yakitori stick is packed with large chunks of meat, allowing you to truly savor and enjoy the different flavors. The ingredients of the tasty sauce remains a secret, while the salt is imported from Portugal. You can always order more of the stick you love.
“In essence, yakitori is a simple cuisine where you grill the meat on charcoal. But it’s the simplicity that allows each restaurant to define its own style,” Ishii says. “It’s important to cook each part in the best way possible, and you can’t hesitate.”
A signature yakitori is the negima, a stick of grilled chicken and scallions. The chunks of tender meat is wrapped around in crispy skin, adding the sweetness of the fat and great texture to the outside.
Harami is a rare part of the chicken that that's connected to the diaphragm. Draped in the secret sauce a few times as it cooks over charcoal, the meat has a wonderful texture and lasting flavor. Furisode, or shoulder, tastes like half breast and half wings, and is best cooked slightly rare, and spiced up with sansho peppercorns.
A stick of skin is crispy, light and crunchy. So sweet and fatty, one stick might not be enough. The liver is soft and creamy, thanks to its freshness. Seseri, or neck, has a nice firmness that allows the flavor to spread in your mouth.
Trained at a kaiseki establishment, Kimoto in Kobe, Ishii’s small dishes are as exquisite as the grills. Many of them have come the restaurant’s signature recipes.
One of the most surprising dishes is chicken croquette burger. Served on a plate that is in a shape of a chicken’s head, the ground meat is made of chicken shirako, or testicals, mashed through a fine sieve and mixed in with Béchamel sauce for a creamy texture. The crispy bread crumbs come from a bakery in Hiroshima. The sauce changes regularly as he’s come up with nine different flavors such as teriyaki and tomato sauce.
The steamed tsukune chicken ball is a beautiful recipe that warms your stomach. Served in flavor-packed chicken broth, the fluffy chicken balls are made using roughly minced neck meat, thighs and skin. Covered in shaved summer truffles, the aroma is unforgettable.
The finishing bowl of soup is condensed with all the umami from the entire chicken. Clear and light, all the side menus made using it like ramen and curry rice are superb.
When preparing to open the restaurant, Ishii went on tasting all varieties of chicken from across the country. He also assessed the shipment time and routes from various farms. Kumano jidori from Mie Prefecture was the final pick from all the top-notch ranges. He only uses female chickens that are between 110 and 130 days old. The meat is juicy with just the right amount of fat, and the liver is particularly delicious.
The salt is brought from Portugal, and he adds heat to it to get rid of excess moisture. The buns used in their signature burger is made by Pin de Pain, a bakery in Hiroshima that is run by Ishii’s wife’s friend.
Thanks to the excellent selection by the restaurant’s sommelier, the wines here pair beautifully with the dishes. Previously with Ca sento, the three-star French restaurant in Kobe, she makes her picks from a wide range of vineyards for both Torisho Ishii and Sumibikappou Ishii. In particular, she favors Burgundy wines such as Pinot Noir and Shiraz. For whites, she likes light flavors like Sauvignon Blanc from Koshu, the Japanese wine country in Yamanashi Prefecture. There are about 80-100 bottles in stock, including about 15 different vintages of Champagnes. What a treat that you can enjoy such a superb collection of world wines at this little Japanese yakitori restaurant.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000