Toriyoshi – Tokyo, JP


Toriyoshi
Sekaidou Building B1 Fl.
2-10-10 Dougenzaka, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo, Japan
+81 3 5784 3373

If you were to literally translate TORIYOSHI, it would end up being something like “good bird”.  I suppose with poultry heavily entrenched in their menu, this is quite fitting and completely appropriate.  As after you’ve had a taste of their famous TEBASAKI KARAGE (deep fried chicken wings), you’ll be saying good things about the bird served at this place too!

Despite it being a “chain” restaurant, I still find the quality and dining experience here to be a delight each and every time.  Owned and operated by the Samukawa Food Planning group since 1984, TORIYOSHI has expanded in the 25 years that have passed and now encompasses forty branches spread across mainly the city of Tokyo, but also in other major centers such as Osaka and Yokohama.

My multiple visits have always centered around one of the outlets in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, the second branch in this part of town.  Its located along the uphill sloping DOUGENZAKA street, and can be found hidden from the sidewalk as it is on a basement level floor of a building.

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Tamahide – Tokyo, JP


Tamahide
1-17-10 Nihonbashi
Ningyocho, Chuo-ku
Tokyo, Japan
+81 3 3668 7651

As a history buff who is fascinated by all things old and the stories behind them, my interest in learning and discovering places to eat that have an established link to an ancient or significant past is very strong…

Previously on Foodosophy, I’d reported on a centuries-old establishment that specialized in Dojo fish (Japanese Loach).  But today, I thought I’d even go back a bit further in time and tell the story about an even older establishment, which is behind the birth of the oyakodon (the Japanese chicken and egg rice bowl dish).  Literally translated, oya means “parent”, and ko means child.  Chicken and egg… hope you get the reference.

Since 1760, the Yamada family has been involved with Tamahide.  Inside their restaurant located in the Ningyocho district of old Tokyo, they proudly display a photograph from that earlier time, showing the structure that housed the restaurant from its humble beginnings (when it began holding a designated role related to the food slaughtering and preparation of chicken for the ruling Shogunate of the era through three generations of the family) through to it operating as a restaurant featuring Shamo breed chicken nabe (one pot dish).

They still serve the shamo nabe in various courses and still is probably the best way to enjoy this breed of Japanese chicken through various forms of preparation and cooking methods, although the oyakodon is definitely the less expensive option here, and just as well known.

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Toride – Tokyo, JP


Toride
Shinsencho 20-23, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo, Japan 〒150-0045
+81 3 3780 4450

With the chilly weather and ongoing fog that has engulfed the west coast, it has me craving for a good bowl of ramen. Unfortunately, when it comes to ramen, my thoughts go back to Japan. No offense to the ramen operators in Vancouver, but there is just something that cannot be matched by the “real deal”. As I think about it, its not only just the difference in the taste, quality of ingredients, dedicated “masters” who put so much into their creations, but also the atmosphere that I have a yearning for on a cold winter’s night.

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Kuruma – Tokyo, JP


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Kuruma
Ginza 1st Building, B1
1-5-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tokyo, JP
Tel: 03-3561-9601
Hours: Mon-Fri, 5:30pm to 2am; Sat, 5pm-2am; Sun/Holidays, 4:30pm-11pm

With eight locations in Tokyo, and six locations in their homebase of the Kansai region, Kuruma has established itself as a leading group of restaurants under the umbrella of a company called Idea Co. Ltd.  This conglomerate also operates another chicken-speciality chain called Torikagura, as well as a pair of teppanyaki restaurants called Midou and Kanrou, as well as a kushi-katsu restaurant called DankehKuruma is all about serving the very best Miyazaki Jitokko (commonly shortened to Jidori).  Broken down, Miyazaki is a region on the southern island of Kyushu (which likes to call itself one of the “four season food baskets” of Japan), and Jitokko refers to an indigenous breed of free range chicken found in both Miyazaki and nearby Kogoshima.  It is recognized that through agricultural research and cross-breeding experiments (involving Jitokko, White Plymouth Rock, and Kyushu Road breeds) beginning in about 1965 resulted in the discovery of what is known in present-day as Miyazaki Jidori (officially branded as such in 2004).

Sourcing from Miyazaki Jidori producers on a direct contract basis, Kuruma is able to bring the highest quality and absolutely freshest product to their outlets (apparently, gate-to-plate in under 24 hours).  For comparison, consider that Miyazaki Jidori is raised over 180 days, whereas regular supermarket chicken is speed-raised in just 90-120 days.  The resulting difference is improved taste, quality, texture, fat, lack of gamey smell, all without the use of growth hormones.  Though this does make raising Miyazaki Jidori a very difficult proposition, and thus this premium brand is carefully protected both by farmers and their related industry associations.  Sort of like the way Miyazaki Beef is as well.  If you’ve ever had this premium beef, you’ll be even more amazed at what this prefecture does with chicken, and quickly understand why it can hold its own as a specialty restaurant serving only this product.

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Komagata Dozeu – Tokyo, JP


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Komagata Dozeu (Shibuya location)
4F Renga Building
1-5-9 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo, JP
Tel: 03-3464-5522
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11:30am-10:30pm; Sun/Hol, 11:30am-9:30pm

Earlier this year where I live, a celebration was held to mark the 150 years that have passed since the founding of what is now the province of British Columbia.  1858, that sounds like a long time ago.  But contrasting that to a restaurant that I visited that has been operating for over 207 years now and still thriving, well that really makes for a time warp.  Komagata Dozeu has been in business since the Edo Period of Japan in the traditional “downtown” of Tokyo called Asakusa (obviously benefiting from its prime location on the way to Sensoji Temple), even appearing in a food guide chronicling the city’s best offerings that was published in 1848 (yes, that’s 52 years before the first Michelin guide came out).  Currently, the head chef is in the sixth generation of the family.

It has also opened up a sister outlet (that holds only about a fifth of the customers at their main branch) in the more populous district of Shibuya, and out of sheer convenience, this is the location that I visited on this night with a pair of good friends.  So what does Dozeu serve?  Simply put, their main offering is Dojo fish, otherwise known as Japanese Loach.  Historically, this breed of fish was abundant in rice field patties and rivers throughout Japan and other parts of Asia, though since about the middle of the last century, getting ample supplies of fresh live Dojo became difficult.  Regions in Japan such as Oita and Fukushima where fresh clean water and natural grass surroundings are the perfect breeding ground.

One of my friends who grew up in northern Japan, noted that as a child he remembered playing around and fishing for Dojo in the rivers near his home.  He had an image of it being a slightly dirty fish since it lived in rivers.  But Dozeu takes pride in the preparation of the ingredients and using only the best quality, and upon his first taste, he exclaimed how impressed he was by the lack of “fishiness” or “griminess” (for lack of a better word) of the fish.  We had ordered their most popular offering, the Dozeu Nabe (1,650 yen), which came out on a shallow hotplate with the Dojo fish simmering in a light fish broth, heated underneath by hot charcoal.  A separate rectangular wooden tray was also brought to the table that was filled with sliced onions which were to be put on top of the hotplate after the fish had been cooked for a while.  By being slowly cooked, the fine bones of the fish become very soft and edible, as well the meat itself is loaded with collagen, making each bite very soft and very much eel-like in texture.  The nutritional benefits of all this calcium and iron is a key selling point, as well as the collagen which they say is good for your skin.

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Musashi Menya – Tokyo, JP


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Musashi Menya
K-1 Building, 1st Floor
7-2-6 Nishi Shinjuku
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Tel: 03-3843-3634

The main branch of this now eight-location chain of ramen shops is located in west Shinjuku, and is the only one I’ve ever visited.

Thinking back to the very first time I went there on a cold and rainy November day a few years back, I was shocked to see that there was a lineup that snaked out the door that must have been about fourty people long.  As I stood there with two of my friends, I began to doubt how good this place could be, or was it just another case of hype getting the best of everyone, as I knew very well that Musashi Menya had in recent years been rated the number one ramen shop in all of Japan by the leading ramen fanatics magazine – and yes, they do exist in Japan!  So very strong buildup to the experience, as I stood in line for well over an hour before I was finally inside.  Only to find that once inside, the line continues before one actually gets a seat.

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