A Crown Jewel Restored - The Return of the Kyoto-Style Oden Specialist and Yakitori Guru - Torihei [Thoughts + Pics]

There’s a certain unbridled excitement when you discover culinary greatness, eating something that is so far beyond what you’ve had before that it changes your paradigm and elevates the standard. And the feeling you get when that greatness is gone - whether through closure, the Chef leaving, etc. - creates a gaping hole of sadness. But what’s the feeling when that gaping hole is suddenly filled and the greatness is restored?

Is it relief? A deep sense of gladness? Euphoria? Perhaps all of those things and more. Such were the emotions that hit me as we decided to dine at Torihei recently. For those that don’t know, Torihei exploded onto the local dining scene years ago, featuring a fantastic trio behind the success: Chef-Owner Masataka Hirai was an absolute master of the Yakitori Grill (Grilled Chicken Skewers over Japanese Binchotan Charcoal), Chef Masakazu Sasaki was an Oden Master, bringing stunning Kyoto-style Oden to the South Bay, and Co-Owner & General Manager Taigo Sato who kept the front of the house running smoothly and professionally.

But after a great successful run for many years, they decided to open up a Ramen restaurant (Jidaiya) a few miles away. Perhaps to take a break, or put all their efforts to make sure that new Ramen shop was successful, all 3 of them moved over to their new endeavor to cook and run that business. The replacement staff they left behind at Torihei (version 2.0) was nowhere near as good, unfortunately. Quality and execution went downhill and it was average at best (it was fine, but not what OG Torihei was like).

We were prepared to have that average Yakitori (the first time enjoying Yakitori in over 1.5 years since before COVID-19 hit), dining in their outdoor patio, just to support local restaurants and enjoy some decent Yakitori in the process.

Imagine our surprise when we showed up and the person greeting us at the front was none other than Co-Owner & General Manager Taigo Sato! :open_mouth: Shocked, we caught up briefly, but then found out that he and OG Chef Masakazu Sasaki are back at Torihei! And Chef-Owner Masataka Hirai stops by sometimes but goes between L.A. and Yokohama (where the OG Torihei is still running) to oversee both places. He assured us that they are back and want to rebuild Torihei. So good! :blush:

Sitting down, you are greeted by Torihei’s gorgeous Utsuwa (earthenware) brought in from Japan.

Their Sake Menu is greatly paired down, with some safe, solid bets, like Otokoyama Junmai, Kikusui Junmai Daiginjo (a nice touch, since most places only serve the more common Junmai Ginjo) and Dassai 45.

However, be sure to ask Taigo-san for any Sake that is off-menu. (@ipsedixit @A5KOBE @ColinMorey and others) He mentions that he had to scale back inventory greatly in 2020 when the pandemic hit (which is the printed menu), but is slowly expanding and building back the Sake Menu as outdoor dining and business is building back up. :slight_smile:

We began with one off-menu Sake:

Shichida - Junmai Sake (Saga, Japan):

While “only” a Junmai Sake, Shichida is a standout Sake lineup. The Shichida Junmai was crisp with a clean finish, dangerously sippable, excellent! :blush: And it paired really well with most of the Yakitori and Oden dishes we had this evening.

Cabbage Salad with Garlic Sesame Sauce:

Very good. Raw Cabbage mixed with a Housemade Garlic Sesame Sauce that was balanced, not overly garlicky, nor too nutty that some versions have turned out to be.

Fried Shishito Peppers:

Excellent! Perfectly fried, piping hot, there’s a Spring-like fragrance emitting from the Shishito Peppers that are blistered and delicious with the smoky Katsuoboshi (Bonito Flakes). :slight_smile:

Tako Wasa (Raw Octopus with Wasabi):

You’re greeted with a sinus-clearing spike of Wasabi and slippery, tender tendrils of Octopus. A classic Torihei item and delicious. :slight_smile:

Kara-age (Japanese Fried Chicken):

Yes! This is the type of execution that Torihei 2.0 has been missing, and was present during the glory days of Torihei years ago: Excellently fried morsels of Boneless Jidori Chicken. Lightly crisped, not greasy, moist, tender, perfectly marinated Chicken within. :heart:

(And a great pairing with Shichida Junmai Sake.) :slight_smile:

(Kyoto-Style Oden) Tamago (Stewed Soft-Boiled Egg with Salmon Egg):

The first item from their Kyoto-Style Oden menu arrived. The moment of truth: A sip of the Oden Broth…

This is the sublime lightness that’s been missing from not only Torihei, but the City of Angels for so long! Chef Masakazu Sasaki is back! Sasaki-san’s Homemade Oden Broth is a thing of beauty: Delicate, clear, balanced. The Dashi Broth is more nuanced and lighter than many Oden Broths seen locally. The Katsuoboshi (Bonito Flakes), the Konbu (Kelp) and specific special Shoyu (Soy Sauce) he uses along with the rest of his secret recipe results in something that is like the best, warming clean Broth you can have as the chilly nights wear on. It is fantastic! :heart:

The Tamago is a touch overcooked (usually it’s a perfect Hanjyuku Tamago (Soft-Boiled Egg) with a liquid creamy center). Today the outer edges were a touch overcooked, but the inside was still creamy and Torihei tops it with Ikura (Salmon Roe). It is still delicious! :heart:

(We later found out Sasaki-san is manning both the Oden and Yakitori stations right now(!), really stepping up to cover the heart of Torihei, so he was probably a bit overstretched on this busy night. In the OG days, Chef-Owner Masa-san would cover Yakitori while Sasaki-san would cover Oden.)

Nankotsu Kara-age (Fried Chicken Cartilage):

For Cartilage fans, it should be noted Torihei serves both types of Chicken Cartilage here (as in the OG days)! :blush: For fans of the Chicken Cartilage in the leg and thigh area, order their Nankotsu Kara-age. These are nicely fried and have crunchy morsels of the Chicken Leg and Thigh Cartilage, along with a little bit of the surrounding meat. :slight_smile:

Our first round of Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers over Charcoal) items began to arrive. For those new to Yakitori, be sure to prepare your condiments (tableside) with Shichimi Togarashi, a mixture of seven spices with some light heat, and Sansho (Sansho Pepper Powder):

Feel free to lightly dab the various Grilled Skewers in whichever condiment you prefer, which accentuates the flavors. :slight_smile:

Yagen (Cartilage):

The first item from their Yakitori menu to arrive is the other type of Chicken Cartilage available at Torihei: Yagen, or Grilled Chicken Breast Cartilage. These were lightly smoky, benefiting from the Binchotan (Japanese White Charcoal) and excellent grilling skills from Sasaki-san. Even though he was the OG Oden Specialist at Torihei, he’s talented and learned enough about Yakitori over the years in Japan and here from Masa-san that it’s outstanding Yakitori. :blush:

Konbu (Sea Tangle):

From their Kyoto-style Oden Menu, the Konbu (Sea Tangle) is perfect. Sasaki-san’s Housemade Kyoto-style Oden Broth is comforting and balanced again, and the Konbu just works so well here, vegetal, earthy, savory and delicious.

Daikon (White Radish):

But if there’s one dish that summarizes Sasaki-san’s Kyoto-style Oden the best, it is Daikon (White Radish). It sounds so simple, but you’re greeted by this perfectly stewed piece of Daikon Radish, so clean and tender, so pure, and the fantastic Dashi Broth soaks in completely.

It is delicate. It is earnest and humble. And it is absolutely stunning. Easily the best Oden in L.A.! :heart: :blush: :heart:

Gobo-age (Fried Burdock Root):

Their Gobo-age is another winner: Taking Fried Burdock Root, and then stewing it in Sasaki-san’s sublime Oden Broth results in this soft, hearty, earthy bite of deliciousness, teasing the crave-worthiness of something fried, but then mellowed out by the delicate stewing in such a clean, light Oden Broth.

Ankimo (Monkfish Liver):

One of the Side Dishes at Torihei continues to shine: Their Ankimo (Monkfish Liver) is served chilled, creamy and luscious, earning its nickname as the “Foie Gras of the Sea”, and the Ponzu Sauce helps balance out each bite so it doesn’t become too overwhelming. Just wonderful. :blush:

(Off-Menu) Shiokara (Squid Marinated in Fermented Squid Guts):

While it used to be on Torihei’s OG menu, due to COVID-19, they’ve paired down the menu, so Shiokara (Squid Marinated in Fermented Squid Guts) is now an off-menu item now. It is definitely an acquired taste, hardcore, funky, mineral-y, iron-y, salty and slippery. :sweat_smile:

Ebi (Special Large Shrimp with House-Blended Salt):

Another excellent offering from their Yakitori / Kushiyaki menu, the Ebi (Grilled Special Large Shrimp) was lightly smoky, fragrant and with a pleasing light brininess along with sweet Shrimp meat within. :slight_smile:

Hanpen (Stewed Fish Cake):

Forget any notions you might have of “Fish Cake” as you take a bite of the sublime, airy cloud of Stewed Whitefish. Sasaki-san makes his Hanpen from scratch in-house and it is ridiculous! Not only is it so light and airy, the flavors are another perfect match for the Kyoto-style Oden Broth. Highlight of the evening! :heart:

Marugoto Ikayaki (Grilled Squid with Yakitori “Tare” Sauce):

Another OG Torihei menu item restored to its former glory. A fantastic Grilled Whole Squid over Binchotan Charcoal, it is an excellent snack to pair with some Shichida Sake. :blush:

Asupara Maki (Grilled Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon with Special Curry Sauce):

Perfectly grilled Asparagus with the Bacon nicely rendered and smoky.

Yaki Onigiri (Robata Rice Ball) + Mentaiko (Spicy Cod Roe):

Flawless.

It is amazing how good Sasaki-san’s Yakitori skills are, considering his mastery of Oden. These Yaki Onigiri (Grilled Rice Balls) arrive perfectly grilled, lightly smoky, the exterior Rice crisp-crunchy, giving way to a soft interior and your choice of filling (Umeboshi (Japanese Plum), Mentaiko (Spicy Salted Code Roe) or plain). We went with Mentaiko on this evening and it was fantastic! Lightly spicy, salty, oceanic (in a good way). :heart:

Seared Beef with Special Sauce:

Tasty slivers of Seared Beef, arriving a nice rosy pink, lightly beefy, the seasoned Daikon Oroshi (Grated Daikon Radish), Negi (Green Onions) and Housemade Sauce made this another winner.

Dashimaki Tamago (Seasoned Omelet with Shiso and Seasoned Cod Roe):

Fluffy, light, lovely Egg Omelet bursting with Dashi juiciness, we enjoyed the unique addition of Shiso Leaf and Seasoned Cod Roe within. :blush:

Tori Kamameshi (Chicken and Veggie Iron Pot Rice):

The one hiccup of the evening was their Kamameshi (Iron Pot Rice): In the early days, Torihei’s Kamameshi was an outstanding offering. We found out that with Sasaki-san busy covering both Oden and Yakitori stations, the other cooked dishes and prep dishes like this Kamameshi are handled by assistants. In this case, there was just too much water leftover, so the Rice was soggy. :frowning: The Chicken and mixed Vegetables and Broth flavor were coming through, but it was just poorly executed. We let the staff know, so hopefully this can be rectified in the near future.

2nd New Visit (~15+ Visits Overall):

To make sure it wasn’t a dream, we had to return the following week to make sure it was as good as our previous visit. :wink:

Takeno Tsuyu - Dew of the Bamboo - Junmai Sake (Yamagata, Japan):

Another Off-Menu Sake, Taigo-san surprises us with one of his favorites. Coincidentally this was a recommended Sake from a good friend of ours, and a great way to support not only Torihei, but the Japanese Sake industry. Taking a sip:

Like chilled, refreshing, crisp mountain water! It is incredibly smooth, dry, only lightly floral (barely) and finishes so clean! It is fantastic! :heart: (@ColinMorey @A5KOBE)

Nasu (Grilled Eggplant):

Smoky, soft, tender, I wish more Eggplant dishes were as enjoyable as this Grilled Eggplant over Charcoal. :slight_smile:

Jikasei Tsukune (Torihei Meatballs):

Highlight of the evening! :heart:

OG Hounds will remember the original Torihei had multiple shining stars, but one of the most bright was their Jikasei Tsukune, which are Housemade Chicken Meatballs Grilled over Binchotan Charcoal. They are incredibly seasoned, not too salty, complex, savory, mouth-watering, and a mixture of moist and tender Ground Chicken along with various Herbs and seasonings, and Masa-san mixed in Chicken Cartilage as well, to give it a little bit of crunchiness!

That’s all still there, now that Sasaki-san and Taigo-san are back running Torihei. Their Housemade Tsukune are wondrous bites of deliciousness and every bit as good as the OG days! They are better than Aburiya Raku’s Tsukune Meatballs (which I adore). Must order! :heart: :blush: :heart: (@thechez5 @ipsedixit @paranoidgarliclover @ColinMorey and others.)

Kawa (Grilled Chicken Skin):

Usually one of the fastest items to sell out, be sure to order this early. Torihei’s Kawa (Grilled Chicken Skin over Charcoal) is back to its original splendor as well! :blush: Sasaki-san is doing an excellent job on the grill, the Chicken Skin is crispy, perfectly cooked little bites of decadence. We liked it with both the Shichimi Togarashi and Sansho Pepper condiments. :heart:

Tsunagi (Grilled Special Chicken Heart with Garlic):

Another fantastic Yakitori item, the Tsunagi (Special Chicken Heart with Garlic) are plump, juicy, tender morsels, and their Housemade Tare Sauce (Mirin, Soy Sauce Marinade) accentuates each bite. :blush:

Negima (Grilled Chicken Thigh with Green Onion):

Ridiculous.

Juicy, tender, perfectly Grilled Chicken Thigh meat over Binchotan Charcoal, with that great complement of Negi (Green Onions). So good! :heart:

Daikon (White Radish):

From their Kyoto-style Oden menu, we had to get their Daikon (Stewed White Radish) again. Make sure you enjoy the Housemade Oden Broth: It is just as light, warming and delicious as before. The Daikon Radish continues to just soak up all the flavors and you have this perfect vessel that embodies and reflects the greatness of Oden in one bite. :heart:

Sunagimo (Grilled Chicken Gizzard):

Another outstanding Yakitori skewer, Sasaki-san continues to show off his prowess with perfectly cooked Sunagimo (Chicken Gizzard) which he grills to produce a lightly flame seared exterior, crisp, giving way to that snap and meatiness of lightly smoky Chicken Gizzard. :heart:

Hanpen (Fish Cake):

Torihei’s Jikasei Hanpen (Housemade Fish Cake) is seriously like biting into a cloud. Sasaki-san hand makes the Hanpen and there is nothing close to this in L.A. A must order and another standout of their Oden menu. :heart:

Dashimaki Tamago (Seasoned Omelet with Shiso and Seasoned Cod Roe):

torihei_065

As great as last time. :slight_smile:

Gyu-tan (Grilled Beef Tongue with Wasabi):

From their Yakitori / Kushiyaki (Grilled Skewers) menu, their Gyu-tan (Grilled Beef Tongue Skewers) are as good as the OG days! Beefy, meaty but tender, there’s just enough fattiness to please and the Wasabi helps cut through it all and bring focus. Must order. :heart:

(And other great pairing with the Takeno Tsuyu Sake.) :slight_smile:

Yagen (Grilled Chicken Cartilage):

Their Yagen (Grilled Chicken Breast Cartilage) were as outstanding as the previous visit and as good as the OG days for Torihei as well. :slight_smile:

Honetsuki Karubi (Beef Short Ribs with Special Sauce):

These are Cross Cut Beef Short Ribs (made popular via Korean BBQ), grilled over Binchotan Charcoal and then served with a marinade that is basically Sasaki-san’s interpretation of a Korean BBQ-style marinade. These were tasty, smoky and meaty.

Shishamo (Grilled Smelt Fish):

Stupid good. Sasaki-san grills these to perfection. I miss Torihei so much and this was a dish that just brought back all the great memories. Lovely. :heart: :blush: :heart:

Tebasaki (Grilled Chicken Wings):

And it is fitting that the final Yakitori item of the evening was their Tebasaki, or Grilled Chicken Wings. The gorgeous golden hued skin, delicate smokiness with juicy, perfectly cooked Grilled Chicken Wing meat within. :heart:

With the return of OG Chef Masakazu Sasaki and Co-Owner & General Manager Taigo Sato, Torihei is in the midst of a revival. Just with the return of these 2 dedicated staff members, Torihei has immediately shot to the top of L.A.'s Yakitori and Oden scene. From glorious Sunagimo (Grilled Chicken Gizzards) to juicy, luscious Negima (Grilled Chicken Thigh with Green Onions), to Kawa (Grilled Chicken Skin), Gyu-tan (Grilled Beef Tongue with Wasabi), to the fantastic Yaki Onigiri (Grilled Robata Rice Balls) (order it with Umeboshi (Japanese Plum) or Mentaiko (Spicy Salted Cod Roe) and so much more, this is the best Yakitori in the city right now.

But don’t forget to explore their Kyoto-style Oden menu as well, which is Sasaki-san’s OG specialty, exploring the delicate, balanced, light Oden Broth with Stewed Daikon Radish, the amazing Hanpen (Housemade Fish Cake), Soft Egg with Salmon Roe, Konbu (Sea Tangle) and more. There is nothing close to this in L.A. at the moment.

It’s something of a minor miracle, to have Torihei lose its OG staff, have the pandemic hit, and they somehow survive, and the OG staff have returned restoring it to its former glory. There are still some minor hiccups (since Masa-san isn’t cooking (but still with the group in a managerial position nowadays), their assistant / replacement doing the Non-Yakitori and Non-Oden items still need some improvements), but even at this early stage of return, Torihei has once again returned to be one of L.A.'s best and brightest.

(Note: Be sure Sasaki-san is in the day you are visiting. Currently the manager confirmed that they are both there on weekends (Fri, Sat, Sun) usually.)

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

Update 1:

It was time for a revisit to Torihei, now that Yakitori greatness was restored in So Cal. We called ahead to make sure, but Chef-Co-Owner Masakazu Sasaki was in, and manning the kitchen. :slight_smile:

Takeno Tsuyu - Dew of the Bamboo - Junmai Sake (Yamagata, Japan):

As absolutely delicious as always! :heart: Cool, chilled, crisp, refreshing Yamagata Sake from Takeno Tsuyu! If you’re unsure of what to order with your Yakitori, consider this Sake to enjoy. :blush:

Fried Shishito Peppers:

Perfectly flash fried and blistered again! Delicious and a great starter to the meal.

Chopped Cucumber with Sesame Oil:

Refreshing, snappy, light crunch and cool, crisp Cucumber chunks marinated with Salt and Sesame Oil. :blush: The early Summer Tomatoes were also starting to exude some fragrant summery sweetness.

Daikon (White Radish):

This Kyoto-style Oden (Poached Veggies and Seafood in a Housemade Dashi Broth) offering was as fantastic as we remembered from the OG days! The Daikon Radish was perfectly cooked through, tender, totally absorbing the sublime Housemade Dashi Broth for the Oden. So good! :heart:

Nankotsu Kara-age (Deep Fried Chicken Cartilage):

Nicely fried, not greasy, nor heavy, a light crispness, combined with the crunchiness from the bits of Chicken Cartilage and tender Chicken Meat connected to it makes for a lovely bite. :blush: A great pairing with our Sake.

Petite Tomato Skewer:

These Tomatoes aren’t quite in season yet, but they still were delicious offering a tart-sweetness with smokiness from the Binchotan grill.

Negima (Grilled Chicken Thigh with Green Onion):

Just look at how juicy the Negima (Grilled Chicken Thigh with Green Onion) Skewers are! :slight_smile: Torihei’s use of real Binchotan (Japanese White Charcoal) makes a difference and the presence of OG Chef Sasaki-san in the kitchen was most certainly key. :heart:

Jikasei Tsukune (Torihei Meatballs):

Sasaki-san’s legendary Housemade Tsukune (Jidori Chicken Meatballs) are still the highlight of the evening! :heart: :blush: :heart: Moist, tender, bursting with flavor, and he mixes in bits of Chicken Cartilage with the Ground Chicken Meat to give a glorious textural contrast! :heart:

Reminder: Don’t forget to prepare your condiments (tableside) with Shichimi Togarashi, a mixture of seven spices with some light heat, and Sansho (Sansho Pepper Powder). From there, try lightly dabbing each Yakitori Skewer in either of the condiments and see which one flavors you enjoy more with each bite. :slight_smile:

Sunagimo (Grilled Chicken Gizzard):

Lightly smoky, great inherent snap, good meatiness. The best Sunagimo in L.A. :slight_smile:

Shiitake (Grilled Shiitake Mushroom Skewers):

Fragrant, gentle smokiness, massive flavor bomb inherent with perfectly Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms! :heart:

Gyu-tan (Grilled Beef Tongue with Wasabi):

Deeply beefy, tender, yet meaty, gentle smoke. Absolutely delicious! :heart:

Shishamo (Grilled Smelt Fish):

Another classic, these Shishamo (Grilled Smelt Fish) Skewers capture the essence of the Binchotan Charcoal, while still imparting some gentle, pleasing brininess with each bite. :blush:

Hanpen (Fish Cake):

From their Kyoto-style Oden side of the menu, Torihei’s Hanpen (Housemade Fish Cake) is as light and airy as usual.

(Special) Agedashi Tofu:

On this visit, Torihei had a daily special of Agedashi Tofu! That classic Izakaya dish of Deep Fried Tofu served with a Dashi Broth is enjoyable but not as sublime as the best versions that we’ve had locally (Izakaya Bincho (RIP), Raku (RIP)), but they are the best version we’ve had from a restaurant still in business, and it’s still very good. :blush:

Kawa (Grilled Chicken Skin):

Absurd.

Crispy, deeply satisfying Kawa (Grilled Chicken Skin) Skewers. That crispiness gives way to a depth of Chicken fat flavor that is so satisfying! :heart: We enjoyed it with both the Shichimi and Sansho Pepper condiments. :slight_smile:

2nd highlight of the evening! :heart:

Konbu (Sea Tangle):

Another excellent offering from their Oden menu, the Konbu (Sea Tangle) is delicately poached / stewed with their lighter Kyoto-style Housemade Dashi Broth.

Buran Manjie-fu Annin Tofu (Blanc-Manger aux Amandes “Annin-Tofu”):

A hidden gem, Torihei makes their Annin Tofu (or Almond Tofu), from scratch, in-house every day! :open_mouth: It is silky, delicate, lightly sweet, fragrant from the Almond flavors within. An excellent way to finish off dinner! :heart:

Another Visit:

It was so good, we found ourselves craving Torihei yet again a few weeks later. :sweat_smile: On this visit (just this past weekend), imagine our shock when as we were seated we saw OG Chef-Owner Masataka Hirai manning the Yakitori grill! :open_mouth: Chef Hirai was the original chef that brought the glorious Yakitori skewers of Torihei to L.A. and elevated the restaurant to the top of the Yakitori mountain.

When all 3 key stakeholders left Torihei (to their subordinates) to open Jidaiya down the street, Hirai-san then moved on to overall oversight and management, stepping away from cooking. And while 2nd OG Chef Sasaki-san is back at Torihei manning the grills and other spots as needed, and he makes some top notch Yakitori, it is Hirai-san’s Yakitori that is even better (just a touch)! So we were absolutely hyped to sit down and order immediately! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

(We found out from the manager that Hirai-san was only stepping in on this evening because the kitchen was short staffed. Darn. Hopefully he might stop back in from time-to-time to cook still. His skills are sorely missed if he’s stopped cooking.)

Tsunagi (Grilled Special Chicken Heart with Garlic):

Plump, juicy, lightly smoky and perfectly grilled. Hirai-san’s version of Tsunagi is flawless. Just an outstanding skewer! :heart:

Jikasei Tsukune (Torihei Meatballs):

Torihei’s Housemade Jidori Chicken Meatballs are even better with Hirai-san manning the grills. Still an amazing highlight, so moist, juicy, plump! :heart:

Negima (Grilled Chicken Thigh with Green Onion):

At some point of taking gentle bite after bite of delicately smoky, juicy, plump morsels of perfectly grilled Chicken and Vegetables, you just realize that you’re eating the best Yakitori in L.A., and it’s not even close. :heart:

Chilled Tofu:

Another refreshing, tasty little bite, the silky, tender Chilled Tofu is nicely complemented by Green Onions, freshly grated Ginger, Katsuoboshi (Shaved Bonito Flakes) and lightly sauced with a quality Soy Sauce.

Ankimo (Monkfish Liver):

Torihei’s version of Ankimo (Monkfish Liver) is very good. There’s a decadent lush quality as is usually found in quality Ankimo and it comes through in every bite of this dish. :blush:

Gyu-tan (Grilled Beef Tongue with Wasabi):

Still delicious and perfectly cooked. :heart:

Kawa (Grilled Chicken Skin):

So good! :heart:

Reba- (Chicken Liver):

For all the Liver fans out there, this is just an outstanding Skewer, as the Chicken Liver is still extremely flavorful, minerally, quite moist and the Housemade Tare Sauce helps to balance out the heavier aspects.

Yagen (Grilled Chicken Cartilage):

Another excellent skewer: Crunchy but pliant and tender enough skewers of Grilled Chicken Cartilage (using the Chicken Breast portion of Cartilage). :slight_smile:

Tebasaki (Grilled Chicken Wings):

Lightly crisped skin from excellent grilling over Binchotan Charcoal, the Tebasaki (Grilled Chicken Wings) are just so satisfying! :heart:

(Kyoto-Style Oden) Tamago (Stewed Soft-Boiled Egg with Salmon Egg):

Their Tamago (Stewed Soft-Boiled Egg with Salmon Egg) off the Oden menu is near perfect today! Just cooked through Soft Boiled Egg with a creamy, oozing Egg Yolk, topped with Ikura (Salmon Egg) that adds just the right amount of oceanic salinity pop. :blush:

Gobo-age (Fried Burdock Root):

Another sign of excellence at Torihei, to take the normally very fibrous, tough Gobo (Burdock Root) and to be able to create an appealing dish where the Burdock Root is marinated, fried and then poached / stewed in their Kyoto-style Oden Broth, the result is a pleasing textural standout: It starts off a bit firm but then you realize it’s soft and gives way to an earthy, fried-stewed bite.

(Off Menu) Marugoto Tomato (Whole Stewed Tomato):

One of the OG menu items from Torihei back in the day, it has been removed from the menu for awhile now (partly due to the pandemic and the amount of time it takes to make). Sasaki-san takes a whole Tomato, poaches / stews it in the Oden Broth mixed with Soy Milk. He has 2 variations: One used Mashed Potatoes (it works beautifully) and then he made a version using Mozzarella Cheese torched, which is just as tasty in a different way. :blush: This was lovely and a surprise to see them offer it on this visit. :slight_smile:

Torihei continues to rise up out of the ashes of its “2.0 years”, when it was handed off to other staff while the 3 OG owners went off to open up Jidaiya. With all 3 OG owners back in some capacity (Chef Sasaki back in the kitchen - the Oden & Yakitori master), GM Taigo-san running the front of the house and ensuring things are running as best as possible during this challenging time, and Chef-Owner Hirai behind the scenes but taking a more active interest in Torihei again, the difference (even on this 4th follow-up visit since the OG staff returned) is truly night and day.

Torihei is making the best Oden and Yakitori in L.A. right now, and that’s something worth enjoying and celebrating.

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

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Not so sure about the squid in squid guts, but the rest is right up my alley. :slight_smile: The fact that it’s in the same plaza at Wadatsumi (I think) is even better. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Hi @paranoidgarliclover,

Yah the Shiokara is really hardcore, too much for me as well. :sweat_smile: But I think you’d like the rest of the menu. Did you ever make it out to Torihei during the OG Chowhound days?

Make sure to call ahead and confirm Sasaki-san is in the house and book a table ahead of time as well. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the detailed writeup! I feel nostalgic, as my last visit to Torihei was probably in 2015.

Having had the takeout oden from Izakaya Rintaro in San Francisco a few months ago, and also Kyoto style oden in Shinjuku in 2017, a hard boiled egg consistency for the yolk for oden egg regardless of region is normal (and expected). Same for Tokyo style shoyu ramen (ie chuka soba) if an egg is served with it which Venice Ramen’s egg is also of that correct consistency. If Torihei is doing hanjuku for the yolk, it is probably on purpose and adjusting to local / non expat expectations.

Yes, there’s nothing like having good yakitori, even if for outdoor dining, after a year’s worth of takeout. Good affordable food friendly Junmai sake you had there. Last time I had Takenotsuyu Junmai was a carafe at Shin Sen Gumi Fountain Valley with yakitori and their appetizers. As you probably know, Takenotsuyu makes Hakuro Suishu lineup of sake.

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Hi @ColinMorey,

Thanks! :slight_smile: Yah it’s been so long for us as well.

Thanks for the info on hard boiled eggs at Rintaro and other Oden places you’ve been to. That was the same style we had at Shoya for their Oden as well. It sounds like it’s more of a stylistic thing that Sasaki-san was doing then, but it’s delicious either way. :blush:

I think you’d like Sasaki-san’s OG Yakitori then next time you’re in the area. It’s better than Ginji (even before the changes), just some tasty grilled skewers. :slight_smile:

I think I like the simpler Takeno Tsuyu Junmai, over their Hakuro Suishu Junmai Daiginjo?

Any other solid Junmai or Junmai Ginjo you’d recommend with Oden and Yakitori? I’ll pass along some suggestions to Torihei next time. Thanks!

Nice report @Chowseeker1999 and so excited they got the old chef back. Torihei was average at best but now it appears they got their mojo (and chef) back.

Definitely going to revisit soon.

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Great report! I’d love to give it a try one day!

Interesting, when I stir fry shishito at home, I need to blister it a lot more, to the extent that its a lot more brownish before the shishito is soft enough to my liking, i.e. not raw-ish/ crunchy. Was it crunchy?

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My kids would flip for that. The cartilage, shishamo and tendon look great as well. Too bad this isn’t closer but maybe I’ll have to bring the whole family for a Monkish Friday pick up then dinner.

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Hi @sck,

Thank you! :slight_smile: I think you, @hyperbowler and any other SF Onioners would like Torihei when Sasaki-san is in the house (currently weekends). :slight_smile: I really enjoyed my time at Izakaya Ginji, Rintaro and Iroriya (RIP) in your area before COVID. I think Torihei’s yakitori is even more enjoyable. :wink: Give it a try when you visit.

Re: Shishito Peppers - No, they were tender, not crunchy at all. :blush: I’ll try asking Sasaki-san next time how they do it. Maybe a certain temperature? Thanks.

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Hi @js76wisco,

Ooh! Wow, that is amazing! You’ve taught your kids to enjoy Sunagimo (Grilled Chicken Gizzard). :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I hope you get a chance to try Torihei when you can. Maybe make an afternoon / dinner out of it, as it’s near the Pacific Ocean (Torrance) and have some delicious sweets at Japanese-French Pastry specialist Patisserie Chantilly (nearby) and then Torihei for dinner. :wink:

No, I’ve never been! But perhaps soon(-ish). :slight_smile:

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Update 1:

It was time for a revisit to Torihei, now that Yakitori greatness was restored in So Cal. We called ahead to make sure, but Chef-Co-Owner Masakazu Sasaki was in, and manning the kitchen. :slight_smile:

Takeno Tsuyu - Dew of the Bamboo - Junmai Sake (Yamagata, Japan):

As absolutely delicious as always! :heart: Cool, chilled, crisp, refreshing Yamagata Sake from Takeno Tsuyu! If you’re unsure of what to order with your Yakitori, consider this Sake to enjoy. :blush: (@A5KOBE, thanks @ColinMorey)

Fried Shishito Peppers:

Perfectly flash fried and blistered again! Delicious and a great starter to the meal.

Chopped Cucumber with Sesame Oil:

Refreshing, snappy, light crunch and cool, crisp Cucumber chunks marinated with Salt and Sesame Oil. :blush: The early Summer Tomatoes were also starting to exude some fragrant summery sweetness.

Daikon (White Radish):

This Kyoto-style Oden (Poached Veggies and Seafood in a Housemade Dashi Broth) offering was as fantastic as we remembered from the OG days! The Daikon Radish was perfectly cooked through, tender, totally absorbing the sublime Housemade Dashi Broth for the Oden. So good! :heart:

Nankotsu Kara-age (Deep Fried Chicken Cartilage):

Nicely fried, not greasy, nor heavy, a light crispness, combined with the crunchiness from the bits of Chicken Cartilage and tender Chicken Meat connected to it makes for a lovely bite. :blush: A great pairing with our Sake.

Petite Tomato Skewer:

These Tomatoes aren’t quite in season yet, but they still were delicious offering a tart-sweetness with smokiness from the Binchotan grill.

Negima (Grilled Chicken Thigh with Green Onion):

Just look at how juicy the Negima (Grilled Chicken Thigh with Green Onion) Skewers are! :slight_smile: Torihei’s use of real Binchotan (Japanese White Charcoal) makes a difference and the presence of OG Chef Sasaki-san in the kitchen was most certainly key. :heart:

Jikasei Tsukune (Torihei Meatballs):

Sasaki-san’s legendary Housemade Tsukune (Jidori Chicken Meatballs) are still the highlight of the evening! :heart: :blush: :heart: Moist, tender, bursting with flavor, and he mixes in bits of Chicken Cartilage with the Ground Chicken Meat to give a glorious textural contrast! :heart:

Reminder: Don’t forget to prepare your condiments (tableside) with Shichimi Togarashi, a mixture of seven spices with some light heat, and Sansho (Sansho Pepper Powder). From there, try lightly dabbing each Yakitori Skewer in either of the condiments and see which one flavors you enjoy more with each bite. :slight_smile:

Sunagimo (Grilled Chicken Gizzard):

Lightly smoky, great inherent snap, good meatiness. The best Sunagimo in L.A. :slight_smile:

Shiitake (Grilled Shiitake Mushroom Skewers):

Fragrant, gentle smokiness, massive flavor bomb inherent with perfectly Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms! :heart:

Gyu-tan (Grilled Beef Tongue with Wasabi):

Deeply beefy, tender, yet meaty, gentle smoke. Absolutely delicious! :heart:

Shishamo (Grilled Smelt Fish):

Another classic, these Shishamo (Grilled Smelt Fish) Skewers capture the essence of the Binchotan Charcoal, while still imparting some gentle, pleasing brininess with each bite. :blush:

Hanpen (Fish Cake):

From their Kyoto-style Oden side of the menu, Torihei’s Hanpen (Housemade Fish Cake) is as light and airy as usual.

(Special) Agedashi Tofu:

On this visit, Torihei had a daily special of Agedashi Tofu! That classic Izakaya dish of Deep Fried Tofu served with a Dashi Broth is enjoyable but not as sublime as the best versions that we’ve had locally (Izakaya Bincho (RIP), Raku (RIP)), but they are the best version we’ve had from a restaurant still in business, and it’s still very good. :blush:

Kawa (Grilled Chicken Skin):

Absurd.

Crispy, deeply satisfying Kawa (Grilled Chicken Skin) Skewers. That crispiness gives way to a depth of Chicken fat flavor that is so satisfying! :heart: We enjoyed it with both the Shichimi and Sansho Pepper condiments. :slight_smile:

2nd highlight of the evening! :heart:

Konbu (Sea Tangle):

Another excellent offering from their Oden menu, the Konbu (Sea Tangle) is delicately poached / stewed with their lighter Kyoto-style Housemade Dashi Broth.

Buran Manjie-fu Annin Tofu (Blanc-Manger aux Amandes “Annin-Tofu”):

A hidden gem, Torihei makes their Annin Tofu (or Almond Tofu), from scratch, in-house every day! :open_mouth: It is silky, delicate, lightly sweet, fragrant from the Almond flavors within. An excellent way to finish off dinner! :heart:

Another Visit:

It was so good, we found ourselves craving Torihei yet again a few weeks later. :sweat_smile: On this visit (just this past weekend), imagine our shock when as we were seated we saw OG Chef-Owner Masataka Hirai manning the Yakitori grill! :open_mouth: Chef Hirai was the original chef that brought the glorious Yakitori skewers of Torihei to L.A. and elevated the restaurant to the top of the Yakitori mountain.

When all 3 key stakeholders left Torihei (to their subordinates) to open Jidaiya down the street, Hirai-san then moved on to overall oversight and management, stepping away from cooking. And while 2nd OG Chef Sasaki-san is back at Torihei manning the grills and other spots as needed, and he makes some top notch Yakitori, it is Hirai-san’s Yakitori that is even better (just a touch)! So we were absolutely hyped to sit down and order immediately! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

(We found out from the manager that Hirai-san was only stepping in on this evening because the kitchen was short staffed. Darn. Hopefully he might stop back in from time-to-time to cook still. His skills are sorely missed if he’s stopped cooking.)

Tsunagi (Grilled Special Chicken Heart with Garlic):

Plump, juicy, lightly smoky and perfectly grilled. Hirai-san’s version of Tsunagi is flawless. Just an outstanding skewer! :heart:

Jikasei Tsukune (Torihei Meatballs):

Torihei’s Housemade Jidori Chicken Meatballs are even better with Hirai-san manning the grills. Still an amazing highlight, so moist, juicy, plump! :heart:

Negima (Grilled Chicken Thigh with Green Onion):

At some point of taking gentle bite after bite of delicately smoky, juicy, plump morsels of perfectly grilled Chicken and Vegetables, you just realize that you’re eating the best Yakitori in L.A., and it’s not even close. :heart:

Chilled Tofu:

Another refreshing, tasty little bite, the silky, tender Chilled Tofu is nicely complemented by Green Onions, freshly grated Ginger, Katsuoboshi (Shaved Bonito Flakes) and lightly sauced with a quality Soy Sauce.

Ankimo (Monkfish Liver):

Torihei’s version of Ankimo (Monkfish Liver) is very good. There’s a decadent lush quality as is usually found in quality Ankimo and it comes through in every bite of this dish. :blush:

Gyu-tan (Grilled Beef Tongue with Wasabi):

Still delicious and perfectly cooked. :heart:

Kawa (Grilled Chicken Skin):

So good! :heart:

Reba- (Chicken Liver):

For all the Liver fans out there, this is just an outstanding Skewer, as the Chicken Liver is still extremely flavorful, minerally, quite moist and the Housemade Tare Sauce helps to balance out the heavier aspects.

Yagen (Grilled Chicken Cartilage):

Another excellent skewer: Crunchy but pliant and tender enough skewers of Grilled Chicken Cartilage (using the Chicken Breast portion of Cartilage). :slight_smile:

Tebasaki (Grilled Chicken Wings):

Lightly crisped skin from excellent grilling over Binchotan Charcoal, the Tebasaki (Grilled Chicken Wings) are just so satisfying! :heart:

(Kyoto-Style Oden) Tamago (Stewed Soft-Boiled Egg with Salmon Egg):

Their Tamago (Stewed Soft-Boiled Egg with Salmon Egg) off the Oden menu is near perfect today! Just cooked through Soft Boiled Egg with a creamy, oozing Egg Yolk, topped with Ikura (Salmon Egg) that adds just the right amount of oceanic salinity pop. :blush:

Gobo-age (Fried Burdock Root):

Another sign of excellence at Torihei, to take the normally very fibrous, tough Gobo (Burdock Root) and to be able to create an appealing dish where the Burdock Root is marinated, fried and then poached / stewed in their Kyoto-style Oden Broth, the result is a pleasing textural standout: It starts off a bit firm but then you realize it’s soft and gives way to an earthy, fried-stewed bite.

(Off Menu) Marugoto Tomato (Whole Stewed Tomato):

One of the OG menu items from Torihei back in the day, it has been removed from the menu for awhile now (partly due to the pandemic and the amount of time it takes to make). Sasaki-san takes a whole Tomato, poaches / stews it in the Oden Broth mixed with Soy Milk. He has 2 variations: One used Mashed Potatoes (it works beautifully) and then he made a version using Mozzarella Cheese torched, which is just as tasty in a different way. :blush: This was lovely and a surprise to see them offer it on this visit. :slight_smile:

Torihei continues to rise up out of the ashes of its “2.0 years”, when it was handed off to other staff while the 3 OG owners went off to open up Jidaiya. With all 3 OG owners back in some capacity (Chef Sasaki back in the kitchen - the Oden & Yakitori master), GM Taigo-san running the front of the house and ensuring things are running as best as possible during this challenging time, and Chef-Owner Hirai behind the scenes but taking a more active interest in Torihei again, the difference (even on this 4th follow-up visit since the OG staff returned) is truly night and day.

Torihei is making the best Oden and Yakitori in L.A. right now, and that’s something worth enjoying and celebrating.

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

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Wow everything looks great. Mouth watering skewers. Did you get any chestnuts?

Might have to plan a trip there this weekend to Monkish and Chantilly if they are open.

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Hi @js76wisco,

The Yakitori skewers are indeed wonderful. :slight_smile: If you plan on going, call ahead and get a reservation (I think they also do Yelp sign in reservations, but calling is the safest). :slight_smile:

No, I sadly did not get the Roasted Chestnuts in the same plaza. We were so stuffed! LOL, but next time I’ll try and save space. :wink:

Thanks for the detailed update on Torihei, @Chowseeker1999.
Glad to hear they are like a Phoenix arising from the ashes.
I will be making a visit soon, based on this review!

Small anecdote: I had just finished a great meal at a small, modest yakitori spot in Shibuya a few years back and I jokingly asked the manager/owner when they would be opening their LA outpost. He responded that they (or his friend? can’t remember) already had a shop in Torrance. That shop? Torihei.

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Hi @Starch,

Welcome! :slight_smile: Thanks. That is amazing that you ended up going to the OG Torihei in Tokyo before you tried Torihei in Torrance. :slight_smile:

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Thank you! Actually, I was already a big fan of Torrance Torihei at that time. I had a good laugh with the manager in Tokyo about that. Small world we live in somtimes :slight_smile:

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