Torikai 鳥魁·燒き鳥·酒場

Article By Nicholas F.Corliss

Liang Zi Chen, No.466, Xi Ying Road.
(029) 8572 5388

Average Price per Person /人均消费: 160RMB

If you get around as much as I do (I mean that in the best way possible) you may have noticed a number of Japanese-themed bars and restaurants popping up around the local nighttime hotspots. The question is, “Are they just a passing fad or do they have some staying power?” Well, if they’re able to hit it home like the new Torikai restaurant, located just off QuJiangDaDao, right across from BeiChiTou subway station, then we may be in for a treat.

The restaurant can be seen from the street as the stylized décor stands piquing any passerby’s curiosity. Situated on the second floor, you must take a small elevator to reach it, but no matter, as its aura will seem to carry you the full way. There’s a slab of stone which guards the entrance and upon the push of a button you enter a world seemingly only realized in Japan. Black, white, and red lanterns hang from the ceiling lighting the majority the atmosphere, similarly black and white cloth banners drape the walls. The ceiling, walls, and shelves are fashioned out of beautiful wooden planks, giving the impression that we’ve been on a long journey and settled in at the closest tavern in the Japanese countryside. Bottles of sake stare at you precariously from shelves high in the rafters as you make your way to your seat. The casks, or kegs, of sake are a bit more ominous and aren’t less intimidating by any means. We were escorted around a large center piece bar where raw fish is prepared to serve, again outfitted with gorgeous, strong wood, to our seat just on the opposite side.

As we took our seats, it was hard to ignore the beautiful presentation that was laid out before us, silver and dark brown porcelain dishes and a small white and red chicken figurine to hold our chopsticks. I realize now that the small chicken was a subtle nod to the main ingredient in their dishes; Yes, Chicken! Almost immediately we were provided snacks to munch while we settled in; crispy wonton noodles and peanuts. This set the tone as the onslaught of food did not cease from then on.

A set meal had been planned for us and we knew (or hoped) that they’d likely give us their best and signature dishes. To start, something cold yet refreshing: pickled tomatoes that were sweet and tart. Complimenting that was a thinly sliced vegetable which reminded me of carrot and a bowl of planked white radish in a sweet and spicy mixture.

At this point, I peered around the restaurant and it was clearly hopping that night; multiple groups had been seated near us and there were others in the back private rooms where servers were busily entering and exiting. The staff seemed to be moving around at a lightning pace trying to keep up with the demand and they did so quite well. A party of two next to us decided it would be champagne tonight and startled us when the cork popped. Behind them were massive refrigerators holding sake bottles of all types, large and small. Adjacent was a smaller fridge only for beer bottles containing those especially originating from Japan, like Asahi and Kirin.

Following up, the restaurants take on fried noodles arrived and to be honest not the tastiest. It acted more like a filler while we waited for the grilled meats to arrive. The noodles were similar to udon and there were fresh vegetables mixed in like bell peppers, onion, and cabbage, but overall it was bland.

This was at the point in the night when they started to turn up the heat. Please enter: the Meats! First, we received a skewer of grilled chicken with pieces of green onion separating the morsels of chicken. On the side, a small green citrus I believe a kumquat, so I spritzed some on and the bite was amazing. Simple seasoning on the chicken, a beautiful mixture of salt and black pepper, yet with the sour from the spritz and tangy from the onion it was top notch. This was a precursor to the entire grilling section in which they always provided this ordinary, yet delicious combination of salt, black pepper, and citrus. The skewers of chicken skin were just about the same, but, come on, chicken skin? Absolutely delectable! This place knows how to grill meat and if you’re looking for something different than the typical KaoRou in Xi’an, I strongly recommend it.

The signature dishes shined in all respects and from them we could really get the feeling of something unique. Please take center stage, Japanese-style Scotch eggs. I’ve never before tried a scotch egg, so let me just say, “Yes, Yes, and more Yes!” The egg was surrounded in a batter of meat, onion and breadcrumbs, and then deep fried. The yolk was runny, silky and smooth just as you would imagine. Make sure you bite the whole thing as one piece and do not try to remove the egg… the combination is immensely satisfying. Up next, grilled chicken patties fashioned like mini hamburgers on skewers known in the local lingo as Tsukune. On the side, a soft yolk meant for stirring and then dipping. Incredible flavor: the patties are cooked in a hearty, sweet sauce that reminds me of teriyaki and when dipped into the yolk it rounds out the entire flavor.

The portions aren’t large but then again the Japanese aren’t well known for filling you up haphazardly. The planned menu and items feel as though they’ve been carefully curated to not only provide you a tasty and delicious meal, but also one that doesn’t gorge you. I was well satisfied after the meal; the only bit I would’ve added to the set is some sake to truly complete the experience. As for price, I’d say it’s a little more on the pricey side of things, however all things considered if you’re really looking for that Japanese food fix it’s totally worth it. Ingredients are fresh, service is prompt, taste is a quality performance, and the environment seals it all into a nice package called…well, Japan. One point of advice is that the menu doesn’t include any pictures and is bilingual in Chinese and Japanese so if you are an English speaker and plan to go bring your tried and trusted Chinese PengYou, use an app like DaZhongDianPing to show them what you want, or get those translators ready! The restaurant also offers a discount of 20% off skewers when each person buys a beverage and 50% off skewers if a group of 4 or more buys a 750ml bottle of sake.

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