The World’s Greatest Yakitori Chicken Master to Open First U.S. Restaurant
Yoshiteru Ikegawa, the chef and owner of Torishiki—Tokyo’s acclaimed 17-seat yakitori restaurant that’s harder to book than Manhattan’s notorious Italian joint, Rao’s—is coming to New York. In late December, the chef will open Torien, a spinoff of his tiny, one Michelin-starred, binchotan-fueled grilled chicken place that, since its debut 12 years ago, has become a pilgrimage for dining enthusiasts from around the world—or, at least those who can get in.
Ikegawa—who, in Japan, is widely regarded as one of the city’s most respected shokunin (craftsmen), and whose chicken haunt is consistently ranked as Tokyo’s number one yakitori spoton the restaurant review site Tabelog—has partnered with Japanese-Mexican restaurateur Edo Lopez of Shōwa Hospitality (Lopez operates several Japanese concepts in Mexico City, in addition to Miami’s covert sushi bar Hiden) on the 24-seat Soho restaurant. Torien will offer 16 counter seats, plus a private room for up to eight diners, encompassing 1,200 square feet on Elizabeth Street at East Houston Street. Ikegawa aims to show New Yorkers that skewered, grilled chicken is as much an art as top-level omakase sushi.
“He did not know in what city of the world to start,” said Lopez, adding that he and Ikegawa talked about opening Torien in Los Angeles, Waikiki, and London. “But I said to Ikegawa-san that, for me, the best place to start was New York,” and eventually he agreed.
For Ikegawa to replicate Torishiki in New York City—as he plans to do—his biggest challenge was finding domestic ingredients at the same quality level as those he cooks with in Tokyo—namely the show’s star, tori, or chicken. And after much research, Ikegawa settled upon three French species of chicken to serve because while some offer better-tasting hearts, others offer softer and juicier flesh.
In general, Torien’s menu will mirror that of Torishiki—with bamboo skewers linking tail, gizzard, or quail eggs—with one new addition: ramen. The dish involves chicken thigh chashu served in a clear chicken broth with housemade noodles. Guests will also have the option to shave seasonal truffles atop.
Future patrons can expect an omakase menu of around 13 courses priced approximately $150 (in Japan a meal at Torishiki is around half that price), with all chicken grilled over kishu binchotan, one of the world’s highest-quality charcoals from Japan’s Wakayama prefecture. Patrons will sit in a dark room around an illuminated blonde kusunoki wood counter brought in from Japan. Meanwhile, sommelier Akio Matsumoto, who is moving from Japan to New York for the job (Matsumoto worked previously at one of Tokyo’s most revered French restaurants, L’Effervescence), will handle beer and wine selects. Behind the counter, in the room’s center, Ikegawa’s longtime apprentice Yoshiteru Maekawa will oversee meticulously grilled chicken–skin, thigh, and tenderloin.
While in Tokyo Ikegawa mostly accepts reservations from friends and friends of friends, in New York he’ll be more accessible, with seats listed on Resy.
It’s safe to say that grilled will never look the same again.