Jan 25, 2016

Dine in Kyoto's Historic Building - Toriyasa 鳥彌三 by the Kamo River

More than 200 years old restaurant along the Kamo River, Toriyasa is one of the Japanese Cultural Properties famous for its chicken hot pot and other chicken dishes.

This restaurant was also on a Japanese TV show introducing what bushi/samurai likes to eat back in the days. The host was saying that Sakamoto Ryōma, a prominent figure during the Bakumatsu period dined in Toriyasa several times. 

Once stepped inside, the wooden structure, the squeaking floor, and the lighting will gently take you back in time -

Took my shoes off and followed the waitress to the second floor into a tatami room -

The friendly auntie-like waitress noticed that I was taking pictures. She asked if I want to follow her to the other seating area overlooking the Kamo River for some pictures -

Toriyasa offers outdoor tatami seating during late spring/summer months. Other scenic view rooms are also available.

Throughout my meal, there were mainly two auntie waitresses managing the tableside service and one young man carrying the heavy hot pot to the room. None of them speak ok English. They do have English menu but not too helpful. Instead, they prefer verbally informing the customers which dishes are available and ways of preparation. Dinner hours only serves chicken hot pot along with other smaller dishes. 

Local sake from Kyoto Fushimi area -

Chicken liver to go with sake -

Light soy sauce based but slightly sweet with a hint of yuzu.

Hassun/seasonal appetizers -

Mackerel oshizushi (pressed style sushi), sesame tofu, citrus tofu, sweetfish roe, edamade, etc. This meal happened during fall months, which reflected on plate/room decoration and ingredients selection. That's one main reason why I love Japanese food, it's like admiring an art form in a much easier and delicious way.

The auntie waitresses are very nice and attentive. Despite the language barrier, they still try to chat with you in a non-intrusive way. Their expressions and tone of voice make you feel warmed and welcomed. 

Slightly different from the more familiar shabu shabu, Toriyasa serves hot pot made with two main ingredients - chicken and water. Sounds simple, but it actually takes three full days of attentive cooking to achieve such thick and collagen-filled stock -

Tableside service almost from the beginning till the end. The waitress cooks and serves the food at your own paste.

First bowl of soup was mixed with quail egg and some salt flakes -

Look at the color of the chicken soup, all the chicken essence has already melted in the soup after cooking for three days straight.

The waitress added some veggies into the pot. She was making dipping sauce while waiting for the ingredients to be cooked -

Single order of karaage/Japanese fried chicken -

The coating was already seasoned and has a grainy texture, moist but not soggy. Every piece of the chicken was so tender and juicy, and the sensation when biting into that grainy crust was very addicting -

It was during the matsutake season, one of the expensive mushrooms in Japan, I often think of it as chanterelle in Asia -

How can one miss the chance of having fresh quality matsutake while in Japan? So I picked the smallest one and the waitress suggested to simply grill the matsutake in order to enjoy its full aroma.

Second hot pot serving, the waitress also added some chili powder to the dipping sauce -

The boiled chicken skin was not oily at all since most of the fat has already melted into the soup. Very tender and bouncy piece of meat. The ponzu sauce provided a refreshing touch.

Look at that layer of collagen-goodness floating on top -

The waitress kept serving small portion of food right after I finished the previous one -

The last few bowls of soup got much more condensed and sticky, in a good and delicious way -

Matsutake came right on time. The excitement level was comparable to seeing truffle slices on my plate -

Very aromatic and concentrated mushroom scent, even came with tiny hint of earthy bitterness tone -

This serving came with yuba, the thin layer that flows on top during the tofu making process -

Cooking two more ingredients - 

Good thing the waitress was the one doing the cooking, if let me do it, I would have thrown all the ingredients into the pot from the beginning.

White meat served last -

Little box on the side for toothpicks -

Mochi/sticky rice cake -

Possibly my top three favorite mochi ever. Never a big fan of sticky food but this one was cooked till almost falling apart but still managed to hold on its shape. 

Fully absorbed the essence of chicken soup and won't cling on teeth. Very moist yet still got that distinct chewy texture -

Kyoto tsukemono/pickled veggies - 

Pickled veggies for the zosui/porridge at the end of the meal. 

So the waitress poured a bowl of rice to the soup -

Stirred and cooked for a short moment. Mixed in beaten egg and scallion, covered with lid and waited till the egg reaches the right texture -

The egg was semi-cooked with that silky texture remained -

This is the best part of the whole meal. Every grain of rice fully absorbed the chicken umami, sweetness from the vegetables, and stock essence, all in this one little bowl -

My lips turned sticky after eating it because of the collagen in the soup. My whole body felt very warm and comforting (maybe stuffed too) after three bowls of zosui. 

Hot tea and hot towel after the meal -

Ended the night with sweet and juicy persimmon -

Puffed belly.

I've dined in about six Michelin starred restaurants during this trip and hands down Toriyasa has the best service. It's not the formal serving style often get at a high-end restaurant. In fact, it's more like eating at a homey place where sincerer caring happens. I guess here at Toriyasa, not only the food provides warmth, but also the friendly waitresses that take care of customers throughout the meal. 

Toriyasa currently holds one Michelin star status.

鳥彌三 Toriyasa
〒600-8012 京都府京都市下京区西石垣通四条下ル斉藤町136
136 Saitocho, Kiyamachi Shijo Sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
(075) 351-0555
*Outdoor tatami seating available from 5/1~9/30
*Opens for lunch and dinner, reservation is highly recommended

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