Spotlight: Scott Joseph Reviews Tori Tori
At first glance, it’s hard to tell whether Tori Tori wants to be a restaurant or a bar that serves food.
Its name, which, roughly translated, is Japanese for Poultry Poultry or Chicken Chicken, would suggest the former. Its mien, however, is more of a cocktail lounge. There is no table service; orders for food and drinks must be placed with a bartender; food runners deliver the orders.
And there seem to be more drink options on the small booklet-size menu than food, which is all small plates (and presented in small print it should be mentioned). There’s even a section of the menu labeled Bar Food.
But none of this is “bar food.” Each dish is thoughtfully conceived and expertly executed.
That the quality of the food is so good should not come as a surprise once you know that Tori Tori is the project of Sonny Nguyen, who also owns the well-received Domu restaurants.
The first sections of the food menu are Yakitori and Kushiyaki, which basically mean chicken skewers and not-chicken skewers. And besides the Bar Food section, there’s another featuring “Handies,” or hand rolls.
The Handies feature nori sheets folded with rice and seafood inside. To keep the seaweed wrapper crisp, a sheet of wax paper is placed between the nori and the ingredients. (A note on the menu admonishes diners to remove the sheet before eating.)
It works perfectly: the mix of tuna and rice with a bit of chopped scallions was delicious..
Tori Tori breaks down its own chicken chicken, 15 a day according to the menu, and only the feathers, it would seem, aren’t used. So you’ll find yakitori of wings, heart, gizzards and even breast cartilage. We went for the thigh meat selection with a salt crust. The meat was tender and the crust added only a slight salty note.
From the list of fun cocktails I had the Brooklyn, cheekily described as a Manhattan’s “younger, hipper” cousin.
I have a feeling the target market of Tori Tori is the younger, hipper crowd. But anyone who appreciates something new and innovative will enjoy it just as much. Maybe more.
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