Posts Tagged ‘torishin new york’

My foodie adventures were limited to New York and Montreal in 2016.

In Montreal, Hoogan and Beaufort started the year on a high note (my first two meals), but my third visit impressed less, which is also what happened at my long time favourite pizzeria in town, Bottega. I did not care for my meals at Le Fantome , Yakitori Otto and Tiradito, all regarded as great restaurants by our local food journalists and most local food bloggers. Hvor (in my current top 3 in Montreal) and Marconi were my two preferred local restaurants in 2016. I also enjoyed some genuine ethnic food at Petite Ya Quartier (Congolese), Casse croute Notre Dame (Haitian) and Hot Africa (Pan African).

01I did spend plenty of time eating in New York in 2016. One highlight was the superb savory dishes at the River Cafe (located in Brooklyn, near the Brooklyn bridge), a restaurant widely known as a romantic destination but which savory french gourmet dishes happen to be as memorable. I ate at Atelier Joel Robuchon Montreal in January 2017 and in comparison, the French based gourmet food (the savoury dishes, not the desserts)  at the RC had the edge. And I swear it is not romance that influenced my impression of the RC.

New York has it all has it all, so I took advantage of its varied food offerings and tried different types of cuisines. One of them is yakitori (Japanese gastro pub), which  is well represented in New York, but the yakitoriya that stands out  is  the 1 star Michelin Torishin, which  fed me with some of the best yakitori food to be found in North America, alas  they had, on the day of my visit,  two employees whose “exploits” would have led to the immediate demotion of their sole Michelin star if I was an inspector of Michelin. All I wanted when I was at Torishin was to build a wall between those two dudes and myself and have Torishin paying for it. The account of my meal at Torishin can be perused here.

New York is also the mecca of North American steakhouses and after trying some of their best steakhouses (Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse, Peter Luger, Del Frisco’s double Eagle, Strip House), I have to say that for my taste, the steak I had at Wolfgang’s steakhouse Park Avenue‘s matches the sort of steak I like (essentially because they dry age their steaks and season it the way I like it), with true Chefs instead of just some dudes hired to flip their steaks on the broiler, the service starting really well but ending poorly. While reading online reviews on their various New York locations, I noticed  that many people complained about the exact same poor service I have experience at  the end of my  meal (basically, the waitstaff disappearing once the food is served). So, I will go back and adapt  (by, as example, asking for a bottle of water so that you do not have to wake up and try  finding a waiter when you need water, etc) to what seem to be common at some of the WS NYC locations, which  a diner should not bother about at a restaurant, especially   given the pricetag of your  bill at this kind of  steakhouse, I will admit. But for now, no other steakhouse in NYC has fed me with a steak that is dry aged and tasting like the one at WS (apart Peter Luger, but WS offers a greater variety of starters, main courses and desserts).

Of course, you can also find some great service at a pricey restaurant in New York, as proven by my meal at Marea which is a superb Italian restaurant by North American standards but could be even better with meat, poultry and vegetables coming straight from Italy. I am usually a locavore, but in the case of Marea, the produce from Italy is what they were missing during my meal there. Another good finding was La Caye, as great as a Haitian restaurant can be in North America, but a restaurant that badly needs to start serving some dazzling cocktails to be a perfect caribbean restaurant. Jordan’s lobster dock in Brooklyn is another place I would highly recommend: nothing fancy here, as it is basically a seafood shack, but I have not found a better  seafood shack in New York up to now.

Torishin, New York
Michelin stars: 1
Addr: 362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, United States
Phone:  +1 212-757-0108
Type of cuisine: Japanese Yakitori (grilled chicken)

On the day of my visit, in May 2016, Torishin was “ages away” from what most online reviews seem to rave about: at the entrance, a middle aged man (perhaps in his late 40ish) in a suit was standing behind the bar completely ignoring both my wife and myself while we were seating at his bar for at least 30 minutes . You would think a yakuza (he looked Japanese) waiting for a secret code in order for him to acknowledge your presence. Then we moved to the dining area and sat at the bar counter only to be served by a waiter (medium built skinny chinese nervous-looking male) with an aggressive and confrontational demeanor coming straight from a ghetto. I mean, YES…the food is Ok, but the food is even better  anywhere else in New York anyways , the rest of the staff (especially the waitresses) offered a stellar service, but that was marred by two dudes who do not deserve to work at a Michelin restaurant. If I wanted to meet a yakuza and a little ‘bum’ from a triad, I would go somewhere else..NOT to a Michelin star restaurant. Offering extra food items that were not ordered by the client and telling the client that it is “on the house ” BUT making him pay for that ….that was   yet another act of the “ghetto” mentality that, somehow, found its way at Torishin on the evening of  our visit.  Add to that the puny portions at inflated cost, and what  I was left with was the perfect example of a 3rd rate dining experience. My wife who is extremely tolerant and patient and familiar with restaurants of all dining standards  could not resist from asking me ”are you sure this is a Michelin starred eatery??”’….


01Torishin is a    yakitori of   NYC with   a  michelin star. A  Michelin star  for a restaurant that basically grills  chicken … will unavoidably  lead to  unrealistic expectations, but michelin starred yakitoris are  not something unheard of  (in Japan, they do exist).

Overall rating for
food: 5/10
service: 5/10
dining experience: 3/10

I went dining with my wife and our meal consisted of the following menu items:


02 Chicken wings  (1st item from the left on the previous picture), looking like ribs at first glance, the flavor of the wings was enhanced by the fine  taste of the grilled fat and a tasty crispy skin.  Grilled corn was a ridiculously small piece of corn, which although of good  quality … had an inflated cost for the quantity served.

03Duck – I was spoiled with superlative duck in Asia (Hong kong, Vietnam, Japan).  Torishin’s duck paled  in comparison.  5/10


04 Chicken rib was  tender and  meaty as you would expect  from a finely cooked piece of chicken rib,  although, to be honest, most people would prefer a laidback street food stand doing decent skewers rather this sort of sophisticated need of bells and whistles for such simple food…the only reason I went there is because I wanted this sort of food, on that specific evening, but NYC has no street food offering this sort of food..    6/10

BreastChicken breast in green shiso leaf is one item I loved when eating yakitori food on my last visit in Tokyo. Back then, I was trying shiso leaf for the first time and found it to complement chicken meat really well…though, perhaps, an acquired taste for  many  palates.  From where I come, it was common to pair  meat with leaves. We did not have shiso leaves but betel and other leaves, instead. And eventhough they taste different, shiso and /or betel do add a complex taste sensation to  meats that I am particularly fond of.  Shiso having quite a taste that is hard to describe (a bit astrigent  and reminding me vaguely of aniseed and basil), it is  better to try  it for yourself as any description of it will hardly do justice to its real taste. At Torishin, they add a bit of plum sauce on the leaves as to cut through the pungency of the shiso leaf.  Ok, but not on par with, say, its equivalent at a decent yakitori place in Tokyo 6/10


06 Chicken and duck meatball  is an item that I did not order, so when it was served to me, I thought they did a mistake. But no, it was not a mistake as … “it is on the house”… as/per my waiter — apparently a common  gesture of the chef as to please his guest,  but they did charge it …when the bill arrived….(one of the pet peeves of  an evening that had  nothing to do with the standards that one should  expect from a respectable  restaurant) –

05Egg plants, served with quality bonito flakes, were too mushy to be enjoyed as it should have been. You could argue that perhaps Japanese people prefer it that way, but you would fail by doing so. Japanese do love certain textures that we, in the west, are sometimes not accustomed to, but I know exactly what Japanese like and do set my mind  to like the exact same textures that  they do when I go to a Japanese restaurant. Not to worry: I am not one of those idiots who  go to a restaurant with zero idea of what should be expected but just their own idea of what things should be. To the contrary, I spend decades understanding and appreciating a cuisine, alongside those truely in the know (and not by watching youtube videos or listening to what a stupid self-proclaimed expert has to tell  me) before assessing the food in question. So here, an utterly mushy eggplant defeats the point of enjoying an eggplant. And any serious Japanese diner, regardless of his  love for textures that are sometimes different to textures that are appreciated  by westerners, would still have the same opinion  as what I have just submitted as he knows that limpy and flacid are not features that  he needs to expect from an eggplant … 0/10.

07Wagyu was tasty, as expected from any   piece of red meat that you could haved  grilled at home (and NO…it was not better than what you could have grilled at home) , and yet it came with an inflated price tag eventhough it was  not of the superbly  marbled A5 grade … 6/10

Other pieces that I did order and that were Ok: chicken tenderloin,  chicken thigh,  tofu as well as  pork belly.

Pros –   The fabulous service from the female squad was the “saving grace’ of a service that , at times, was of the standard of what one  can imagine could only  come from an eatery located in a  ghetto …

Cons – (1)  Service was  a mixed affair. the female squad offering world class service, the male squad generally professional but having two members that I could have done without: one man at the entrance, the only one wearing a suit on that evening, supposedly there to serve you drinks at the bar that is at the entrance while you are waiting for a seat. That guy in a suit  acted as if we were invisible…we were just 2 at that bar.  Not what you want at a michelin star restaurant. Then my main waiter (medium built skinny chinese nervous-looking male) ,  objectively unkempt,  cranky and deploying all possible efforts to get me to buy as much food as it can possibly be. I mean, I  know a restaurant is a business, therefore you need to sell and sell …but there are tons of waiters that are capable of better than being ..annoying (I have just ordered 12 items already….including the luxurious wagyu….some great sake and beer…so how much is enough sir?).  That waiter’s  idiotic behaviour reached its pinnacle when I left a tip that was actually twice the amount that it was supposed to be … he had, of course,  to recount each single of the bills  in front of his customer.  (2)the surreal stone age tactic of offering me a food item that is supposedly on the house…but that you’ll still charge me for (the meat balls).

Bottom line: Torishin is not   “special” enough  to justify   passing  past any shortcoming. The Michelin star of torishin is not justified at all :  In Japan, what torishin  is offering would pass as   standard yakitori food at  any Okay yakitori. The michelin starred yakitoris of Japan are far superior to this. Sadly, torishin thinks that it is a true Michelin star, therefore  it is more than happy to cash in on its   ordinary grilled food ( you will pay through the nose for what is essentially  some  meat and veggies that are grilled). It will be hard to explain to a  Michelin starred restaurant cooking elaborate recipes (sauces, complex dishes, etc), delivering a flawless service as well as a superb dining  experience that it is competing with an eatery that is basically just grilling meats and veggies with the flaws that I have encountered here.