Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Torihei - Alcohol + Oden + Yakitori = FTW!! (Torrance)


Warning: These pics are from a few visits, so this might be one of those photos galore posts...

One of the things I miss the most about living in the South Bay besides the weather is Japanese food, more specifically, yakitori. I remembered the monthly trips to Shin Sen Gumi for my beer and grilled meat intake galore, fun times with friends are things I'll remember for life. However, like all good things in life, it appears AFTER you leave, as in the case here with Torihei.

I first found out about Torihei from reading Exile Kiss' posts and was eager to try it for myself. Located right across from Musha, Chef/Owner Masataka Hirai opened Torihei in the Spring of 2009 and the business has since boomed, especially after the LA Times article. Since the article, and this is coming from a first hand experience, make sure you CALL and reserve a seating, as my party had to take refuge at Musha for two hours for our table. Now, let's see if the food was worth the wait.......

I'll start with the oden side of the menu that's headed by Chef Masakazu Sasaki. Just to recap, oden is a pot of various items (daikon, fish cake, vegetable, eggs, etc) cooked in a dashi broth, especially perfect for winter time.


Daikon (Radish)

This is a great starter dish, and a staple of almost every oden dish served. Served in a bed of dashi broth and bonito shavings. Very nice.

Fuwa-Fuwa chicken ball

Fuwa-Fuwa Tori Tsumire (chicken balls)

For the chicken balls, I'd have to say I was a bigger fan of the yakitori version (shown below). The broth itself again was wonderful, but the meatballs sadly didn't do it for me. Good dish, but I didn't order it again on my future visits.

Beef Collagen

"Konjac" Yam Cake

I liked the texture of this dish, but overall, I'm not sure if I'd order it again. I thought the miso paste on top of the konjac was slightly overpowering and masked the taste of the dashi broth.

"Mochikin" rice cake

"Mochikin" Rice Cake

This one I do like quite a bit. It's basically deep fried tofu skin stuffed with fresh mochi (rice cake), ginko nut, and shrimp) all tied together by a dried turnip. This combination works well, and I've ordered this each time I've been back. Delicious.

"Hanpen" Fish Cake

"Hanpen" Fish Cake

The texture of the fish cake is wonderful. Slightly airy and light, it was a dream to eat. The texture differed from all the other fish cakes I've consumed in the past. Fantastic!

Whole Tomato

Whole Tomato

I feel like I'm going down my list of favorites, and the tomato oden was an awesome dish. Stewed in the dashi broth, topped with a mashed potato puree and soy broth, my dining companions have no trouble fighting over the remaining broth in the dish. I'm usually not a huge fan of tomato, but this one was fantastic. A MUST order item!

I love this half cooked egg with ikura!
半熟たまご (Half raw egg w/ikura)

半熟たまご (Half raw egg w/ikura)

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this is my favorite dish at Torihei. Although a few of my friends would argue for the tomato, I'd have to say this dish is magnificent. Running soft boiled egg with ikura (salmon roe) on top in a bed of dashi broth. I honestly want some RIGHT now!

The oden menu are between $1.95 to $2.80 per order and there are 13 different dishes to choose from. Lots of fantastic choices, but make sure you order the half raw egg and the tomato dishes.

Before I switch off to the Yakitori menu, we'll go into an alcoholic intermission.....


Pitcher of Sapporo on draft - $10

Beer and Yakitori goes hand in hand, one order of beer should be deemed necessary, especially during this heat in LA right now.

House Sake

House Sake

For all you non-beer aficionados, Torihei does offer a few good selection of cold/hot sake.

Now, onward to more food!!


From Left: Sansho Pepper (green) Shichimi Togarashi (red)

I've read on Yelp that people complained the yakitori here is slightly bland. Well, let me solve that problem for ya, ok? The sansho pepper (green) is fantastic, but quite numbing to the mouth, while the shichimi togarashi or the 7 flavored pepper offers a more mild, but definite, noticeable taste.

Breast w/ Wasabi
Breast meat w/cod roe and plum

From Top (Breast with wasabi, seasoned cod roe, and plum)

Normally, I hate chicken breast. I still don't get why people in the United States love chicken breasts, as one should know, the best part of the chicken are the thigh, drumstick, and even the chicken butt. However, the chicken breast at Torihei was very juicy, one of the best chicken yakitori I've had. Depends on your taste preferences, 3 variations of the chicken breast yakitori are offered: wasabi, cod roe, and plum. I personally prefer the cod roe.

Chicken Thigh

Chicken Thigh

It's tasty, juicy, and flavorful. What's not to like??

Limited Special Heart
Chicken Tail

From Top: Special Heart, Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Tail (butt)

Offals are not for everyone, but I sure love them. The fatty special chicken heart with the cloves of garlic was wonderful, although your cardiologist might not agree. The gizzard offers a nice crunch and flavor. Very nice. Finally, the chicken butt, ass, tail, whatever you want to call it, it's some fatty goodness. One of the favorites amongst us Taiwanese people, and I guess the Japanese as well, so I'll say this once, and only once. I'd hit that ASS again! =P

Beef Tongue
Chicken Wings
Awesome "Torihei" Meatball

From Top: Beef Tongue, Chicken Wings, "Torihei" meat ball

The tongue is always good, and the version here, topped with a dot of wasabi definitely did not disappoint. The chicken wing was a surprise to me. Usually, I'd avoid ordering chicken wings at a yakitori place, but the version served at Torihei was delicious. 2 very generous sized wings, grilled to perfection. Very nice. Finally, probably my favorite yakitori item at Torihei, the Torihei meatball. The meatball was very soft, and flavorful from the sauce. It's a definite must order item on the Yakitori menu.

Fatty Pork
Shiitake Mushroom

Top: Fatty Pork, Bottom: Shitake Mushroom

The fatty pork (bacon) was cooked well and the side of grated daikon in ponzu sauce was an important complement to the meat. The shitake had a very pleasant smoky/woodsy flavor until grilling, I wasn't expecting this dish to be that good.

Chicken Cartilage

Top: Chicken Cartilage, Bottom: Liver

As the same suggest, the cartilage is pretty much the cartilage of the chicken. Very little meat, but I enjoyed the crunchy texture. Finally, the liver, one of the main staples of my yakitori diet. I love liver, my favorite offal to date, and yes, I enjoyed it here at Torihei. Mmmmmmm....liver.

In addition to oden and yakitori, Chef Hirai offers a pretty extensive menu, from sashimi to green tea mousse.

Chicken Karage

Chicken Karage

Quite simply, the best chicken karage I've had. Yes, even better than Izakaya Bincho, etc....the chicken was hot, incredibly juicy, and full of flavor. I could eat a bucket of this, no question. Chicken karage + beer and I'll be a happy dude!

Whole Squid
Chicken Skin w/ponzu

Top: Whole Squid, Bottom: Chicken skin w/ ponzu

The squid was very nice, and at $5.25, it's a great deal. I personally really enjoyed the chicken skin with ponzu sauce, and it's probably best ordered as an appetizer to whet one's palate. Delicious!

Finally, to those that know me, I have a sweet tooth, and I definitely made sure desserts were ordered at all times.

Baked Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce
Green Tea Mousse
Blac-manager aux amande "Annin Tofu"

From Top: Baked Cheesecake w/blueberry sauce, Green Tea Mousse, Blanc-manger aux amandes "Annin Tofu"

While I enjoyed all 3 desserts, I'd have to say I like the "annin tofu" the most. Refreshing and delicious, which is great after a yakitori meal. The baked cheesecake was a bit less sweet than cheesecake found at say, the Cheesecake Factory, but I do prefer the Japanese version a bit more. Finally, the green tea mousse has a very heavy macha taste, along with the red beans and mochi, it was quite nice. Even though the dessert menu was quite shallow at Torihei, it definitely gets the job done!

When all the smoke clears, I feel that dining at Torihei was a fantastic experience, and dare I say it's my favorite restaurant in the South Bay, and one of my favorites here in Los Angeles. Again, to try this place out, calling in for a reservation is highly recommended. Even though I live in the SGV now, I do plan on making frequent visits to Torihei, like this upcoming Saturday night! =) I will note though, the service here can be uneven as they're slightly understaffed and one lady barely speaks any English, but in the end, Torihei is definitely a hidden gem in Torrance.

What my other foodie friends thought of Torihei:

Gourmet Pigs

1757 W. Carson Street, #A
Torrance, CA 90501
Tel: (310) 781-9407 (Again, use this #, & be sure to make your reservation ahead of time!)

Torihei in Los Angeles


Anonymous said...

dude labasan your posts are getting a lot better. Pics are coming in really sharp. aahh I want my camera now :P


kevinEats said...

I see some lovely bokeh here. Nicely done.

PK said...

Great pictures!! And yummie food...okay, I'm down on Sat =P

weezermonkey said...

Do you *really* need a new lens? I think your pics look lovely....

Gastronomer said...

Can we please go here after I get back from Mexico? And your photos are totally gorgeous, especially for low lighting!

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Kung Food Panda,

Great post and great pics! :) I'm so glad you enjoyed your visits to Torihei as well. It's just... amazing. :)

Now you have me thinking about the Jidori no karaage (great Japanese Fried Chicken :).

Kung Food Panda said...

David: Quit coming on as Anonymous or I'll start calling you Mr. Wideload! LOL

Kevin: Thanks man, but I still want some sort of close up lens, been looking at the Sigma 30mm 1.4f

PK: Yay! More PK *ahem* I mean Torihei goodness =P

Sharon: Thanks, but I guess I think the 50mm 1.8f is too much like a toy lens..

Cathy: Thanks! Definitely, since I come here monthly =P Maybe even more than Exile Kiss now!

Exile Kiss: I could use that chicken karage right now, tomorrow morning, or anytime. It's THAT good!

burumun said...

Whole tomato FTW!!!!

Yes, yes egg roe is oh-so-good also ...

KFP, go buy a new Nikon. Then sell your Canon to me for cheap!

Lina said...

ohhh love your photos and LOVE your blog! Im adding it to my list of links!

Aaron said...

Is all the oden prepared in the same dashi?

I like how you gradually accumulated photos on multiple Torihei visits so you could review EVERYTHING. I'll side with you--half quail egg over the whole tomato. Also, I'd beg to differ about cardiologists hating chicken hearts--they love hearts!

Kung Food Panda said...

Fiona: I can't get enough of Torihei. Hurry back so we can go! :)

Lina: Thanks for the compliment! I'll update as much as I can :D

Aaron: I'm pretty sure it's off the same dashi broth, but some dishes, they'll add the extra seasoning/items like the tomato.

I wish I brought my camera for our dinner last time, but I think it was only 2 dishes I didn't get to cover. This post was overloaded with pics anyways! Does cardiologist like the "special heart" as well? :P

Food GPS said...

I was looking forward to this post after hearing you describe some of Torihei's dishes. I plan to order the tomato, egg, chicken liver and squid, and probably double up on chicken tail. Nice review.

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures and easy to read.

Kung Food Panda said...

Josh: Thanks man, I hope you'll enjoy it as well.

Anon: Thanks :)

Pandalicious said...

wow, that all looks good, except for the tongue.

kevinEats said...

Oh boy, another "panda?"

joanh said...

the pictures look awesome!!!!! how far in advance do you have to make reservations?

Kung Food Panda said...

Pandalicious: It's a great place, you should check it out!

Kevin: Ya, we're Chinese man, there's more of us than you'd think! :P

Joan: If you call the night before, you should be OK! Check it out :)

Pandalicious said...

yes, i love pandas!!

Kung Food Panda said...

We need more Pandas in the food blogger community!

Kat said...

Wow this place looks really good. I will have to try them out one day! ^_^ Your photos look awesome by the way! No touch up needed. Great seeing you guys tonight ^_^

Ravenous Couple said...

great review and photos! have heard alot about this place and def. need to check it out.

Kung Food Panda said...

Kat: Thanks! Torihei is quite delicious.

Ravenous Couple: You guys need to try it! :)

MyCollegeKitchen said...

where have I been all these time? I live close to Torrance but haven't been (or heard) of this restaurant. Great blog, the pictures are beautiful. I'll put this restaurant on my list to try. Can I add you to my blog roll ( I can spy on your list of southbay gems)