If there is one thing our kids will reliably eat outside the home it is any kind of grilled meat. And ever since their first meal at Raku in Los Angeles they have been particularly enamoured of Japanese yakitori and related skewers. Accordingly, we’d planned to hit at least one yakitori specialist while in New York. We’d originally planned to do our skewering at Torishin but when I went to make a reservation I noted that they say that guests have to be above the age of 12. We fell back on another place not too far away from Torishin that had also been highly recommended: Yakitori Totto. Herewith the details.
The restaurant is located on W 55th, on the second floor of their building. You go up some steep stairs, past their press clippings, past some merchandise on sale and emerge by the bar in what turns out to be a fairly tiny restaurant. The skewers are prepared behind the bar at which there are a few seats. Up ahead there’s a small dining room to the left and two smaller partitioned areas to the right, one with a larger table and one with a 2-top and a 4-top. We were at that 4-top and it was nice to be a little out of what became a more hectic restaurant as the evening went on.
We ordered a seaweed salad and their zaru tofu to start while we pondered their selection of skewers. The seaweed salad was very good and we liked the cold tofu—which you dress with green onions, ginger, sesame seeds, bonito flakes and soy sauce—even more. We then began to order skewers a few at a time. There’s a large chicken selection, a bunch of pork options, a few beef and seafood, and a few more vegetable options. We ordered across all categories, skipping only the seafood..
To see everything we ate please launch the slideshow below. I will note here only the ones we particularly liked: the ton toro (pork neck) and the hiza nankotsu (cartilagey meat from the knee of the bird) were the first two skewers we got and the boys insisted we repeat both; also a hit: the tsukune (ground chicken), the chicken oyster, the tebasaki (wing), and the beef skirt*. The adults had the vegetable skewers to ourselves. We really liked the eggplant with sweet miso paste and the blistered shishito peppers, but were unmoved by the okra. To end we got one grilled rice ball and one cold rice ball stuffed with spicy cod roe and wrapped in kelp. We liked both.
Take a look and scroll down for service, price/value and to see what’s coming next from New York and DC.
Service was very friendly and very present. All of the above (we stuck with water) plus tax and tip came to about $125. How did we get so high? Well, while the skewers are priced well they are pretty small. But this is a meal where the kids basically ate like adults, so it’s a true $31’ish per person. Which is pretty good for Manhattan. I will say that while we liked this meal a lot, we thought it was quite a bit behind Raku in quality and also value (but Manhattan rent probably trumps Beverly Hills rent). Would we have liked Torishin even more? Maybe we’ll find out on another trip.
Up next from New York, either a ramen report or a lobster roll report. And from DC, either a Texas barbecue lunch or a Lao dinner. That’ll be next week (when we’ll be back home in Minnesota); this weekend I’ll have the last of my North Shore reports.
*North Indians will particularly enjoy the Japanese name of this cut: harami.