Torimatsu is a family owned restaurant that began its life servicing the small town of Kutchan. The owner, Akihiro Matsuo, continues to work the grill while his wife collects payments counted on a traditional abacus. Most nights Torimatsu is bustling with a locals although a change in the mix of clientele has occurred since the airing of an Anthony Bourdain episode including Torimatsu. Since then has found its way onto a lot of food lovers radars. After reading reviews on some of the travel sites it gives the impression that a lot of people go here are dissapointed. It is important to understand the izakaya way of eating. The meal is meant to be enjoyed at a slow pace with a steady procession of dishes – meaning you don’t get everything at once and timing may be uneven. Since the Bourdain show the current evening crowd is now mixed with the apres-ski crowd, many of whom are tourists looking to capture a photograph of time spent at a restaurant on TV. While the appeal is understandable it illustrates the reason some restaurants try to avoid the spotlight of television shows. Be prepared don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a stranger’s selfie. You have been warned.
One approach to ordering yakitori is to order one type of “tori” skewer per person and then some side dishes like salads or nigiri (hand formed rice ball usually grilled here). The advantage of this approach is you get to experience all the different textures that chicken has to offer. Crunchy, crispy, soft, chewy and falling-of-the-bone melting are just a few of the beautiful textures to taste. Each chicken part requires a unique preparation and grilling technique which makes the the dinner unfold like a storybook – particularly so if you are sage enough to sit at the counter.
Although the name “TORI” implies a specialty of chicken it is far from the only choice. Beyond the yakitori (grilled chicken) staples there is also a broad selection of izakaya-style food here. Selections include edamame, fried potato, cheese sticks and daily specials of freshly grilled seafood like salmon & scallops. For the adventurous look for horse tongue sashimi, raw whale, chicken gizzards, ostrich sashimi and chicken cartilage. Keep in mind that in Japan restaurants are able to order chicken, fish and meats to be caught or culled within the same day they are served to you. Freshness is one of the most revered qualities in food here which means flavor are clean and textures crisp unlike most other countries in the world. It is just one of the qualities that make dining in Japan so enjoyable.
Prices are very reasonable as one would expect of a casual restaurant nestled in a village with such a tiny population.
Yakitori Skewers (Grilled Chicken)
On the Grill
In case you didn’t see it here is a link to the Bourdain episode:
LOCATION: 1 Kita 3-jo Nishi | 北3条西1丁目, Abuta-gun, Kutchan-cho044-0053, Hokkaido
RESTAURANT HOURS: DINNER 18:00-22:30