Ask the locals in Miyazaki for Yakitori and they’ll take you to Toraya

We wondered the streets of Miyazaki city before meeting a local friend at an izakaya bar.  The rain didn’t deter anyone from being out, salarymen were slowly gathering finding their drinking spots, shops were up in colourful lights and the reflection from the wet concrete lit the whole street, as if announcing the beginning of a very long night.

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We make a quick stop at the izakaya bar to get a taste for the local chicken. Miyazaki jidori free-range chicken is considered to be the world’s tastiest white meat. The breed is indigenous to Japan, boasts a low fat-to-flesh ratio, a non-gamey smell with a springy texture. We all have two quick beers and a couple of chicken dishes, I’ll leave this food experience for another blog. I was more eager to find a local yakitori bar to indulge in this local delicacy.

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To our surprise our friend had organised for the izakaya bar owner to take us to the best yakitori in town. We follow him out the door, down a few blocks and turns, until we found ourselves in front of a little stairwell. He pointed to the stairs, we quickly raced up and found ourselves in a harmonious space where the staff wore pristine white clothes with a very serious look, almost like sushi-chefs.

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It was a busy night at Toraya but to our fortunes they had a cancellation so we quickly grabbed the spot. The chef gazed over as we took our seats right in front of the charcoal grill. We had front seats to the show and no one was going to move us any time soon. The chef gave us a quick glance as if to announce our presence. He kept a masterful watch over the grill and only raised his head as orders came through. We start with a chicken soup that was almost like a consommé, clear and tasty, a nice starter. We eased ourselves into the moment by ordering local shochu. We chose a sweet potato one, which was aromatic, sweet and smooth.

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I stay out of the food selection and leave it to the local. Sooner than we realise our first skewers arrive – seseri and negima (chicken kneck and thighs with shallots), followed by a plate of reba (chicken livers) and shiso maki (breast pieces with shiso laves). The barrage of chicken bits on skewers were all succulent and tasty.

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We order some vegetable skewers, shitake, onions, sweet cherry tomatoes and call out for some kokoronokori (chicken heart pipes). The pipes were chewy and crispy, not much flavour but simply enjoyed for the texture.

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We take the plunge and order the tori-no sashimi no moriawase (assorted chicken sashimi) and sunazuri (gizzard). Eating raw chicken in Japan is safe as restaurants generally source it from small farms where the birds are raised  in hygienic conditions. Japan  also controls salmonella thoroughly simply because large amounts of raw egg and chicken are consumed. The reason you shouldn’t eat raw chicken outside Japan is that most chickens you get there are kept in large farms with a long logistical chain before they arrive in shops, increasing the risk of infection.

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I ask for a couple of my favourites skewers, yagen (chicken cartilage) and tsukune (chicken mince with bits of cartilage). Both hit the mark, the cartilage is crunchy with tasty little pieces of charred meat clinging to the cartilage. The tsukune is meaty and packed with flavour.

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We get excited when we see a customer (who had just arrived from Osaka) receive his ume-shiso (breast pieces with shiso leaves over umeboshi jam). He convinces us to order one as he also expresses his admiration for this place, one of his favourite restaurants in Miyazaki city. We end the night with yaki- onigiri, a rice ball that’s grilled until crispy on the outside and soft inside. The locals were right about this yakitori restaurant, a special place offering an unforgettable food journey. The skewers of Miyazaki jidori chicken at Toraya were perfectly grilled with crispy charred bits, that were still juicy and succulent, just like yakitori should be. I am now convinced this was the best chicken I ever tasted.

Toraya

3-4-1 Tachibanadorinishi Miyazaki city

Tel: 0985-27-3801 (+81-985-27-3801)

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