The aroma from the grill is the first thing you’d notice upon entering Toriki on the fourth floor of JCube – the distinct, familiar scent of Japanese yakitori, charred over a mix of binchotan and ogatan coals. It’s stronger than usual, and we soon figure out why – the entire skewer of meat is dipped into the homemade sweet and salty sauce instead of brushed over, which produces a stronger fragrance when its sitting over the hot coals.
It’s just like how they do it in Japan, co-founder W. K. Ooi tells us, as we settle into one of the corner seats with the grill in sight. The founders had worked in Tokyo for a number of years and frequented izakayas after work, where yakitori is practically mandatory – and cheap, compared to the prices offered for good skewers in Singapore. This led to the opening of Toriki, where authentic yakitori goes for as low as $2.50.
We started with the dinner omakase, a mouthwatering six-skewer selection of the classic chicken cuts ($16.90). Among them, Momo (thigh meat) was tender to taste, while Tsukune (minced meatball) was crunchy with finely chopped spring onion inside the hand-rolled pieces. The offcuts were also of interest – the hearts were crisp, while the fresh liver was creamy with a lovely char from the grill on the outside. Fans of beef will also find their premium A4 Wagyu Striploin ($8.90) and Ribeye ($9.90) served with wasabi here – the meat might not be the most tender, but the sauce does its magic and it is value for money.
Certain dishes also took on a twist with an onsen egg dip, which accompanied the Suki-yaki Special ($4.50). Think pork belly wrapped around enoki mushroom and spinach. The pork rolls were large and the vegetables crunchy, and the creaminess of the egg enhanced the savoury flavours of the skewer. The remaining sauce mix could be used for other sticks as well, or poured over plain rice for the necessary carbs.
If plain rice and yakitori isn’t your cup of ocha though, Toriki offers a Bara Chirashi Don ($18.90) where salmon, swordfish belly, yellowtail, scallop and salmon roe is tossed together with white sesame over Japanese rice. What’s different from other Japanese joints, however, is the way the fish is served – marinated in their own sauce and served at a higher temperature than the typical chirashi don in Singapore. It might not be their specialty but the generous, thick chunks of fish will probably keep a lot of diners going back for more.
Besides the sticks, Toriki also puts a focus on craft beers and ciders. Inside, a wall of adorned with individual clipboards make up their drinks menu. The beer list changes every two weeks or so, but one can expect offerings from Finland (Lapin Kulta Lager) and Australia (Pirate Life Brewing, The Hills Cider Co.) amongst the more common American brews. Local brand (though brewed in Cambodia) Brewlander & Co. was also spotted during our visit. Those preferring traditional Japanese beverages, the house sake Kiku Masamune Kimoto Honjozo Sake Josen ($12) is easy to drink and goes well with the food offerings as well.
A hidden gem in the west where you wouldn’t think to find authentic grilled skewers reminiscent of Japan, head down to Toriki for your yakitori fix and a side of craft beers – prices come in nett for less than $5 per stick, just right for an after-work meal that won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
Toriki is located at 2 Jurong East Central 1, JCube #04-12, Singapore 609731, p. +65 6262 3211. Opens daily 11.30am – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 9.30pm.
Images courtesy of Sylvester Fedor.