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Published by Oat Sitalasai — 5 years ago

Let me take you to another trip of food, but this time, Japanese right here in Paris. I would like to share a place that I had gone to for dinner on a Sunday night, with a friend who is as Japanese - at heart - as I am. Now that I’ve set up for what is to come, let’s get started with this review of “Toritcho” in Montparnasse.

To get there, you have a few options that are all equally as good. The restaurant is located in the middle of three metro stations, but I will speak of Edgar Quinet (line line 6 green), in which I got out from. If you do get off from here, turn right as you exit the station and look out for a corner cafe called Le Café de la Place. Once you see the cafe, take this very street - Rue du Montparnasse - to get to the restaurant (it will be on your right hand side). Alternatively, take the metro to the station Montparnasse, a center for lines 4 Purple, 6 Light Green, 12 Green and 13 Blue. As I said, Toritcho is a walking distance from the station, but just make sure you take the right street! Similar to Republique and Bastille, the streets somewhat separate off from the center circle. Lastly, you may also choose to arrive at Vavin (line 4 purple). Once again, this may be an appropriate time to whip out (produce quickly) your phone and ask our friend Google Maps for direction.

You will eventually arrive at Toritcho, and you will be greeted by the Japanese team members at the restaurant, with their authentic Japanese greetings, of course. The first thing you will see once you walk in is their little sushi bar. Here, you’ve got a standard counter bar where you can chat with the sushi chefs as he prepares your orders before your very own eyes. Having a sushi counter bar environment with sushi chefs (real Japanese natives) busy at work is usually a good sign for a great meal ahead. We were then greeted again but this time in French and were seated. We were given the menu with not a single second of delay.

The menu that Toritcho offers is a combination between sushi (japanese rice served with fish), sashimi (raw fish), very specific types of rice bowls with seafood - yes, none of that deep-fried katsudon (a bowl of rice topped with a deepfried pork cutlet, egg, vegetables, and condiments. ) or curry with cutlet stuff - and of course, what we had come to this place for, yakitori. Known throughout Paris as “brochettes” of meat and seafood, they’re essentially skewers of grilled goodness, when done right. Since this place had decent reviews on Yelp and was also recommended by a friend of a friend who’s Japanese, we really had high expectations of this place.

You could either order individual yakitori items - one dish would come in two skewers - or you could go for one of their five (I think there was five) set menus. We both went for Menu A, which came with a small salad as a starter, miso soup, a bowl of Japanese rice, and five different types of skewers. The five skewers were written on the menu, and we actually thought that we could pick which of the five we wanted. But no, you cannot have a say in which of the five you want more or less, or none, since the menu is fixed and you will get to try all five of them. On the bright side, this is an experience after all so it wouldn’t hurt too much to try new things, eh?

The starters arrived at our table in no time. The salads came in little ‘saucers’ (small plate for a cup) similar to what you would add your soy sauce in when you want to dip your sushi/sashimi. The portion was tiny but I guess for a starter, it got the palate going. The salad was very simple. You’ve got a normal salad with two thin slices of cucumber and a slightly thicker cut of tomato, some pickled veggies on top and a really good dressing. I have no words to describe the dressing, but it’s somewhat of a mixture between Japanese vinegar, a bit of sesame oil and some other ingredients. It was very Japanese in terms of size and taste.

Moving on, we also got a warm bowl of miso soup. There isn’t a lot to talk about with the miso soup, other than that it was nice and that it would be the exact same as if you would have it in Japan. So far, so good and the restaurant is doing well to keep up with your expectation. It took a while for the rice and the main course to arrive. I assumed that it was one of two things: either they were waiting for me to finish my miso soup or they were just a bit busy in grilling the meats. But Japanese as I am, I kept my miso soup so that I could enjoy it with my rice and grilled goodies.

The main course finally arrived but it was all good with good company. You could see from the photo below the five different types of skewers that we had for our Menu A. Starting from left to right, we had grilled beef with leek, grilled chicken thigh with leek, grilled minced-chicken/pork, grilled chicken wing, and what was the most western of all, cheese wrapped in bacon. Let me begin with the rice. It was really good quality and cooked perfectly. If you’ve never had real Japanese rice before, this is the place to be. I had mixed feelings about the meats. The beef was not very flavourful and it lacked saltiness. I know that the taste of the meat should shine through, but it didn’t, because it needed help from at least some salt. In saying this, we did have yakitori sauce on the table and I made it to go use but literally soaking my beef in them. It was nicer with the sauce, but the point is, it would’ve been more enjoyable had it been seasoned better (if at all). That was somewhat harsh for the first skewer, but the second one with chicken meat was far better. Maybe it’s because chicken has to be cooked through and it needs more seasoning? No idea, but the whole art of yakitori revolves around grilling chicken - tori means chicken in Japanese. The chicken skewers passed! Then the minced chicken/pork on a stick, which I’ve never had or seen before in Japanese cuisine, but nonetheless was very good and probably had more taste than all five of them. The chicken wing was disappointing for me. You could actually see from the picture that it lacked that x-factor. If you have a chicken wing coming from the grill, you better bet that it is browned, caramelised and has spots of dark but pleasant burn marks from the heat. But you could see here for yourself, that this chicken was everything but that. Okay fair enough it was not grilled until it completely dried out, but that doesn’t make up for the taste that went missing, for a yakitori meal! Then the cheese and bacon. It was pretty straight forward, but once again, I had hoped for the bacon/pork to be a bit more burnt, but then you could argue about the result on the cheese. This was a very debatable meal for me, hence why I mentioned earlier that I had mixed feelings about this.

There were clearly some good points to take from the meal, but it was just disappointing for me that the “main characters” of the show did not show up. I don’t want to rub this in any further, but I’ll just it at “this meal could have been better”, given the expectations, and most importantly, the fact that it’s run by a team of Japanese people. I must also add that we should’ve been offered some Japanese tea. I know not a lot of places do this, but it would just enhance the experience. After all, there are so many Japanese restaurants around the city - I have come across at least 20 - serving the same cuisine, pretty much the same menu, and for the same value. Where’s the differentiation? To their advantage, the team here is Japanese and this is the food they grew up with, but the execution could be taken a step further. Oh, and I must add that in light of price, this is by no means cheaper than other places elsewhere in the city. It is tucked away on a quiet street, but there are competitions for Japanese yakitori places nearby and the menu prices here are going on strong.

At this point, I might as well add that about 15 minutes after we had finished our main course, we were handed the bill. I work in the hospitality industry and have worked in restaurants and similar projects, but giving the bill to the customers is the universal sign for please leave. I get it (somewhat) that it was Sunday night and that they’re a small place and the it was busy. But just because we had politely declined any coffee or tea or desserts, does this mean that we no longer serve as a purpose for the restaurant? I’m sure everyone will have a different say on this, but this was just something that I was not overly impressed with, though I did not say anything.

You may (or may not) be interested to check out Toritcho now that I’ve given my thorough, honest and no non sense review of this place. I do feel that I am attached to Japanese food and every thing about it. So whenever I stumble on a not so pleasant experience, I feel that it is my duty to pass this on to the next group of people so that they have something to think about. By all means, it was my first time and I did not try other items on their menu, so you might be keen to check out the rest of what they have to offer! Oh, just one last thing, give them a call before you go since they’re close on one of the days, I can’t quite remember which.

Accessibility - 8/10

Price - 7/10

Selection - 7/10

Staff Friendliness - 7/10

Work Friendliness - 8. 5/10 (not for work, but quite good for a Japanese Izakaya atmosphere)

Cleanliness - 8/10

Overall - 7. 5/10

Here’s are links for the restaurant via TripAdvisor and TimeOut Paris who had recommend this place back in 2012!

If you like the content of this post, or just want to check out some pictures that I take on my adventure, feel free to like and/or follow me on instagram at oat93, cheers!

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