The first ever yakitori restaurant in history to be awarded a Michelin star and which established yakitori as one of the top Japanese cuisines. But I was never so disappointed by a yakitori-ya.
Yakitori has long been considered as a cuisine of the common folk found in izakayas and one solely to be eaten while drinking. For over 30 years the owner of Birdland Ginza and one of the legends of the industry, Toshihiro Wada, perfected his art of Yakitori by selecting Shamo chicken from the Okukuji region that are reared under special conditions in the mountains of Iwate and creating his own special style of cooking the poultry, and this elevated this craft to the point of his restaurant becoming the very Yakitori establishment in history to be awarded a Michelin star.
“Anyone can be come a cook, the skill of cooking meat is a natural talent” Chef Wada claims. And even with this natural talent, it has taken Chef Wada decades to finally perfect the top level of cooking yakitori which he now displays at his restaurant.
The Tasting Menu
Like all izakayas, the dinner started with a couple of complimentary appetisers called otoshi お通し, which is given as part of the mandatory cover charge in an izakaya. But since this yakitori-ya does not serve ala carte items on their own, the charge is already in the set menu.
The tasting menu which kicked off with a light yet meaty and surprisingly grainy gizzard served in jelly. Reminded me of Teochew pig trotter jelly 猪脚冻, but made with chicken gizzards.
And the appetiser continued with a ball of fresh tofu with olive oil and pepper. The locally made tofu possessed a creamy texture similar to an Italian burrata, which made me thought it was cheese. Then I tasted the bean taste that is uniquely tofu.
Chicken Liver Pate
The pate was delicious but the slices of baguette bread was stale and horrible. Not something to expect from a Michelin restaurant.
7 kind of skewers
The omakase choices of the 7 skewers were all classic items from the yakitori repertoire. I expected the chicken breast to be medium rare, but they came cooked.
Fruit tomato with a mix of micro greens with vinaigrette. Simple and nice.
Sansho Momoyaki (Chicken Thigh Teriyaki Style)
Supposed to be the softest and juiciest piece of cut from the chicken, it did not live up to the hype.
Cabbage with Truffle Salt from Tetsuya’s Sydney
The Japanese cabbage was sweeter than the versions anywhere else, but the truffle salt did not do its magic here. All the juice from the cabbage came forth, leaving very lumpy cabbage leaves.
A la carte skewers
Ordered a few more ala carte orders, were not impressed with the end result.
Grilled Cheese (Caciocavallo)
This was my favourite skewer for the evening. The soft, warm caciocavallo cheese made locally was delicious and creamy. The level of cheese making in Japan was really high, despite subtle difference in the style of the cheese produced.
Chicken & Egg on Rice
Under-seasoned oyakudon, a housewife can do better than this. The soup did not have any chicken flavour in it.
The musk melon was extremely sweet and paired very well with the minty melon sorbet. A wonderful end to an otherwise forgettable dinner.
I didn’t expect the second outing of a Michelin-starred restaurant to be so sub-par. And shame on the booking website to redirect us to this branch instead of the honten, which you only knew after confirmation. If the honten was around this standard, it totally did not deserve the star.
Birdland Toranomon バードランド 虎ノ門
Japan, 〒105-6403 Tokyo, Minato City, Toranomon, 1 Chome−17−1, Toranomon Hills Business Tower, 3F 虎ノ門横丁
Tel : +81 3-5860-9804
Visited Jul 2023
Michelin Japan Edition 1 Star 2023