I noticed an ad for Tori-gen in the Japanese papers and thought it might be worth checking out. Tori-gen replaced Sushi Rose on the second floor near the corner of 2nd Ave. Looking at the menu outside, it seemed a little sparse for a full-fledge yakitori place. But in the paper, they were advertising a Monday special of $1 sticks for their basic stuff (like chicken thigh, gizzards, liver). They didn't do too much to the interior since the switch from Sushi Rose (same owners still, just different concept), except add a ventilation system at the counter and the yakitori station. I guess since Tatany 52 closed up last year, there was a yakitori void in the area.
Since we went right after work on a Monday, there wasn't anyone else in the place, so we parked ourselves at the bar and had a nice conversation with the yakitori master there. Seems that he was plucked from a yakitori house in Yokohama to oversee things here, since they opened in March. And not able to speak English, he's been having somewhat of a difficult time procuring quality chicken, but was telling us that he found a source of fresh chickens locally and is still busy making many adjustments. So this was the reason the menu was so sparse. It's all about the chicken.
We had sticks of chicken thigh, chicken meatball, chicken with garlic, quail eggs, shiitake, chicken with plum sauce, chicken wings, chicken gizzards (no hearts for some reason), chicken cartilege (off menu item), and the only non-chicken item was asparagus wrapped pork. Most items were quite good, and the quality I'm sure was pretty high. But I guess I'm not a chicken super-taster yet. In Japan, many people can eat a piece of grilled thigh meat and can taste all the subtleties and differences between a few breed of chickens. I'm not up to that level just yet. As we were talking with the yakitori master, he said he went through several chicken purveyors before selecting the current one, tasting them exactly like we were served.
Which is why I'm a little concerned about the place. I'm not sure if many NYers care for the subtlety that's required to fully appreciate the quality. I have a feeling that they'll quickly add many items to the yakitori menu. I hope they make improvements to the rest of the izakaya menu too while they're at it. I'll likely make periodic stops here to see how things are developing.
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