A stroll along one of the streets of Wilson, San Juan City will bring you to a dainty place which houses an explosive set of Japanese snacks called Tori Tori: Kusiyaki Snack Bar.
Embellished with Japanese designs such as lanterns, posters with samurai prints and Japanese letterings, the little restaurant takes you from Philippines to Japan in a jiffy.
Owner Derrick Co said that establishing a restaurant was his childhood dream. One could say that he took his dream very seriously when he studied food technology and trained for a year in culinary arts. The snack bar took form after a long time of research and soul-searching.
This Japanese restaurant strays away from the usual Tonkatsu and Ramen crowd magnet. It is the place for those who love light meals and risky choices.
Boasting a variety of Japanese snacks, the place used to only offer Kushiyaki, an array of skewered and grilled fish, meat or vegetables. The snack bar only catered to grilling when it opened its doors to customers with a space of only 20 square meters!
Currently, the snack bar offers Kushiyaki, Sushi, Sashimi, Makinomo, and Wraps It Up (kushiyaki with cabbage salad). It is comfort in its simplest and purest form, Co expressed. “No craft, no artisanal. [It is] just plain grilled meats, sushi and maki.”
Despite being simple, the snacks burst with flavour and texture. “Quality starts with the suppliers,” Co explained. Their homemade sauce adds to flavour the ingredients already have.
A great example would be few of their bestsellers, namely: Japanese Wagyu and Bacon Enoki. Deviating from most beef that requires effort in chewing, the succulent meat of the Wagyu beef melts in the mouth. Same goes for the Bacon Enoki whose mildly flavoured mushrooms go well with the tender bacon.
The snack bar’s variety of sushi is also noteworthy. From the usual Tamago and Kani, they also offer Salmon Sushi, Wagyu Sushi and others that are hard to spell. The eatery also presents new dishes gradually, incorporating other Japanese specialties such as Tempura and Uni or Sea Urchin. The big servings of Sushi are also overwhelming, making it hard to devour them in one bite.
The place is usually filled with people during weeknights and weekends, getting their dose of booze of local or Japanese liquor. Paired with newly grilled meat or vegetable, it’s a perfect combination.
Being in competition with Japanese restaurants with bigger names, Co’s strategy is to keep it simple and straightforward. “That’s good, honest, simple and delicious food.”
What more is there to look forward to? “I have a new branch going to open early in 2017. Stay tuned,” Co announced in 2016.
On March 2017, Tori Tori Kushiyaki Snack Bar opened its second branch at Pearl Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. The branch offers the same goodness offered in its San Juan branch.
(Originally posted as a Feature Article for The Pantograph. I was a feature writer then. Updates to the article were also made. Date of original release: November 27, 2016)