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ulterior epicure

Yakitori Totto

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Yakitori Totto was just put on my radar on Mouthfuls... but I thought I'd start a thread on eGullet after failing to find one already so devoted... (managers, please do work your merging magic if I'm wrong)...

I haven't been. Don't know much about it except they serve yakitori (of course) and more imaginatively, (organic) chicken sashimi... couldn't possibly fathom - but I'm hoping to be enlightened here.

Pros, cons, prices, and dining/service tips would all be appreciated!

u.e.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Its expensive, but well worth it. I definitely consider it the best yakitori in NYC. Their specialty items like the tail, cartilage, etc sell out quickly. Their Kirin on tap is also really good.

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What's expensive.

I've also heard that it's nearly impossible to find the tail (and often neck) available after 7pm... they must be hot ticket items!!

u.e.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Everything is pretty expensive. I don't remember the exact cost but compared to other places like Yakitori Taisho everything on the menu is basically more expensive than Taisho, but tastes better as well.

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Last time I went there, 2/13, when I came home I wrote a long detailed review just to post on here, but when I awoke the next morning my Powerbook was frozen and I lost it. I'll try to write something quickly up here -

I'm surprised to see this place on some "cheap eats" lists, because it's not cheap and not a cheap place. However, I would never call it expensive either. If you are not drinking you can easily fill your stomach for $30-40 a person while ordering a wide variety of things.

I LOVE this place. I don't love their reservation policy, which is none after 6 or 7pm. I've been going there since it first opened a couple of years ago as I knew someone who worked in the kitchen. The word has finally gotten out and the wait can now be painful Thurs-Sat, I ought to go back on weekdays only.

This is one of very few restaurants that I step into and feel that I am transported to Tokyo (where I have lived). From the cloth hanging door to the diminuitive furniture, door frames, plates and cups, ohashi, everything is pretty damn authentic, as is the decor. The staff is all Japanese and is trained very carefully, as you can tell by the care that everything is cooked with. And the PalmPCs that take the order rings true of the Japanese authenticity that I took for granted over in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Of course the yakitori is incredibly good here - tsukune (their best dish), liver, chicken skin, cartilage, mune, asparagus and vegetables, wrapped with chicken, all prepared amazingly well. They always have specials which sell out early but which are also all delicious. I heartily recommend the chicken sashimi - it's totally safe I've eaten it dozens of times. All the fresh-killed chicken here just tastes that much better, and my friend who worked in the kitchen described to me how the chickens arrived still warm-blooded.

There are various donburi and rice-based dishes such as yakionigiri, ochazuke, chaohan, etc., and those are all delicious and 100% authentic as well. Tofu dishes, salads, and vegetable dishes are also abundant and again, delicious and totally authentic. This is the real deal. You should fill up on those if you are concerned with the cost. But with very few dishes exceeded 10 or 12 dollars, and the yakitori priced affordably at $1.50 and up, it's tough to get a big tab here unless you start ordering bottles of nishonshu (Japanese sake) or shochu. The draft beer here also tends to be delicious; for some reason beer out of a frosted ceramic mug tastes that much better.

I really hope they can keep this level up over the long haul. Oftentimes, a restaurant like this can keep their authenticity going only until the non-Japanese outnumber the Japanese customers and they have to start to alter their tastes and menu to cater to diners who are less adventurous or concerned with authenticity. I don't know how to say this without coming off to some as elitist or snobby, but it happens; consider how many sushi chefs/owners are a few spicy tuna rolls from losing their passion...

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raji.

you're my hero for that report. thanks. it was very informative and sounds like just the right place - except that i'm fearing it'll be nearly impossible to get (or that we'll die of hunger before) a table on a Friday night around 8.30pm.

i'd also really be tempted to try the chicken sashimi, but i've got per se the next day and am really would hate to tank that experience on the off chance i get sick...

u.e.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Wow.. What a great place.. Thank you all for suggesting it..

Arrived here at 530 last night to a fairly empty restaurant.. By the time we left the place was in full swing..

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We started with some cold dishes.. We ordered a few things and everything came out at a nice steady pace..

Raddish Salad with Quail Egg:

Very tasty.. My least favorite thing and it was still very good..

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Next we had another salad with quail eggs.. This was bitter greens served with these little fried fish.. This was amazing.. I could eat this every day and be a happy man (for a couple of months at least)

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Close up shot of the fishy:

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Bitter Melon with chicken and sesame seeds with a ponzu dressing.. I loved this also.. The bitter melon was um bitter.. But a lot of the bite was off set by the ponzu.. A must try..

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Started with some non meat items:

Ginko nuts.. Salted and grilled..

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Next we had grilled eggplant with miso:Awesome.. They use this charcoal from Japan.. The flavor of the grill and smoke was absorbed by the eggplant.. Giving it a charred taste..

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Bacon wrapped Enoki Mushrooms.. This was awesome also.. The crispy bacon wrapped around the chewy mushroom.. Pure genius to think of this..

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Lets take a look inside:

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We then moved on to chicken.. We got chicken hearts, chicken tail, chicken neck, chicken knee, chicken soft bone.. Some were interesting, some were fabulous..My two favorites were the neck and knee..

Heart:

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Neck:

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Knee:

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Soft Bone: It was ok.. It was most likely boiled and then grilled..

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Two types of shiso wrapped in chicken served with a red bean paste.. I love shiso so this I really enjoyed too..

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Then extremely full I had to order the pork dishes.. There were only two on last night so I got them both.. Pork with scallion and Pork with onions.. They were good, but this place seems to really specialize in chicken..

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I love this place.. I cant wait to go back.. There are many offerings I was too full to try.. They have a whole section of Chicken Sashimi that was unavailable last night.. The service is excellent, very attentive and knowledgeable. They have Japanese Beer on tap and a nice selection of inexpensive Sake..

Thanks again..

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Daniel.

Excellent! Thanks for that!! A few questions/comments:

1. What are the little white cubes/bits in the quail and fried fish salad? Looks like either small crumbles of goat cheese/tofu?

2. The miso-grilled eggplant looks *divine,* too bad I'm allergic. :sad:

3. The three soft-bone grilled look potentially dry and grainy... were they pretty soft? How did they taste? I usually love them dipped with some kind of condiment - do they provide soy sauce or some dashi or something?

4. I know that skewered-grill orders range from $1.50 - $4.00, I was wondering if that was per skewer or for two (as pictured)?

Thanks again for the excellent "food-o-journalism!" :laugh: Much appreciated!

u.e.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Whoops.. I completely forgot to explain the salad correctly.. There was some drinking going on last night.. But the cubes are actually creme cheese.. I was really shocked.. I asked the waitress if this is found in Japan.. She said, it was the chefs creation an American twist.. Well it was fabulous..

The prices were for one stick.. In the beginning I didnt know the portion size, so I went two orders of each.. At the end, I realized that I could try more things only ordering one stick..(a revelation :biggrin: )

To tell you the truth, the soft bone doesnt stand out in my memory.. It was more texture then taste I believe.. I believe it tasted of the charcoal and grill..

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Where has this place been all my life? A whole style of restaurant that I'd never even heard of but that I LOVE LOVE LOVE.

I was incredibly lucky in that I walked in, alone, at about 10:30 last night and only had to wait a couple of minutes for a seat at the bar. It was very convivial.

The food . . . I don't know what to say about it. Grilled chicken is taken to a level you can't believe. And not just chicken, either: one really great thing I had was a skewer of grilled slices of "kobe" beef tongue. I don't remember who here recently said he grew up with pickled tongue and loved it, but I did, too. And I was thrilled to find a new way to have beef tongue that tasted nothing like the tongue I'm used to but was, if anything, even better.

Let's see: I also had the chicken skin and one of the special plated dishes, in which the chicken bits were flavored with garlic and served with chopped scallions. These were all great.

My least successful dish was the fried silverfish, served with a very salty dipping powder. I thought the fish without the powder were too bland (and over-breaded) (although completely grease-free: one thing that's clear is that this kitchen has chops), but I couldn't come up with a way to dip the fish into the powder that didn't make them too salty. Probably a flaw in my technique more than anything else. Nevertheless, to me the supreme NYC silverfish dish remains the one served at Ping's.

I thought my vegetable dishes, on the whole, were less successful than the meat dishes. They were eggplant with a misu coating and asparagus wrapped in bacon. The latter one surprised me: I never thought I'd eat a vegetable wrapped in bacon and think it would be better without the bacon. Maybe I'm growing up or something.

I started with a glass of my personally beloved Wakatake and then moved onto a carafe. That's when things got really convivial.

Also, I have to say that, while my devotion to Pricilla at Room 4 Dessert remains total, I think I've fallen in love with my waitress at Totto.

This place isn't particularly cheap, but it's fun and delicious. Everybody, go.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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I'm glad you didn't have to wait and had such a great meal! And yes all the waitresses are very nice and some particularly cute! Somehow the owner has kept the spirits high here for a while.

Where have places like this been all your life? Japan! The single greatest culinary feature of Japan is that, at least in the cities (although much of the country is just one big urban sprawl by now), and especially in Tokyo, the restaurants tend to focus on one particular style or dish. The samurai spirit and devotion to perfection lives on in the chefs of Japan. You can walk down a block in Tokyo and find one shop devoted to tonkotsu ramen, then pork tonkatsu, then sushi, then omelettes (omuraisu), then negitoro donburi, then katsu curry. (I've just described 1 block of Meiji-dori in Shibuya). Contrast that with Chinese restaurants, most of which try to be all things to all people.

Only recently have so many "focused" places open in NY so that you can now get a reliable ramen, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, soba, etc. etc. at least somewhere in Manhattan.

Besides their perfection in grill-work, I too noticed that anything fried there arrives completely light and grease-free -

No raw chicken for you?

Maybe Avian fear means I can go in on a Friday night and get a table without a painful, guest-pissing-off wait - although let's hope it's not worse, the whole BSE thing really killed Yoshinoya in Japan....


Edited by raji (log)

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Contrast that with Chinese restaurants, most of which try to be all things to all people.

That's only in the US.


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Went to Yakitori Totto again. Don't worry: I'm not going to post everytime I visit this place. But it's so great -- and such a great time -- that I can't resist this update.

1. I think the Vinegared Seaweed Osaka Style is one of the great dishes now available in New York. What makes it so good? I guess it's the vinegar. It's the kind of thing you find yourself craving in the middle of the night after you've eaten it.

2. The Eggplant with Miso has grown on me. (Not literally.)

3. The mushroom wrapped in bacon is better than the asparagus wrapped in bacon.

4. The grilled chicken thighs with scallion: so simple, so good.

5. Daniel isn't the only person who really likes the shiso wrapped in chicken with red bean paste.

6. The tsukune (described as chicken meatballs on the menu -- more like an uncased sausage, really) are fabulous. We had ours with mint/soshu glaze.

7. Still building up the courage to try the sashimi.

It is perhaps unfortunate that my dining companion eventually realized that I was only kidding when I suggested she try to get our adorable waitress to leave with us.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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Datum: Maybe a 10-minute wait for two seats at the bar at about a quarter to nine on a Monday night.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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I think the chicken meatballs were the best thing I had when I was there last month. They give you this soy-quail-egg sauce to dip them in. Really, really good. I am also a sucker for those ceramic beer mugs.


"If it's me and your granny on bongos, then it's a Fall gig'' -- Mark E. Smith

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Just came back from there... We arrived at 11 to a 5 minute wait.. We ordered a couple of salads.. The bitter green chicken and the egg and little bait fish guys... Then moved onto the bacon wrapped enokis.. Why havent more people raved about this dish.. Bacon wrapped mushrooms, grilled.. Just awesome..

Had a bunch of other dishes... The chicken liver is just awesome.. Grilled to perfection.. The outer salted skin snaps when you bite into the tender liver.. The gizzards are served with sweet onions in between each piece.. My favorite tonight was the thigh.. Because they were out of tail.. Just awesome stuff.. No ginko nuts till winter...

A real surprising dish tonight.. The deep fried silver fish.. Tasted like frenches onion rings perfectly fried.. only they were little fish in a super starchy batter.. I could have eaten these puppies all night with there Kirin on tap.

We also got both pork dishes.. They were certainly good..

They have cancelled serving the chicken sashimi... We need to petition them to re-introduce it.. Perhaps on one particular evening a week..

Place is awesome!


Edited by Daniel (log)

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Thanks Daniel for the report.

They have cancelled serving the chicken sashimi... We need to petition them to re-introduce it.. Perhaps on one particular evening a week..

Did they say why? Avian flu? General health reasons? Not selling well?

u.e.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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The said that they were not selling it well.. There was a lot of waste and they were losing money and having to throw out a lot of food..

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The said that they were not selling it well.. There was a lot of waste and they were losing money and having to throw out a lot of food..

Hmmm... that's interesting... you'd think they'd be able to just cook up whatever sashimi didn't sell. Too bad. Let me know where I can send my letters! :raz:

u.e.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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When I was there last (2 weeks ago perhaps), they told me that gingko nuts were now out of season. I didn't know the nuts had a season, but I suppose if people have reportedly seen Masa's helpers gathering them in Central Park, they must! In any case, when does gingko season begin again, so that I'm ready?

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I went on a Wed night a couple of months ago and the stated wait time was 30 mins. I returned in 30 mins and had to wait another 15 mins before my party of 3 was seated.

We didn't sit on the bar, but instead in one of the two private rooms. As it was a while ago, I don't exactly remember what we ordered. But the grilled chicken knee and the bacon wrapped enoki particularly stood out. Also, the chicken sashami was great. It's a pity they dont' offer it anymore!

Total bill came out to be around $55 / person including tips and tax. We ordered a couple beers also.

Definately one of the better places for yakitori in the city!

Edit: spelling.


Edited by skiter53 (log)

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Glad you liked it..

I went there last night and had another great experience.. We went with another person.. We had some of our favorites.. I really liked the chicken wing last night.. Also we ordered the pork dumplings for the first time.. They were off the hook! Pan fried, really crispy and served with a couple of great sauces.. We arrived after a 7 o'clock play, maybe 1030?There was no wait and we got a private room.. We drank 2 20 dollar carafes of sake and about 4 beers in total.. Dinner for the three of us was 123 bucks..


Edited by Daniel (log)

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