If you live in Matsumoto city you’ve probably heard of the yakitori bar Tori Shin. Getting to the local favorite, however, isn’t as easy. The grilled chicken den is only a three minute walk from JR Matsumoto station but spontaneously (or intentionally) finding its sliding door, tucked at the end of a very unappealing looking hallway, can be a challenge. If you do, however, you will find the hole in the wall yakitori bar that has attracted Matsumoto locals and yaki tori purists for the past 25 years.
Tori Shin’s menu is traditional yaki tori without bells, whistles, or many side dishes and alternatives. If it is part of a chicken though, Tori Shin has probably salted and skewered it for your dining pleasure. Wasabi dabbed raw chicken, chicken cartilage, skin, liver, heart, wing, ground meatballs, intestines, neck meat with green onion, and of course white meat are the bulk of the menu.
Every diner is served shredded daikon (japanese raddish) as an appetizer and a large colander of cabbage to snack on throughout the meal. The hustling staff have to maneuver around customers backs in the half meter wide walking space between the bar stools and walls. Bags and coats are often stacked upon kegs, crates, or wherever there is space. And the décor is a balance between beer advertisements and decorative trinkets like artificial roses displayed in empty whisky bottles. In the center of the horseshoe shaped bar it is easy to pick out Shin Tori’s superstar: owner and master Shiohara Keichi who calmly mans the very busy charcoal grill every night.
In response to Denny’s
Shiohara opened Tori Shin twenty-five years ago in reaction to the surge of family restaurants, like Gusto and Dennys, spreading across Matsumoto city in the 1980s. After nine years working in a Japanese restaurant, nine years in a French restaurant, and a brief tenure in a local family restaurant Shiohara set his sights on yakitori.
The famed salting technique
Twenty-five years later, the now yakitori master is known for his famed local yakitori hotspot and distinctive salting technique. The mesmerizing and entertaining technique is controlled with a meditative flare, always the same motion executed with his pinky out. By holding the salt above his head and the skewers at hip level, he pours the salt with a very tempered and deliberate shake while rotating the skewers. His gaze is focused downwards, leaving the cusp of his hat open to catch the cascading salt as it is poured. The result is a thin and steady flow of salt sprinkled across the chicken without clumping or uneven distribution. In other words…Shiohara has reached salting perfection and it is noticeable with every bite.
Shiohara is not the only yakitori master in Japan to use this salting method, but his flawless and experienced execution of the technique borders on mastery. If you are not careful, the unassuming and casual Shin Tori can run you a bill larger than your wallet had anticipated. But as each skewer averages around 190yen it is easy to stay affordable if you can avert your focus from the salt shaking hypnotist and keep track of your order.
Access: 3 min. walk in front of Matsumoto sta.
From Matsumoto station cross the street and go the street not left of the McDonalds but the small alleyway street to the left after that. Then take the first right hand hallway and walk to the end of the hallway where there is a light up sign in front of a small doorway with lanterns above it. This is Tori Shin!