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Monday, January 18, 2010

Toriciya, Cammeray

The first thing you notice about Toriciya is the entrance. It's not the physical facade -- Spanish villa arches in a cafe latte brown--but the act of entering the door itself. A heavy glass-paneled sliding door utters a quiet shuuushhh as you slide it open. The low hanging noren curtain forces you to duck your head as you enter, an act of deference that imparts a sense of humility as you cross the threshold.

Toriciya is an izakaya-style restaurant, a place you go to for drinks and bar snacks, a little like a Japanese version of a tapas bar perhaps. It's been around for a while (since 1991) and proudly claims to be the first dedicated yakitori bar in Sydney.

Vintage Japanese advertisements on metal

The restaurant inside is crowded and narrow, tables and chairs clustered around the bar which dominates much of the room. The size of our Stomachs Eleven group relegates us to the outdoor patio at the front, a pretty area but for the fact it's sweltering hot and we're jealous of the air-conditioned patrons drinking happily inside.

Bamboo water feature

Nevertheless, the space--just to the left of the entrance so we can watch everyone enter and exit the building--has plenty of decorating touches. A bamboo water feature sits in one corner, a wooden bucket hangs from a thick twisted rope in another. Bamboo curtains give some privacy and on the walls are vintage metal advertisements by various Japanese companies. Our table is an old wooden door, a huge heavy slab that is studded with metal rivets.

Plum wine

Sake is the major drawcard for most patrons, and offers more value than the soft drinks, mineral water and tea which cost an eye-popping five dollars each. The sake menu runs longer than the snack menu, and all sake is sourced from small boutique breweries, not large commercial ones.

Mrs Pig Flyin is the resident sake expert among the group and she delights in the range of premium sake available. Junmai-shu, also known as pure sake, is made using rice only, and does not have any distilled alcohol added. Its quality depends purely on the rice used, and is appreciated for its distinct and unique flavour, much like a single malt scotch.

Also available is Junmai-ginjoshu, pure sake which is been fermented at a low temperature for an extended period of time, known for having a light and fruity flavour.


Sake cups

The sake is certainly strong but there's a smoothness to them once you get past the alchoholic haze. I confess my personal highlight was when we ordered a small jug of sake to share and our waitress arrived with a wooden tray of sake glasses so we could choose our own. The choices!

Pouring sake

Responsible drinking must be accompanied by food. Of course.

Goma tofu with uni sea urchin roe $10.50

We start our long procession of snacks with goma tofu, a firm but silky tofu made with sesame seeds. The sesame flavour isn't as pronounced as I've experienced at other places (in Japan) but the sea urchin roe on top is blissfully creamy.

Kaki fry $13
Deep-fried oysters

Deep-fried oysters are huge - crumbed and deep-fried so they're crunchy on the outside, the oysters still raw and briney within.

Kanimiso crab brain $5.00

Kanimiso is divine. The crab brain doesn't look particularly attractive, a dollop of dark grey paste in a bowl, but the flavour is incredible - salty, creamy and rich, a bit like a brinier, fishier version of sea urchin roe.

Grilled eggplant with bonito flake and ginger $10.00

Grilled eggplant is an elegant dish, the tender grilled eggplant peeled from the skin and served with fluttering waves of bonito flakes, a sprinkle of shallots, and a ginger soy dressing.

Grilled miso paste with cream cheese $6.50

The G-man and I had both lit up at the mention of grilled miso paste with cream cheese on the menu. A wooden paddle, covered with a mound of miso, has been placed under a grill until the miso has caramelised. Thin wedges of plain cream cheese create an interesting pairing, although it's a little too salty for my taste.

Torikara deep-fried flavoured chicken thigh $11.00

Fried chicken is always a crowd favourite and we find the torikara crunchy and moist. The batter has also been seasoned with soy, a quick squeeze of lemon the only accompaniment required although a saucer of Japanese mayonnaise is also provided.

Ika okra $9.50
Calamari with okra and ginger

Ika okra is a dish I haven't tried before, arriving in an egg-cup sized dish on a simple wooden plate with a wooden spoon on the side.

The gelatinous stickiness of the okra is a surpise complement to the slippery strips of calamari. It's sweet and salty and somehow soothing too.

Ankimo angler fish liver $11.50

The bright orange colour of the ankimo angler fish liver is visually striking. The liver of the angler fish, or monkfish, has its veins removed, is rubbed with salt and often rinsed with sake. A bamboo mat is used to roll the liver into a plastic-wrapped sausage shape where it is then steamed. The richess of this dish was offset by garnishes of shallots and a mound of grated daikon seasoned with chilli. It's not surprising that ankimo is often referred to as Japanese fish foie gras.

Nikomi Japanese-style beef tendon stew $9.50

Beef tendon? Yes please. The small chunks of sinewy beef have been slow cooked to a melting tenderness.

Yakitori - chicken thigh, liver, meatball and skin $2.50 each

We move onto the house specialty next - yakitori, characterised by various parts of the chicken grilled on skewers. The yakitori is traditionally seasoned only with tare, a thick sweet soy sauce or salt. We feast on moist and tender chicken thighs, soft tsukune meatballs and buttery livers but delight most in the chicken skin, long strips of skin zigzagged onto a skewer and rendered until crisp.

Chicken wing skewers $3 each

Chicken wings have a delicious caramelised char, and chicken giblets have a satisfying bouncy crunch.

Chicken giblet skewers $2.50 each

Quail egg skewers $2.50 each

Quail eggs have only the faintest smokiness to them, although their insides are wonderfully creamy.

Shime saba $13.50
Mackerel sashimi

Oh our hunger knows no bounds... we continue with shime saba, thick slices of oily mackerel sashimi that are achingly fresh and firm.

Mentai potato salad with spicy cod roe $8.50

Mentai potato salad is a huddle of comfort food, soft cubes of potato mixed through with sweet mayonnaise, corn, shallots and orange flecks of salty cod roe.

Goma salad $9.50

The goma salad looks to be such a simple affair, a bowl of greens scattered liberally with toasted sesame seeds.

Tossing the salad

Tossed goma salad

But the flavour is incredible. There's something about the nuttiness and crunch of toasted sesame seeds that add so much a salad. Cabbage leaves, lettuec and rocket never tasted so good, helped along by the sweet zing of a yuzu citrus dressing.

Sake cha $11.00
Rice and grilled salmon in soup

Sake cha is a traditional way to end a Japanese meal, a clear soup with a layer of rice that absorbs the flavours of the soup. A small fillet of salmon has been grilled until just cooked, and daubed with wasabi. Despite the hot weather, we relish the soft rice, the tender flakes of salmon and the floating shreds of nori and sesame seeds.

Wonton with spicy sesame sauce $9.00

Our final dish is a small plate of wontons, silky sheets that encase a juicy pork filling. The soy sauce has a welcome chilli kick.

Empty skewers

By the end of the night Toriciya isn't cheap, especially when they impose a minimum $50 charge per person. However we found plenty of delicious dishes to discover, and the range of sake will offer something to please even the fussiest of palates.

View Larger Map
Toriciya Japanese on Urbanspoon

18 Cammeray Road, Cammeray, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9904 2277

Open Mon-Sat 6pm-10pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Japanese izakaya - Kasumi, Haymarket
17 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/18/2010 02:36:00 am


  • At 1/18/2010 4:36 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    More deep fried oysters and chicken, yum! Some of the food here is not familiar to me, but looks delicious.

  • At 1/18/2010 7:40 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I tried coming here last year for my birthday. However, they lost my booking, blamed me for forgetting the date (of my birthday) and told me to wait for "at least half an hour" in the rain for a table "if I still wanted."

    I swore never to go back; but after seeing the goma tofu with uni, kanimiso, ika okura and especially the ankimo, I'd be prepared to reconsider...

  • At 1/18/2010 8:35 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh... I didn't know about this Japanese place hiding in Cammeray until your post. It looks fine. Book marked, must visit! Intrigued with grilled miso paste. Read one recipe from momofuku using the same technique.

  • At 1/18/2010 10:10 am, Blogger bri said…

    Wow, that all looks fantastic!

  • At 1/18/2010 10:15 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    First things first - I knew a piddly little bird brain couldn't keep you down for long! I think you've absolutely won the adventurous crown with crab brain.

    Also, you're being cruel again with all this amazing Japanese food :P Oh, how I want that tofu with urchin roe!

  • At 1/18/2010 10:47 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    bwahaha i can imagine your glee at selecting your own sake cup!

  • At 1/18/2010 11:24 am, Blogger Kate said…

    So wierd! I was just talking about this place yesterday! Always wondered what it would be like. Don't know if its quite my style but thanks so much for the info Helen. I love that you can choose tour own sake cup.

  • At 1/18/2010 1:29 pm, Blogger foodwink said…

    ooo ... angler fish liver and crab brain. Sounds like my kind of restaurant. Thanks for sharing.

  • At 1/18/2010 1:55 pm, Anonymous Pete said…

    Oh I’ll be trying this place some day soon! I had some wonderful sushi at the weekend but I was lamenting the fact that Ankimo and Uni etc were missing from the menu. Now I know where to go. Gonna have to try that crab brain too. Is it similar to slurping out prawn brains? A bit more refined obviously! :D Great post.

  • At 1/18/2010 2:07 pm, Anonymous Tina said…

    Wow - SO many interesting menu items! Dunno about the crab brains though...
    Is the minimum charge for large groups only?
    And love choosing your own sake cup!

  • At 1/18/2010 7:20 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Ahhh haven't been back to Toriciya for quite sometime! This place has been favoured by Japanese community for their selection of rare sake and Chinmi (like the Kanimiso)
    Did you see Okra Zosui on the menu? My friends and I always get that during winter time!

  • At 1/18/2010 10:02 pm, Anonymous billy@ATFT said…

    i love the idea of choosing your own sake cup! :P
    by the way, i think $50 per person possibly isnt too bad, cuz there is a lot of food in this post :)

  • At 1/19/2010 12:01 am, Anonymous Trissa said…

    This place sounds AMAZING! I would love to try the crab brain one day! How lucky is your Stomachs Eleven group - you guys get to discover the best places!

  • At 1/19/2010 3:33 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Joey - I quite liked the different menu. Lots of new things to try. The crab brain was my highlight!

    Hi Anarcist - What a disappointing introduction to Toriciya - for your birthday too! Maybe the food is worth forgiving the initial transgression? lol

    Hi Ellie - It's quite hidden away, I suppose, but I'd been meaning to get here for ages after reading about it online. You are the momofuku queen these days too, btw :)

    Hi Bri - It was quite a feast!

    Hi Hannah - Oh but the crab brain was so good. And I'm sorry for the sushi pain! I always crave sushi most when I'm abroad and can't get it.

    Hi chocolatesuze - Haha, you know me too well!

    Hi Kate - A handy coincedence! There's quite a wide-ranging menu and yes, choosing our sake cup was half the fun.

    Hi foodwink - Hope you get there soon. Enjoy :)

    Hi Pete - Ooh prawn brains. Another goodie. I would say it was more buttery than prawn heads and yes the texture is completely different. Let me know what you think of it after you've been.

    Hi Tina - The minimum charge is for everyone, I believe, as it was printed on the menu too. I think we also got to choose our own sake cup because we had such a reasonably large group - she just lugged over the tray of sake cups so we could choose our own.

    Hi Yas - No okra zosui but they did have syutou okra? It's great that they serve Chinmi, and I agree, a heathy patronage by locals is always a good sign!

    Hi Billy - Haha, everyone wants to choose their own sake cup! I think we ate more than most people do, as we didn't drink a lot of sake but concentrated on the food. lol. We ended up paying more than $50pp on the night anyway.

    Hi Trissa - You must get there soon and then you too, can try crab brain. As always, it's fun hanging out with like-minded people. Food fiends are my favourite kind :)

  • At 1/19/2010 9:18 pm, Anonymous kay said…

    wow lots of unique stuff that ive never tried before.. never been to cammery area though so gotta visit this area sometime.. hehe..

  • At 1/23/2010 12:22 am, Blogger reckless said…

    Great find Helen! I spent a good minute salaciously eyeing off the tofu and sea urchin... YUM!!

    How would you rate the overall service, and how long did the non-yakitori dishes take to come out after ordering?

  • At 1/24/2010 11:17 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Kay - It's not too far - in between Neutral Bay and Northbridge. Lots of interesting dishes here :)

    Hi Reckless - We found the service reasonably attentive particularly as we were a large group that were sitting outside the main dining room. We ordered a lot of dishes all at once, but the yakitori did come out quite quickly.


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