Sumibi Torito is one of the more upscale yakitori restaurants in Kyoto. What is often simply served in smoky, rowdy izakaya is occasionally elevated to art form akin to tempura. With chefs using particular types of charcoal and prized varieties of chicken in places such as Birdland or Torishiki in Tokyo, these restaurants have little in common with the rough atmosphere that you find at the street-side shops specialising in grilled chicken all over the country. Sumibi Torito is somewhere in between these upscale joints and the more traditional izakaya.
More upscale in that it is certainly not the cheapest yakitori place around, and serves a number of more complex drinks and dishes (aged chicken and a range of seasonable vegetables, etc.). What makes it keep the spirit of the humble izakaya alive, though is the lively atmosphere here: the smoke, the buzz and the interaction between diners and chefs make this a great counterpart to the more contemplative kaiseki restaurants that represent the culinary pinnacle of the city.
Torito’s most famous item is a chicken meatball that is served with a raw egg yolk. Lusciously tender, minced chicken is grilled and then dipped into the raw yolk, acting as a rich sauce. This is deliciously moreish and leaves you begging for seconds. Other equally enjoyable cuts are liver, heart, and neck, which are so often disregarded in Western cooking.
Whilst Torito is perhaps not as fancy as some of the Michelin-starred yakitori restaurants in Tokyo, it is a great place that uses good quality chicken, but keeps the vibe of an izakaya more or less intact. It’s the perfect place for late night drinks and meals in a city that doesn’t offer all that much choice for late meals