My siblings have been talking about this infamous Japanese “chicken place” for some time right now. With Smooth Obturator working in Torrance and Triple T’s affliction for Japanese cuisine, they always have some good recommendations for Japanese eats. My sister has also eaten here with Smooth Obturator and Triple T, so since I trust their palates, I was quite excited to to finally check this place out for myself. Sdho picked up Pdho and I from the airport, and we headed on over to meet up with Smooth Obturator, Triple T and her parental unit.
The restaurant is located in what looks like a brand new area of Old Town Torrance right across from the Toyota headquarters. It seems to attract a significant Japanese clientele which is always a good sign. This restaurant specializes in chicken dishes of all types, and I guess they specifically use Jidori chicken which is a type of free-range chicken most commonly found in Japan but has been making its way across restaurants in Los Angeles. My brother described it by paralleling Jidori to chicken as Wagyu is to beef.
I was a little bit scared about the Toriwasa because it looked like chicken prepared sashimi style. Although there was some slight searing on the outside, it was essentially raw chicken. Since many before me have eaten it without incident, I went ahead and tried it with a little wasabi and dipped in soy sauce. I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the taste was. In fact, if I had eaten it with my eyes closed, I would have thought I was eating very fresh sashimi. It really was quite tasty.
Smooth Obturator and Triple T seem to like chawanmushi, and it’s not that I don’t like it, but I usually find it to be a little bit bland. Although this egg custard was chilled, it tasted more interesting in part to to the shrimp, crab meat and flavored gelee cubes. It was a more interesting preparation than I’m used to.
The Tebasakiyaki were sprinkled with sea salt and hotly grilled till the chicken skin turned golden. They were juicy and had a simply unadulterated taste of chicken.
The Ton Toro was amazingly moist which you wouldn’t expect with grilled pork. It was so juicy that I almost thought I was eating chicken.
I always love croquettes especially when they are filled with crab. The creamy sauce was not at all heavy but instead tasted quite subtle and really provided a nice contrast to the deep-fried crunch outer texture of the croquette.
I would have expected the Torikawa Wakame to be a little unappetizing. After all, it is deep-fried chicken skin (talk about sinful), but it was served with seaweed salad and ponzu sauce which helped cut the oiliness of the dish. Relatively speaking, it really wasn’t as oily as it could have been and it actually was quite tasty in spite of the guilt.
I think the Deep Fried Chicken Cartilage was probably my least favorite dish, not because of taste but more because of texture. It pretty much tasted like regular chicken, but I think it was the firm crunch of the cartilage that I found a little unsettling. I try and be open-minded, but I couldn’t get past the feeling that I was biting into tiny bones.
This dish seemed a little bit odd for a Japanese menu, but I found it quite interesting. It was a ball of potato salad that had been coated in tempura batter and deep fried. It was a little rich between the mayo in the salad and the fried batter, so I’m a little surprised that Triple T supported the ordering of this dish. Admittedly, I have a weakness of most things fried and creamy, so as sinful as this dish was, I actually thought it was quite delicious.
I really liked the Kanitama which was a Japanese style omelette filled with crab meat and a sweet and sour sauce. The omelette was on the dense side and kind of reminded me of a tofu cake.
The Fried Fish Cake was a tad bit on the oily side, and although I liked it, it didn’t taste particularly special.
Since Chicken Karaage is essentially a refined version of chicken nuggets, it’s not hard to understand why I always want to order them. However, in this case, I really think the quality of the chicken took this karaage to a higher level. The batter was light, and the chicken was flavorful.
After several dishes of chicken prepared a myriad of ways, I started to think that these dishes must be good, not necessarily because of the marinades or seasoning, but I think the chicken itself is really quite special. It’s not like I haven’t had grilled chicken breast before, but the Shoniku Negi was quite tasty especially considering it’s breast meat. There was a subtle creaminess to the chicken meat which really helped minimize any dryness that one would expect with white meat.
This next dish had us “cooking” at the table… okay, more like mixing. The individual ingredients came out on a tray, and then we proceeded to mix the rice with minced free range chicken, seaweed, bonito flakes, a raw egg and some sweet soy sauce broth. It was a mix between a porridge and some soupy rice. The dish seemed simple but had a nice combination of flavors from the individual ingredients which came together quite nicely.
The ramen noodles were okay, but I wouldn’t say it was the strongest dish of the night. The broth tasted quite clean and not as fatty as some ramen broths can be. The noodles were nicely cooked, but I think I prefer the slightly thicker noodles as they have a little more bite to their texture.
Overall, I really enjoyed the food. Already being a avid chicken eater, I have to say that this menu appeals to my palate in many ways, particularly in how the dishes are served small plates style. I also liked the mix of grilled, fried, and steamed preparations. It’s a little bit of everything. It also makes sense why both my brother and sister-in-law would find harmony in the dishes here as there seems to be equality in terms of the dishes they would each like. I definitely think the food here is good and quite reasonably priced. I would highly recommend coming here with at least a party of 4, so it allows you to order a variety of things from across the menu.
1231 Cabrillo Ave
Torrance, CA 90501
PAFO Ratings for Niwattori:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 4 stars