Birdland, Tokyo

October 28, 2014

Birdland was founded by its owner and chef, Toshihiro Wada, in 1987. It has been in its present location in the Ginza since 2002 and has had a Michelin star since 2010. On October 18, 2014, Linda and I went to Birdland for dinner.

Our seats were on stools at the counter, which is on three sides of the small, busy yakitori cooking area.
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Mr. Wada is constantly cooking and supervising. The two charcoal fire pits seemed quite small, but they were kept busy by the active crew of chefs. Occasionally one pit would temporarily be taken out of action for the addition of new charcoal, which was then fanned to red hot. A hood overhead had a strong ventilator fan which kept the smoke out of the room and maintained an air current to keep the fire hot. 

We ordered the Chef’s omakase menu. Linda started with a glass of draft beer before going on to sake, while I started with sake (Hakkaisan Junmai-Ginjyo,) which was served from magnums in generous cups.
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Around the counter I could see that, surprisingly, I was the only one drinking sake. The clientèle was quite young and it seems that sake is now considered to be an older generation’s drink. Even when the customers became older and better dressed as the evening progressed, I did not see much sake. When an older, better dressed group of four came in and sat next to us, they were celebrating something and had champagne with their meal. Birdland is known for its wine list. There were bottles on the list that would have gone very well with the cuisine, including three lovely looking Volnays. We had just arrived in Tokyo from Paris the day before. I was still jetlagged, but eager to get into Japanese cuisine and not thinking of French wine.

The meal started with
Today’s assorted appetizers.
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This included kawasu, or vinegared chicken skin.

Then came
Char-grilled fillet (of chicken like all meat at Birdland.)
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This, and the dessert, were the only courses with a choice; Linda had the sweet basil sauce (foreground) and I the Japanese apricot sauce, umeboshi paste, and shiso slivers. The basil sauce let the herb’s flavor shine through. The barely cooked white chicken meat was bland and served primarily as a vehicle for the sauces.

Chicken Liver Pâté
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This was okay, but ordinary.


The dabs of sauce made with freshly grated wasabi were the point here and were very good.

Reba, or chicken liver.
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These were still pink, moist and flavorful on the inside. A bit more char on the outside could have been nice, but that might have overcooked the inside.

Negima: Leg meat with green onion (Kujo onions from Kyoto.)
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The leg meat had more flavor and substance than the two skewers with breast meat above.

The housemade tofu was dressed with olive oil and coarsely ground pepper.
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Gingko nuts
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They were flavored with a bit of coarse salt.

Thigh skin on.
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This had a higher fat content than the chicken cuts which had come before and so achieved a better char. Very good.

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Okay; I suppose a bit of palate cleansing was in order. The quality of the greens was high.

Tsukune, or grilled chicken cartilage meat balls.
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The seasoning was good; these could be charred without overcooking the inside.

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Rich chicken meat with its skin beautifully crisp was dusted with aromatic shansho powder and garnished with chopped kinome, young leaves of the shansho plant. Excellent.

Grilled Shiitake mushrooms
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These are sprayed with dashi to keep them nice and moist.

Leg meat with leeks and a shishito pepper.
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This almost seemed like a vegetable dish. 

Char-grilled cheese.
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Birdland knows how to grill this not a second too much. Very good. Appropriate for a restaurant with a featured wine list.

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The traditional finishing rice dish was topped with chicken and egg on rice (without answering the question of which came first.) It was sparked up by radish pickles. Very good.

Chinese tea and chicken broth.
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For dessert Linda had crème caramel and I had Turkish rice pudding.
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We enjoyed our meal. It stuck to a theme, but added needed variety. In general, I am used to yakitori with more char, but there are trade-offs with a moister and more flavorful inside. We recommend Birdland.

The best way to get to Birdland is to go down the stairs in front of The Suit Company to the left of the main entrance of the Tsukamoto Sogyo Building across the Harumi-dori from the Sony Building.


One Response to “Birdland, Tokyo”

  1. barbara Says:

    nice to join you and Linda for dinner tonight ! very colorful and interesting.

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