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.
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.
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.
Char-grilled fillet (of chicken like all meat at Birdland.)
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.
The dabs of sauce made with freshly grated wasabi were the point here and were very good.
Tsukune, or grilled chicken cartilage meat balls.
The seasoning was good; these could be charred without overcooking the inside.
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.