Awarded a Michelin star, Bird Land offers the ultimate multi-course yakitori experience that goes beyond meat on a stick.
Yakitori is a fairly simple and straightforward style of grilling.
There is a heat source, a grate and a vessel to hold these elements together. There’s no smoking like in American barbecue. The cooking is fast and furious, and the proteins and vegetables are cooked with precision. There are no gimmicks and no crazy sauces or sides. That’s it.
So it’s with a certain degree of wonder that a Tokyo restaurant like Bird Land could earn a one-star review from Michelin.
Food at Bird Land
Our meal began with a selection of assorted appetizers – fava beans, gizzards, chicken skin and pickled mountain vegetables.
Then, a skewer of sasami chicken filet arrived: very lightly cooked breast meat topped with apricot sauce and fresh shiso.Yes, you read that correctly.The chicken was prepared medium-rare – a level of doneness never seen in the USA.
However, Bird Land uses special free-range Oku-Kuji shamo (gamecocks) that are reared under special conditions in the mountains of Iwate. Unlike many industrially farmed birds of America, these birds are free of disease and big on flavor. It all makes perfect sense.
Next, we enjoyed chicken liver pate – a Japanese answer to Mom’s chopped liver – perfectly seasoned and beautifully presented.
After the pate, the skewers starting coming out one at a time. Each was artfully presented on its own plate.
As part of the skewer parade, a plate of Yakitori chicken livers arrived. The liver morsels seemed unassuming at first, but one bite revealed a chicken liver with a perfectly creamy consistency and sweetness.
This was Tokyo food craft at its best. After the liver, the yakitori parade continued.
We reached the zenith of our meal (as if we needed any more) with Oyako-Don, a dish of chicken and egg over Japanese rice. The classic soft scrambled eggs with chicken created a remarkable synthesis.
In spiritual terms, the dish seemed to symbolize the forces of life’s creation and end in one scrumptious bowl. Plus, it tasted good.
Dessert at Bird Land
We finished our meal with rice pudding. However, unlike western rice puddings that feature whole grains of rice, this pudding was made with finely textured rice flour. We appreciated the smooth pudding’s light, un-gummy texture.
Bird Land has a wonderful wine list. We chose to order Grüner Veltliner from Austria – a perfect accompaniment for the wonderful poultry. The wine list was the one item of detail, among many, which propelled Bird Land into the Michelin star territory.
As we finished the night by strolling through the tony Ginza neighborhood, enjoying the bright neon lights and window shopping, we could only ponder the mastery of such simple food. For sure, anyone could throw meat on a stick, place it over a hot fire and cook it. But it takes years of mastery to serve Japanese food that is absolutely perfect.
That is what Bird Land does. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Birdland is located at Japan, 〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chūō, Ginza, 4 Chome−2−15, 塚本素山ビル.
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: April 28, 2013