I put writing this blog off for a while. Some of you may have read an earlier article about a secret yakitori restaurant in Honolulu, which actually got some foodies in a huff and demanding to know its exact location. I was still editing my photos and debating on whether to post this or not, when I started getting inquiries from friends on my phone and demands from strangers on social media.
In a nutshell, Toridokoro Matsumoto is a secret yakitori restaurant. Don’t ask me for the address, since it’s hidden in a fairly unexpected spot. The menu is in Japanese, they only speak Japanese, and you can only dine there if someone who has already been there invites you. If you’re a picky eater, stop reading this blog now as you don’t ask for substitutions.
Secret restaurants are not uncommon in Japan; these aren’t gigantic chains looking to cater to the masses. This is why some restaurants, like Sushi Sho, decline to have Michelin award them a star. Artisanal Japanese restaurants are all about bringing the best of their ingredients and talents to their base of loyal customers, who fill their seats every day. Once such a restaurant gets a Michelin star or is featured in mainstream Western media, tourists and wannabes flock in and squeeze the regulars out for their one instagram moment. And then business dries up after the rush dies and the regulars have found a new place to hang out.
The other part of the equation is being able to have some control over who gets to dine there. You can’t just walk in and demand a table. Since your ability to get a reservation is dependent on being invited by someone who has already dined there, there is the trust of referral.
And I guess for many of my fellow Chinese friends, there is the magic of being exclusive. When my niece Cymri took me to the hidden bar People 7 in Shanghai, you had to know the secret phone number to make the reservation with a password, then find the unmarked establishment set back in a dark hallway, then know the special combination of holes in the wall AND the secret password to get though the knobless door (both of which change daily).
After that long introduction, if you’re still reading, here’s an equally long string of photos to show you what I ate in case you don’t get to go. The prix fixe menu is about $70, not including tax and tip. I have been there twice, and the menu was slightly different each time, so I’m mixing the photos (most of which are from the second dinner).
They’re getting ready to open a lounge in the same building, and we assume it will be a speakeasy as well.
By the way, if you read this blog and are trying to text me, I’ve turned off my phone for a few days.