Given the choice between two tickets to the LA Philharmonic Orchestra or two seats in front of Shoji-san at Torimatsu, you bet I would choose to watch the maestro of Yakitori at work. Given the original location of Torimatsu has been open in the Shinbashi district in Tokyo since 1979 (with this being the only other outpost - open since August 1990), it may not come as a surprise to be the best yakitori you can get your hands on in LA. Shoji San has been here since the inception of this shop, and was at the original outpost before the LA shop opened (so that would give him around 30 years of experience, if not more).
The yakitori here is grilled on Kishu Binchotan, imported from the Wakayama prefecture in Japan, and is widely recognized as one of the top quality Binchotan in the world. Every course was remarkable, and practically comparable to upper tier yakitori joints in Japan. Serving raw chicken breast perhaps is a testament to their belief in their quality of ingredients, and it was truly tasty and the texture unlike that of any chicken breast you’ve likely had before. All skewers were amazing, and the fact that he singlehandedly manages the grill for the entire restaurant (which operates at around 30 people during dinner, with everyone eating different items), is a true testament to his skill - a real shokunin. The spirit of craftsmanship and dedication was truly apparent - throughout my meal of 1.5 hours, I rarely observed him take a break, and he only had 1 sip of water the entire meal. When there is such a drive to one’s craft and passion, you can only sit back and admire the work of a master.