As a fan of Japanese cuisine’s flavour-packed and healthy grilled skewers and, although no connoisseur but certainly not averse to a good whisky, I was delighted when asked to review Torii’s new Damansara Heights’ outlet.
The restaurant is located on the suburb’s less beaten track of Jalan Batai where the surrounding hilly streets of the leafy neighbourhood seem to be far more frequented by dog walkers than fervent foodies in search of a decent eatery. However, set back from the main road, is a dining destination that, following in the footsteps of its TTDI branch, is well worth a visit.
Torii, Damansara Heights
The stylish decor will be the first thing to impress: The draped, deep red, velvet curtains and the dark walls adorned with murals of Japanese masks create a theatrical ambience which is enhanced by the soft lighting from wicker lamp shades. The soft curvy lines of the bar, the pale wood of the furniture and fittings and the striking hexagonal theme that runs throughout both the restaurant and bar further embellishes the look and feel of the restaurant making you sense, long before the first taste of Yakitori has even passed your lips, that it’s somewhere you’d happily while away many hours.
The delivery of the first of many tasty dishes swiftly deviated our thoughts from the classy fixtures and fittings to the serious business of eating. We began with a selection of dishes from the Delicacies section of the menu the first of which was the Bonded Unagi and Foie Gras (RM28++): bite-sized stacks of the grilled river eel, slithers of omelette topped with melt in your mouth foie gras, which immediately silenced us as we appreciated the wonderful flavours of this opener.
Bonded Unagi and Foie Gras
The Shrimp and Sea Urchin Tempura (RM28++) were succulent and flavourful, the sweetness of the shrimp and crispiness of the super light tempura batter was perfectly complemented by the velvety, briny sea urchin and plum sea salt.
Shrimp and Sea Urchin Tempura
The Wagyu Sliders (RM24++) were a real show stopper. The juicy, herby top quality beef patties topped with caramelised onions and spinach were ingeniously sandwiched by a dense and doughy savoury scone bun – perfect for soaking up some of the rich meaty juice.
Imported directly from Tokyo’s famous fish market of the same name, the Tsukiji Salmon Sashimi (RM38++) provided another talking point and received unanimous approval. The salmon is flown in on Tuesdays and Fridays and is so fresh and tasty accompanied by a delicious sweet miso sauce.
Tsukiji Salmon Sahimi
Next began the arrival of Yakitori: grilled skewers of tasty bite sized morsels. First up were the Wagyu Seven (RM20++): the beef was tender and delicious flavoured only with sea salt and black pepper. The Wings (RM8++) were excellent served piping hot, full of flavour from the sumptuous skin and juicy meat of the chicken. The Squid Tentacles (RM8++) were accompanied by a tangy salsa that provided a considerable peppery kick. For us, although we enjoyed all of these dishes, the star items from this section of Torii’s menu were the Smoked Duck (RM12++) and the Sweet Potato (RM5++). The slices of duck breast were wrapped around Welsh onion, creating utterly sublime bites of smoky, succulent meatiness combined with delicate leek. As for the Japanese sweet potato, the tender golden flesh was so very delicious served in a puddle of melted butter – a perfect marriage of goodness and buttery indulgence.
Once we’d polished off these delights, it was time for desserts. We tried three of the wonderful flavours of ice-creams made exclusively for Torii by Forty Licks. The Whiskey-N-Raisin was creamy with an unmistakable whisky warmth and a plump, juicy raisin in every spoonful. We also enjoyed the tangy and refreshing flavours of the Yuzu Umeshu but we absolutely raved about the Dark Chocolate Sorbet which was so incredibly rich in chocolatey flavour and so ridiculously creamy that it was hard to believe that this was actually a sorbet.
Dark Chocolate Sorbet, Whiskey-N-Raisin & Yuzu Umeshu ice-crems (RM11++ )
It was now time to venture upstairs to partake in some of Torii’s signature cocktails and of course, sample some whisky (in case you were wondering, I am deliberately omitting the ‘e’ here as advised in one of the pearls of whisky wisdom displayed in the wooden hexagons above the bar – no ‘e’ in the Japanese whisky).
Just like the restaurant downstairs, the look of the bar area is perfect: atmospherically dimly lit, dark chocolatey brown leather upholstery in direct contrast with the bold vibrant red of the bar stools and wall-to-wall shiny bottles of all manner of whiskies and other spirits.
Torii’s Whisky Bar
We kicked off with cocktails, the first of which was the Hidden Green: beautifully presented served in a cold sake bottle, it was light and refreshing made with gin, umushu, yuzu and green apple. Next followed the Sticky Lychee: another gin based cocktail with lychee, lemongrass and Perrier. It was the final cocktail of the trio that had Monica and I intoxicated with excitement at the mere glimpse of the ingredients list: whisky, salted caramel and espresso coffee made up the the Kitani Martini which was as good as we’d hoped and suspected it would be.
All that remained to be sampled at this point was the very stuff for which the bar is named. The first of the three whiskies we tried was Ichiro’s malt Chichibu Port Pipe (RM65++): pink in colour due to having partly matured in barrels previously used for the maturation of Port wine, this whisky is fruity and woody at first with hints of strawberry, cherry, honey and grain, very alcoholic on the palate at 54.5%, the flavours that follow are citrus and grapefruit ending with the return of honey. The flavours are highly developed for its young age (5 years) and it’s also very rare – not be found anywhere else in Malaysia.
Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu Port Pipe
The Hakushu 18YO (RM72++) initially had flavours of orange, pear and a dry smokiness that gave way to hints of sweet baked goods and ended with long and fruity flavours with honey and a subtle smokiness.
The Yoichi 12 YO was crisp and fresh on the nose with hints of apple, pear and a gentle smokiness. The palate is of medium body and very crisp with floral notes and a subdued peat smoke. The finish is of good length with a little spicy sweetness and smoke.
And on that sweet, spicy and subtly smoky note, our evening at Torii drew to a satisfying close with the certainty that a return visit would be made very soon. For Yakitori and whisky aficianados and novices alike, this place is a great venue for catching up with friends or a date night over dinner, chilling out whilst enjoying the vast array of beverages in the bar or an indulgent evening of both!
Torii is open 7 days a week from 11:30am to 2:30pm and from 5:30pm ’til late.
Reasons to visit: Wagyu Sliders, the Smoked Duck and Sweet Potato Yakitori, the Dark Chocolate Sorbet and all the great cocktails and whiskies.