Address: 226-228 Belmore Lane, Surry Hills
Opening hours: 5pm-midnight Mondays to Saturdays
Tokyo Bird was the designated choice for my friends and I to enjoy drinks at over the Easter long weekend in April. I had heard about Tokyo Bird, a Japanese style bar serving yakitori through the grapevine, and I had long wanted to try the food and drinks here in order to reminisce about my time in Japan. I got here on a Saturday night around 9pm without a prior booking- they only take bookings for 6 people or more, so we had to wing it, and luckily, there were some empty spaces.
Tokyo Bird is a small space, with enough seats to fit around 20 people, perhaps. They have a food menu with offerings of meat and vegetable yakitori, sides, and daily specials. The focus is on Japanese style cocktails and whisky here. To be honest, the actual reason I had picked Tokyo Bird for dinner and drinks that night, is because I was missing my favourite Japanese alcoholic drink, known as oolong hai.
Oolong hai consists of shochu with oolong tea, and I drank it more than once a week while I was traveling in February. I sorely missed the days of going to izakayas and bar and saying ‘oolong hai onegaishimasu!’ Oolong hai has a taste similar to green tea and Hennessy VSOP mixed together (a common drink in Sydney karaoke bars). Although I didn’t check beforehand, I went to Tokyo Bird feeling confident that I would once again be able to enjoy the cool comforts of my favourite drink closer to home.
It was a damp evening, and when I finally got to Tokyo Bird, I was glad to be able to take refuge from the rain outside. There were a few seats available at a high table, which I sat down at. One of the members of staff came over to give a copy of their small, paper menu, which I then perused at leisure. It was one of my great dilemmas as to whether I should order an oolong hai or a Japanese whisky. After a few minutes, one of the staff came over to see what I was having to drink. I asked if they had oolong hai (not on the menu) and the waitress said they didn’t have oolong hai, but they had chu hai, which is similar- chu hai has flavoured soda water, instead of oolong tea to go with the sho chu. I decided to have that instead, and then waited patiently for Lianna and Sharon, who arrived shortly after that.
We ordered Katsu Nuggets ($9) from the snacks menu plus some yakitori dishes. The Katsu Nuggets were the first of the food dishes to be served. Deep fried perfectly, they were tender and succulent, garnished with spring onion and a sweet soy sauce.
The Eggplant and Miso ($6) skewers reminded me of one of my favourite Japanese dishes, nasu dengaku, which Tokyo Bird’s skewers were probably based on. The eggplant was soft and well-cooked, but I felt that the miso glaze was too light and not sweet, nor thick enough.
The Pork Belly ($8) skewers were fatty and succulent, served with a sauce that complemented the flavour of the meat. This was one of my favourite meat skewers of the night. Next to it, was a less favourable option, chicken hearts ($8). I’ve eaten chicken heart before, and didn’t like it, so I skipped trying these.
This tasty looking dish was in fact chicken liver ($8). My friends had ordered it without my knowledge, and I picked it up and sank my teeth in, thinking it was a safer cut of meat, such as chicken thigh. It had been served in a thick sauce that disguised the taste of the chicken liver a little, but the overall taste was undeniable. I had eaten cooked liver on one other occasion and found the taste unbearable, although I love eating pate and foie gras. After taking one bite of this, I gave the rest of my skewer to Sharon to eat.
Quail eggs were part of the specials menu that day. Tokyo Bird also has ‘kawa’ (chicken skin) which is usually on the specials menu, and this was also the case that day, however they had sold out by the time we got there. I don’t remember the price of the quail eggs, but they tasted like the standard quail eggs that I’ve eaten from the can which is sold at Asian grocery stores. They were nothing special, and I wouldn’t order this a second time.
There were originally two shiitake skewers but Lianna snapped one up before I could take a photo. The Shiitake ($6) were another favourite of mine. The mushrooms were tender with a delicate flavour. Cheese Sausage ($9) was another good dish. The name basically said it all- these skewers consisted of hot dog like sausages with dollops of cheese throughout- thoroughly satisfying.
Tsukune ($8) is something I have loved ever since my first trip to Japan in 2014, and I make sure to order it every time I go to a yakitori restaurant. Tokyo Bird’s tsukune had larger than average chicken meatballs in a sweet sauce.
With the food we had ordered and three rounds of drinks, we paid about $55 per head. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the small bar, and thought the service was good. However, the food was nothing spectacular. Don’t come here in a big group, or if you’re really hungry. The best aspect of Tokyo Bird is its range of Japanese whiskeys, cocktails and alcoholic beverages that are reminiscent of Japan.