The highly anticipated Torafuku restaurant softly opened over the weekend at 958 Main Street. First time restaurateurs Steve Kuan and chef Clement Chan – partners in the popular Le Tigre food truck – are still tweaking things at the 48 seat, izakaya-style, pan-Asian street food eatery, but my first pass with on opening night impressed; the “rye so messy” chicken wings with ramen crumble being especially tasty. I would have liked to have seen more noodles and more broth in their signature ramen (the $12 price tag demands as much), but “friends and family” guinea pigs are subject to fidgety half-steps and whoopsie-daisies, and that was – thankfully – the only one that came our way. The menus look solid (in the photo gallery below), and it’s clear that Chan and his small kitchen cadre are having some fun — best evidenced by the beautiful arranged, pork gyoza-stuffed tortellinis. I’m really looking forward to trying it out again.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of Torafuku, Scout broke the news of its coming back in May:
Torafuku (from the Japanese: Happy/Lucky Tiger) will be licensed with an 8 seat kitchen bar. The space has been completely redone, so they’ve had the opportunity to build to suit their needs. Half of their square footage will be dedicated to commissary work (to feed the food truck), while the other half will serve the restaurant. The only design element in place at the time of my tour was a baffling reinforced concrete communal table that appeared to defy gravity.
Chan’s good rep and skills (ex-Hapa Umi, currently sous at Raw Bar) are a terrific fit for this location, so I think they’re going to do well from day one. I suspect Chan and Kuan are anticipating as much, as they plan on parking the food truck out front during service so that diners have options (no reservations). Torafuku will open for six nights to start (closed Mondays), with brunch/lunch service to hopfully follow at some point in the future.
It’s a well-wrought place — one of the best looking restaurants to open so far this year. The design is super straight-forward; Spartan in its modernity but irresistibly pretty. The impossibly long concrete communal table and the diamond-hard floors are softened by cork-topped stools and a series of leather-backed booths, while the glaring white of the walls and shiny, reflective surfaces of the open kitchen are given splashes of colour by the bright menus and whatever the customers are wearing – not to mention Chan’s artfully composed dishes. As it was early Friday evening (and a hot one at that), I wanted a cold beer, so I didn’t get to try any of bar manager Max Borrowman’s cocktails. They read well, however, and they certainly looked swell going out.
If it’s run as tightly and expertly as the room looks and the food tastes, I think Torafuku will be here for a long while, finding (and adroitly drifting) new corners in the otherwise straight and narrow izakaya game. I’m glad I live just around the corner. Watching it evolve is going to be delicious.