Bar food can often feel like an afterthought. In this small bar, however, the popular Japanese drinking food, yakitori – which literally translates to “grilled bird” – stars alongside a menu of classic-style cocktails and a sizable whisky collection. Opened late last year, general manager Jason Ang (Gilt Lounge, Sokyo) and bar manager Yoshi Onishi (Stitch, Victoria Room) are two of the partners behind Tokyo Bird, bringing a taste of Japanese bar culture to Sydney. “We want to pay homage to the way a lot of people drink in Japan,” Ang explains. “It’s very much a personalised service – you sit at the counter, or you’re within very close reach of the bartender.” That’s one of the reasons why they love the small 60-seater space; no one ever feels too far away.

A true yakitori menu revolves around chicken, offering skewers of thighs and wings, or if you’re feeling daring, livers, hearts and giblets, all cooked over charcoal and coated with house-made tare sauce.

While traditionally this is all yakitori restaurants serve, patrons at Tokyo Bird will enjoy a little more variety. “We want to offer other things to accompany [the yakitori],” Ang says. Other skewers include pork belly, tiger prawn and shiitake. Menu items will change regularly depending on what’s available at the market.

Tokyo Bird’s simple and technique-focused approach to cocktails is another nod to Japanese culture. “It’s all about infusing the technique of a tea ceremony into your cocktail making,” Onishi says. This means having the best ingredients, using your tools the best way possible and not overcomplicating the flavours.

Unsurprisingly there’s also an emphasis on Japanese whisky. “I think it just fits everyone’s profile,” Onishi says, noting the variety caters to novices and connoisseurs alike. You can expect the attention to quality to extend far beyond the spirits, too. “We filter our ice water with Japanese charcoal to rid it of any impurities,” says Onishi. “This creates a denser, cleaner ice, which doesn’t impart any extra minerals into the whisky.”

Tokyo Bird
Shop 2, 226–228 Commonwealth Street (enter via Belmore Lane)
Surry Hills
(02) 8880 0788

Mon to Sat 4pm–midnight