There’s a new bird on the block; Torisho, a rapidly-growing fried chicken chain with over 300 restaurants in Japan, has just opened its first North American location, right here in Downtown Long Beach.
“Torisho” is a combination of the words Tori (bird) and Sho (smile). The new restaurant is definitely putting smiles on the faces of all involved — especially customers who are trying Japanese fried chicken for the first time.
“We are very excited that business partners Ken Harada and Yoshi Rinoie decided to establish their first North American Torisho franchise in Long Beach and join our Downtown community,” said Austin Metoyer, Economic Development and Policy Manager for the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA). “The opening of the new location underscores the appeal of Downtown Long Beach as an affordable and diverse center in Southern California to start or grow a business. Also, Torisho provides an opportunity for the public to experience a unique and authentic Japanese fried chicken dish — Karaage (pronounced Kah-RAH-Geh).”
Karaage is Japan’s traditional method of fried chicken preparation: lightly-battered marinated chicken, fried twice, with the flavor concentrated in the chicken itself, as opposed to the batter-heavy American approach. Though only open since early September, the new Torisho at 730 Long Beach Boulevard is getting a great reputation through word-of-mouth and lots of positive online reviews. “We’re receiving so many compliments,” said Harada. “We are very thankful for our return customers who have fallen in love with Karaage.”
Harada and Rinoie’s events company, Golden Foo Entertainment, was already successful, and was looking to try something new that would involve “bridging out” between Japan and the USA. Harada had gotten the idea for acquiring a Torisho franchise after running an event in New York City that was sponsored by the restaurant. “Seeing the people lined up for hours to try some Karaage got me thinking,” said Harada.
After getting the OK from his business partners, Harada began scouting locations for Torisho’s North American debut. Rinoie elaborated: “Usually, a traditional Japanese company will choose somewhere easy in which to start, such as Torrance, Gardena, or another city with a large Japanese community, but we did totally the opposite. Ken and I love Long Beach’s atmosphere so much, and we also wanted to challenge for the mass market instead of staying in a very small Japanese community circle.”
It was a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific with his daughter that sold Harada on a Long Beach location. “I just fell in love with the city,” he explained, “and I suggested to my business partners, ‘Maybe we should try something different. Who do we want to share Torisho with? Americans in general. What if we set up shop in a place where there are very few Japanese?’ ”
Golden Foo Entertainment is currently in discussions with Torisho about developing a more extensive partnership. “We would like to establish Torisho in California, then go nationwide,” said Harada. “Aside from a few ramen and sushi spots, there aren’t many Japanese restaurants in the area, so we’re unique just by being a Japanese restaurant. The locals are definitely taking a liking to our distinctly flavored, gluten-free Japanese fried chicken.”
Rinoie shares Harada’s positive outlook. “Our uniqueness will eventually attract the attention of the Japanese media, and it will help promote Long Beach to the Japanese tourist market as well,” he said. “I believe that there are big possibilities for both Torisho and the City of Long Beach to create very positive synergies.”
Metoyer added: “Downtown is experiencing a resurgence in the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset. Torisho is one of many new restaurants and retail operators entering the market as they see new opportunities for growth as our Downtown economy recovers.”