- 3 min read

Italian Bar Toraishi

Quality Italian-style dining in central Matsuyama

On Yasaka Dori in central Matsuyama is a building that looks like a circus, or maybe a toy shop. The signboard over the entrance shows a teddy bear dressed as a tiger balancing on a stripy circus ball. It’s quite eye-catching, if nothing else. This is Toraishi, an Italian restaurant.

All this childishness outside gives way to a bit more sophistication inside. The restaurant is quite small and the seating is arranged around a spacious and open kitchen. There’s a counter with high stools (hard and rather uncomfortable), and some intimate little tables for groups of four or eight.

I went with a friend on a chilly November Saturday night. We tried sitting outside in the roadside terrace under the gas heaters, but quickly thought better of it due to the cold and the noise of the traffic. So we scuttled inside and were seated at the counter.

The menu is extensive and there’s a good choice of course and à la carte options. We decided to have the Degu Stagione, or the course menu, for 2,300 yen. We gave earnest consideration to the course with as much as you can drink for 3,800 yen. But when we asked the friendly and helpful waiter what sort of wine that would involve, we were told it would be a light variety, which wasn’t what we were after on that particular evening. So we ordered a bottle that was billed as full bodied. Actually it was very medium bodied, but it was agreeably complex nonetheless.

The food was very good and came at a good pace. The Caesar salad was generously garnished with parmesan and prosciutto, and the focaccia bread with olive oil that followed was hot, nutty and very satisfying. The spaghetti was perhaps the high point. The pasta itself was firm and above all fresh, and the sauce of sun dried tomatoes, eggplant, lots of mozzarella, and very piquant and aromatic dried chili was perfect. I’ll be visiting again just to eat a larger serving of this dish. The pasta was followed by braised beef baked with seasonal vegetables which included sweet potato, an unexpected but very palatable Japanese touch. My companion went into ecstasies over the tenderness of the beef. We ordered extra bread so that we might enjoy the oil of this dish, and a quiet and unseemly competition ensued for who could soak up the most. The last item of the course was ice cream, but we got that changed to cheese through swift and painless negotiation.

Toraishi has a pleasant, sophisticated atmosphere. A couple of young smokers did their best to spoil it for everybody else, which is a shame, considering the care taken in preparing the food. Hopefully the management will soon see the folly of allowing a few thoughtless people to pollute everybody’s air. If you want a table on a Saturday night, you need to book in advance, but you can probably find a seat somewhere. In the warmer months, the terrace looks appealing.

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