The toridon quietly appears at select branches of the gyudon king.

As one of the largest restaurant chains in Japan, Yoshinoya is no slouch in the marketing department. Whether they’re turning their tableware into Poké Balls or delivering meals by flying drones, they tend to let everyone know what their latest innovation is.

So it’s kind of weird that right now, there’s a semi-secret Yoshinoya menu item that isn’t or mentioned anywhere on the chain’s website. As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t have had any idea it existed if we hadn’t strolled past one of the Yoshinoya branches near SoraNews24 headquarters and spotted this poster, at which point we became blissfully aware that Yoshinoya is now selling chicken bowls.

Yes, Yoshinoya, the chain practically synonymous with gyudon (beef bowls), now offers a toridon (chicken bowl). What’s more, the chicken isn’t ground or sliced into chunks like it is with the torisoboro or yakitori bowls offered at some other restaurants in Japan. For the toridon, Yoshinoya uses shredded chicken, similar to the strips of beef in its gyudon.

Since the only thing we love more than a good mystery is a mystery we can eat, we strode straight into the restaurant and ordered a gyudon, a toridon, and, just for good measure, a butadon (pork bowl).

▼ Left to right: beef bowl, chicken bowl, and pork bowl

Taste-testing duties fell to our crack reporter Mr. Sato (or, more accurately, were claimed by him, as he holds dominion and right of first refusal over anything edible that comes through the office door). He started with the beef bowl, calibrating his taste receptors with the familiar baseline of Yoshinoya’s signature dish.

Next, it was on to the pork bowl. Compared to the beef bowl, the seasonings are a bit sweeter, and there’s an enticing ginger element as well.

And then, finally, it was time for the toridon.

With the shredded chicken having taken on a brown hue as it was stewed, at a glance you might mistake it for a beef bowl. But the meat isn’t the only ingredient difference between Yoshinoya’s gyudon and toridon, because while the gyudon is stewed beef and onions, the toridon is stewed chicken, onion, and bamboo shoots!

The bamboo shoots are a classy surprise in a fast food meal. In terms of seasonings, the stock that the toridon toppings are stewed in is soy sauce-based, without the ginger notes of the pork bowl, but the natural sweetness of the bamboo shoots give the toridon its own unique, and tasty, place in the Yoshinoya rice bowl family.

Mr. Sato did have one complaint, though, which is that the pieces of chicken seem thinner than the meat in the beef and pork bowls. That might be for a more complementary texture with the crunch of the bamboo shoots, though. It should be noted, however, that at just 330 yen (US$2.90), the toridon is cheaper than the 352-yen pork bowl or 388-yen beef bowl…and it should also be noted that Mr. Sato’s ideals for size and meatiness in rice bowls are, let’s say, “abnormal.”

As mentioned above, Yoshinoya makes no mention of the toridon on its website, and its not available at every branch. We got ours at the Tokyo Shinjuku 4-chome location, but if you’re looking for it elsewhere you’ll either need to keep an eye out for the poster in the window (鶏丼 are the kanji for “toridon”) or ask for it by name. It’s also only going to be available until December 7, so happy hunting!

Restaurant information
Yoshinoya (Shinjuku 4-chome branch) 吉野家(新宿4丁目店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjukuku, Shinjuku 4-3-22
Open 5 a.m.-2 a.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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