Tokyo Bird Surry Hills

Japanese craft beer and whisky, yakitori bar food and Japanese style cocktails are the offerings of Tokyo Bird, a new small bar that quietly opened in Surry Hills.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Tokyo Bird, Surry Hills

Located along Commonwealth Street and accessed via Belmore Lane, Tokyo Bird is located in the vicinity of Keg & Brew, Goros and Button Bar. But you don’t need directions to get to this cool laneway bar. Just follow your nose down the alleyway to some of Sydney’s best yakitori.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Cosy Booth

The 60 person capacity bar is headed by Jason Ang (formerly of Sokyo) as general manager and Yoshi Onishi (ex-Victoria Room and Suntory Cup Finalist) as bar manager. You’ll find Yoshi behind the bar, and while he’s not explaining the various flavour profiles of the range of sake at the bar, he is masterfully mixing, stirring and pouring some of the best Japanese inspired cocktails.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Yoshi Onishi

The Kansai Cocktail ($18) is a wet martini style that brings the perfect balance of gin and sake. Bombay Sapphire gin is stirred down with sake shiso in lieu of vermouth over hand-chipped ice and finished with plum bitters.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Kansai Cocktail

The ice is chipped to order and the drink is garnished with a shiso leaf. The cocktails is perfectly balanced and chilled that you’d be tempted to order another immediately. The delicate floral notes in the gin work well with the medium-bodied sake while the shiso adds a hint of bitterness and aromatics.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills

Sake goes down very well with the yakitori menu, and Tokyo Bird offers three styles from the light-bodied to the medium bodied and more robust. You won’t feel intimidated if you don’t know what you like. Much like wine, you’ll be asked the style of wine you prefer and offered a recommendation.

The sake is available in 180ml pours ($14-$15) and the service method is well worth keeping an eye on. The liquid is artfully poured from a one litre bottle into a a small bottle that is kept chilled on ice then into sake cups.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Yakitori Grill

The tantalising aromas from the yakitori grill will have you reaching for the food menu even if you’re not hungry.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Lotus Root Chips

Start with the crunchy Lotus Root Chips ($5.50) served with a side of chilli mayo while you decide.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
L-R: Eggplant, Shiitake, Cherry Tomato, Yakitori Giblet, Cheese Sausage

You can’t go wrong with your choice. The yakitori is well priced at $5 to $7 for two skewers per serve or you can leave it up to the chef and order a mixed plate of 5 skewers for $16.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
L-R: Chicken Heart, Pork Belly

Top picks are the shiitake, chicken heart, pork belly, thigh and shallots and the wickedly delicious cheese sausage that oozes with melted cheese in the mouth.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Clockwise from Upper Left – Wing, Liver, Tsukune, School Prawn, Yaki Scallop

From the specials comes a delectable duo with the school prawns and yaki scallops ($9). The Tsukune (meatballs) are flavour bombs, a mixture of chicken mince, shallots, onion, and chicken cartilage for texture. Don’t be shy about eating offal when it is well cooked, unless you find the texture of liver a challenge to the palate.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Hand-Chipping Ice

Tokyo Bird stocks an impressive list of 25 Japanese whiskies and will expand in the future. Here you can enjoy the likes of Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki, some rarer whiskies such as Ichino malts or simply order the highly sessionable Suntory Highball. The whiskies are laid out on the bar counter within reach. Each bottle has a label with tasting notes making it easy to engage and interact with the bartenders.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Infiniti Cocktail

For a nightcap, the Infiniti Cocktail ($19) hits the right spot. The drink is made with Nikka from the Barrel, a cask strength whisky with 51.4% ABV, Noilly Prat vermouth, Rosso Antico and orange and Angostura bitters. Again, the cocktail strikes a perfect balance of whisky with the right dilution, spice notes from the Rosso Antico and a hint of sweetness.

Tokyo Bird Surry Hills
Tokyo Bird

There’s so much to like about Tokyo Bird. From the first visit, it feels as if the bar has been around for some time and longer than two weeks at the time of visit. On a drizzly Monday night, the venue was full of patrons as if Sydney had already discovered it. The vibe is casual and relaxed, whether the space is occupied by couples or larger groups. The cocktails are well crafted, Asahi beer is on tap and you can enjoy an impressive Japanese whisky selection in a Japanese small bar environment right down an alleyway in our own Surry Hills.

Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

Tokyo Bird
Shop 2, 226-228 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
(entry via Belmore Lane)
Monday to Saturday: 4pm until midnight

This article was originally published as a news item on 26 December 2014 and has since been updated with the full review.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.