Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Burning off the funk, yakiniku-style

I'm trying to get out of my funk and do more of the things that make me happy. This blog has been so neglected for an entire week already, it's about time I give it some attention. And I have such great dining stories to share from my January trip to Japan, I really want to get it going again...

But today, I think I need to ease into it with a short post, because I am SOOOO tired. I did manage to get my pictures from my in my hometown, Nagoya, cropped and resized, so here we have it. The Rebirth of the Food-loving Alice...

My first meal in Nagoya was going to be a fugu-feast, but since I got in later than scheduled (the trip was cursed with bad air travel luck from the get-go), we ended up at a yakiniku (grilled-beef) meal. Yakiniku is one of my favorites since childhood and oddly something that isn't prevalent in the Bay Area, so I wasn't complaining much. While the Bay Area has a billion different Korean BBQ restaurants that are quite good and I frequent one in particular, yakiniku is very different from the authentic Korean BBQ because of its Japanification. Although the Japanese consider yakiniku to be Korean cuisine, I would say that Japanese-Korean BBQ has evolved into a totally different cuisine with smaller portions of different types of beef, pork, and chicken to be enjoyed with a variety of sauces.

torAJI2
Toraji is a well-established yakiniku chain, and despite it being a chain, the quality is nothing like that of a typical, large franchise. The Nagoya branch has a very nice view of the entire city from its huge windows. Since Nagoya is just beginning to build high-rises and sky scrapers, the 12th floor location is sufficient for a good view...

In addition to pages and pages of non-grilled items, the menu offered 26 different varieties of items to be grilled at the table on their built-in smoke-free charcoal grills. I have no idea how it all works, but I left the place smelling as fresh as I went in (which, incidentally wasn't that fresh, since I had been traveling all day long), although the meats were all grilled at the table on red-hot charcoal they brought out after our orders were taken.

toraji
Each cut was absolutely melt-in-your mouth delicious with sauces that really highlighted the tender sweetness of the beef. The signature sauce is a miso-based rich brown sauce with a hint of sweetness, served with eggs for dipping. The sauce was very strong with both saltiness and sweetness that seemed almost overpowering, but when dipped in the egg, all the components worked perfectly to provide an experience of decadence and pure debauchery. The juices and the oils from the meat blended perfectly with its accompaniment. With each bite, the flavors exploded, leaving me nothing but the pleasurable satisfaction of fulfilling the primordial urge to devour meat.

toraji3
At a striking contrast was the simply prepared shamo or Japanese bantams. You might recall I had shamo last time I was in Japan as well, but these birds are full of texture without being chewy, flavorful without being gamey. It is indeed still chicken, yet so far from any chicken in terms of complex umami tones. Dressed with just a few sprinkles of coarse salt grains, these bantams were at the total opposite end of richness, color, and flavor. Having such widely different types of meats at once is one of the best parts of the yakiniku experience.

The meal was a great way to energize after a full day of traveling. After recalling the meal now, I feel like this is exactly what I need to nourish myself out of my funk. I wonder if I can fit another epicurean getaway to Japan any time soon...

4 comments:

JD said...

Glad to see you are back!

The Papa Bear said...

Welcome back, The Baby Bear!!!

The Papa Bear said...

Can you replace the shamo with wild turkey meat? If yes, then I might have a solution for you. (evil grin)

Sooyoung said...

Hi. I really enjoy reading your blog. Could you recommend a place to try shamo yakiniku in Tokyo? My wife and I will be going there next month.

Sooyoung