Monday, July 7, 2008

Genpin Fugu, Ryogoku (and other locations)

What do you do when you’ve had fugu only once before, but your companion says “I really love fugu. Let’s eat fugu.”? That’s right men, you find a fugu place. Even if you think it’s boring and less than tasty. Even if you know you’ll be criticized as having ‘foreign’ tastes that aren’t ‘subtle’ enough to appreciate the ‘boredom’ of fugu.

Ryogoku isn’t a complete wasteland (there’s Popeye for beer, there’s chanko everywhere (the streets run red with chanko, hot and cold running chanko…) and there’s the museum) but you might not want to make the trip. Actually if you live there, you should be making the trip down to Monnaka! Ii tokoro ne? But I was on the hook for several weeks to find places to go in Ryogoku, and the ‘fugu mondai’ reared its ugly head during that period.

Westerners would freak out if you put ‘chain’ and ‘fugu’ in the same sentence, wouldn’t they? Everyone thinks fugu is something really special until they get to Japan and see it on every street corner. Perhaps I exaggerate, but Genpin really is a chain place – practically a Fugu Famires. You can see it in the lackluster and worn décor, you can smell it in the quality of the sake (filesake, of course!) and you can munch it in the tiredness of fugusashi that was clearly cut earlier in the day. This is perhaps just the Ryogoku branch? Oddly, I haven’t been to the one in Monnaka. And I ain’t goin’!

The other time I had fugu was at a place in Ginza. It wasn’t too much more (I think Y6000 for the standard course – tecchili – rather than Y4000~ at Genpin) and it was just a lot better – the fugu for nabe-tizing was twitching when it came to the table, etc. I’m not saying you need to go somewhere that has the sashi artfully arranged into a crane, but I do think you should spend a little extra and give yourself the best possible chance of getting some enjoyment out of what is frankly a pretty bland fish. Don't get me started on the ankou specialty restaurant I went to one time.


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