Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Matagi, Nishi Azabu

I feel like this review should be written in grunts, sort of like the noises that would be made by a wild boar as he snuffles through the undergrowth just before being blown away by a shotgun wielded by one of Matagi's 'sourcers'. While new to me, coming through the pages of a back-issue of Tokyo Calendar, this place is evidently well-known to both epicureans and wild game alike. Though for different reasons.

In the bathroom, there's a calendar hanging over the toilet. This month it shows a cute lil' chipmunk in closeup in a woodland setting. I thought this was great! Then my eyes wandered up and I saw a small shotgun. Then my eyes wandered down and I saw some bullets! And the name of the gun shop that sent along the calendar. It's that kind of place.

Mounted deer heads on the wall. A stuffed wild boar. A stuffed trout. Some preserved giant mushrooms. More or less one giant table that would seat 30, with a fire pit down the middle. The staff brings a pot of charcoal, which they carefully arrange directly on the sand in the pit, then put a grate over the whole affair and leave you with your plate of deer. Or boar. Or bear. Really! Guys next to us were eating 8-inch wide wild mushrooms. Hostesses in the booth opposite us were eating nabe which looked delicious. With a little coaching on how long to cook things, we decided that neither the deer nor the boar were too strong, too tough or too anything. They were tasty! Since it was a casual Tuesday night and my friend had already eaten, we couldn't order any bear or nabe, but we'll be back. Glasses of red wine were strangely tasty, once they warmed up from their unfortunate refrigeration.

The regular customers (the ones that gave each other the secret wink and had their personal chopsticks waiting for them, and I'm not joking here) ordered sashimi to start. Evidently there are grilled fish options too (the slogan is 山人料理、海人料理). It's rustic and yet civilized - for example oshibori at the beginning and end of the meal, properly warm and moist, with a bit of 'clean' smell that some will like and some will find mildly offensive (based on our sample of two).

As the Old Cowboy in the Big Lebowski said, "Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you." On this night, neither of us did any eating. But I think I can claim some moral superiority because I walked out under my own power, while the bear was still cut in pieces and refrigerated in the kitchen...

Mmmmmmm, bear.
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