Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ikkon Buta, Kanda (一献豚、神田洞門)

Hitsumabushi is a unique dish of eel that's famous in Nagoya (along with miso katsu!). 'Famous in Nagoya' is actually enough of a tipoff in my book that it's not good, because (I'm prepared for backlash here) there's really nothing interesting in Nagoya (please prove me wrong. I'll visit any time.). The point of the dish is that your barbequed eel (done, I think, in the southern style where it's not steamed first like in Tokyo, and thus preserves some more texture, which is a good thing) is served with separate rice, and lots of herbs, and a pot of soup, and you eat in three stages - one eel+ rice, one eel+herbs+rice, and for the finale, mix it all up in the soup and have a big party! Woo hoo!!! Yeah, it's excitement like this that has left me wondering about Nagoya. At least the eel gives you power.

I have a theory about pretty much everything, and here's another relevant one: the Japanese serve things in certain ways for good reasons. Really good reasons. The way they serve a thing is the best. When I came to Japan, I tried all kinds of different combinations. Soy sauce on rice? Worcester sauce on fish? Ginger on sushi? Sure, let's see! There must be better examples than that, but the point is, no matter what I did, it tasted worse than the intended serving method. So I gave up. When they say "It's already got salt. Don't put on extra sauce," I listen. When they say "Dip the tai in the pink grapefruit juice and then the rock salt" I feel more skeptical, but I still do it (yes, this was real, and it's a place that I recommended in the strongest terms).

So I'm pretty skeptical about a place that advertises, in addition their very normal and nice looking tonkatsu, a 'pork hitsumabushi'. Skeptical enough that I have to try it right away! Like most good Japanese meals, it turned out to be a veritable symphony of disparate elements: three good slices of soft, fully-rendered oven-roasted pork swimming in a drippings-based sauce, a big plate of pickles and herbs (coriander haters, y'all are all a buncha haters. Don't be hatin' on the herb.), a big container of pork rice (like chicken rice but...) and a pot of soup (dashi, in my often-misguided estimation). Follow the procedure outlined about, but with pork in place of eel. And enjoy. The pork was good; the tonkatsu here would be worth a try.

Didn't spend a lot of time investigating other things, but the walls were decorated with sake banners, and the staff seemed to be wearing shirts related to sake also. The web menu has about 10 types, with loving descriptions, so they should be good. And the dinner menu appears to nothing but pork, with a lonely bit of chicken tenderloin in the middle, looking nervous.

Yeah, I was kidding about the 'symphony' line.

1 comment:

  1. Contributing to 3,000.

    There's lots of interesting things in Nagoya - my grannie and auntie for 2!