Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tazumura, Otemachi (たづむら,OAZO 5)

Welcome to the first installment of Tonkatsu Tuesdays. Geez, I thought of all sorts of interesting things while I was eating today, but now I've forgotten and can't promise that this will be interesting at all. Not to put too fine a point on it, I visited the tonkatsu place in Oazo that Ponkan and Kuma wanted to go to last week. And it was much better than the one I suggested. Waaaah.

Well, I'll survive the embarassment, because it was very good. I'm working up to a pattern for these Tuesday tonkatsu visits that will involve eating the small size of the best quality roast cutlet that they offer. As mentioned last week, the difference between roast and filet cutlets is sort of like the different between filet and ribeye in steaks - sure it's softer and less fatty, but do you want 'soft' to be the defining characteristic of your meat? I don't.

At Tazumura, the high-class option comes from Kirishima black pigs, who yield a very white pork (no Saitama Cherry, for instance). Their cooking was excellent to my mind. The fry was thick, with plenty of crunch and good ability to stay together even when dipped in sauce, and was fried for long enough to be nice and brown, not the palid tempura-like color you sometimes see. And the pork was terrific when it was hot - the first bite reminded me of really good, hot fried chicken - when you bite into it and all the fat under the skin is liquid and bursts into your mouth. The meat had good flavor but was a bit lean thorugh the rest of the cut.

When it got cool, it hardened a bit. This put me in mind of several other food experiences that I'd like to expound on now. Tempura and kushi age are similar foods in that they're deep-fried - but they're served to you piece-by-piece, as god intended them. You don't get a stack of 10 skewers at once, and this is a very good thing since the texture and flavor are both best right when they come out of the frier.

Steak is the latest item that I've come to feel this way about - I want to eat the whole thing within 30 seconds of cooking. This causes problems. There are not many restaurants that serve you a steak in pieces, let alone let you cook it yourself. Even when they do, it's unlikely that they get it right. Yakiniku doesn't count since the meat is always cut in flaps - you don't get the benefit of a slightly charred outside and a warm, pink, melty center. And you want that benefit, you really do. The best restaurant of this type that I've been to is Wakou (everyone should go there once, if only for the experience of going out back to meet the meat before you eet. Eat.), and I'm getting sad just thinking about it, but even there they cut the steak too thin for me. In order to get a cut thick enough for what I want, which is strips with a square cross section, they'd have to charge you well over $100 for a normal-size steak. This is why I think you should go to a butcher, get them to cut the steak thicker than they think prudent, take it home and cut it into 1.5-cm wide strips, and grill it yourself. Piece by piece. While you eat. With wine. It helps if you have an electric grill pan (my denki-nabe came with a grill pan, what can I say).

The above is well over the line into obsessive, but after I started doing it I was immediately convinced that there's no better way. For those of us who eat beef infrequently, might as well make the most of it. My point, incidentally, was that I wish I could eat this pork cooked in individual bites, or at least in strips that were then cut in two. Might be something to try - kushiage pork is always too thin for me too, just like yakiniku.

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