Saturday, February 23, 2013

Butagumi - They know and love their Buta

Butagumi is a tonkatsu specialist, only pork but a wide selection of pork. I’ve never seen a menu like this and quite honestly, I never knew that there were so many breeds of pork and that tonkatsu can be elevated to this level.

Set in an old timber-frame house with a cute crescent moon cut out that we used to quickly identify that we were in the correct place. Once we made our way to the door, we were greeted by the staff and also all the little piggies on display. We then passed the kitchen, which was from what I remember was a really simple set up, a worktop counter and a fryer and then made it upstairs to sit in one of those little booths but were warned not to lean on the dividers as it was it was an old house (built in 1958).

Butagumi’s menu is insane and this is why this place is different from any other tonkatsu place. It offers a list of close to 30 choices. There isn’t much to choose but there is a lot to choose from. The first is how much fat which will determine the cut of meat - ro
su (sirloin) or hire (fillet). That’s the easy decision. The second decision is more difficult – which breed, which prefecture, light or strong flavor, essentially which gourmet pork you wish to taste.

From the cuts available from that day’s menu, we had two cuts of rosu and two cuts of hire and we elected from the stronger rather than the mild tasting cuts. The only unfortunately thing was that they didn’t have the Tokyo X breed available that day which I was keen to try. Nonetheless this was what we had:
Iberico rosu (Spain)
Daisen Rubby rosu (Tottori)
Hakkin Ton hire (Iwate)

Tsunan hire (Niigata)

The cooking here is very precise. Light crisp batter and the tonkatsu doesn’t greasy or heavy at all. The rosu/sirloin has a fat cap which many would enjoy for its lardy flavor, especially with the Iberico but between the two cuts, much prefer the hire/fillet cut which is leaner and cooked to the perfect degree of doneness where it is crisp light on the outside and the meat remains amazingly juicy. Of all the four cuts, my favourite was the Hakkin Ton hire, where there was a sweet light porky flavor. All that pork comes with rice, pickles and a large serving of cabbage and a citrus dressing to cut through the fat. A very simple lunch of comforting deep fried pork and rice but a completely gourmet and expert take on it from its selections and sourcing of meat to its frying execution, this is tonkatsu on an elevated level.

Butagumi means pig gang. Well, I want in on this gang too, what do you think it takes? Perhaps I need to get an I love pork or I love tonkatsu tattoo? Well, Butagumi, you are THE tonkatsu place.
Butagumi2-24-9 Nishi-Azabu
Tokyo, Japan

Tel: +81-(03) 5466-6775

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Gogyo - Black Burnt Gold

Gogyo specialises in kogashi (burnt) miso and shoyu soup... where (you watch) the cooks literally set the soup on fire and a black soup is created. This came recommended (thanks JJ!) and his description of it was – it taste like liquid BBQ. Well, as bizarre as it sounds and it sounded to me, my bowl of kogashi miso ramen really did taste like BBQ, liquid yakiniku. As burnt black as it looks, don’t judge it by its first impressions. Firstly don’t be deceived by the lack of steam, the broth is burning hot but the oil is concealing and retaining the heat. Secondly, the flavours are awesome because the burnt flavour isn’t overpowering, instead it comes together with the broth and just gives it an added kickass charred flavour that I have never ever had with any other bowl of ramen.

I’d admit, this is probably not very good for you but it will taste very good to you.

1-4-36 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku;
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: +81-(03) 5775-5566

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rokurinsha - Magic in a bowl

Surf and Turf in a bowl – the broth is a potent mix of pork and fish that had layer after layer of flavour. The queues are crazy long so in an attempt to beat the system, we went for the lighter option and the shorter queues – asatsuken (breakfast tsukemen)
. As a compromise, this is served without the gyofun (dried fish powder) and the broth is lighter.

Dip/dunk noodles, stir and little to coat the noodles and slurp. Once you work through the noodles, add a ladle of hot broth to slurp down the soup. Once the broth was added and the soup was stirred, the soup came to life. What we were once dipping into, because it was more viscous and more warmish to tepid, despite it was fabulously flavourful, muted some of the flavours. With the hot broth, there were so many more layers of flavours that we could taste. Spoon after spoon, more favours emerged - yuzu, smokiness from the bonito, rich porky broth, sweet (from vegetables?), savoury and a gentle heat at the end. This broth is seriously exceptional – I would have never have thought of a making a surf and turf pork and fish broth; and what are all the mysterious ingredients that go into it?! As our first meal in Tokyo for this trip, we were off to a good start.
Rokurinsha Tokyo
Tokyo Ramen Street (Tokyo Station)
Ichiban-gai B1, 1-9-1 Marunouchi,
Tel: +81 (03) 3286-0166

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