Monthly Archives: December 2009


A View To A Katsu

(photo by wm. christman)

(photo by wm. christman)

Tuesday October 27th, 1:13 pm, Tokyo Standard Time

My Special Ops agent, Katz M., called me up in the middle of my annual Tokyo shoe-buying frenzy.

“We need to talk”, he said in a nervous voice. “Do you have a moment?”

Katz does reconnaissance for many of my missions in Tokyo which can be a little dicey and borderline dangerous at times.

“Katz, man…anything for you. You sound concerned. Do we have a blown cover problem?”

“No, no….um, I think I found what you were looking for”, he said. “But this one is different. Really different.”

“OK, give me the straight dirt, Katz. What’chu got for me?”

I heard him hesitate. “OK, the target is in Ginza. You know, rich beyond rich there…but it’s not ultra-high end stuff…” His voice trailed off.

“Dish it, Katz!”, I said impatiently. “I can take it.”

“OK, the place is on a small street and you’ll know it by the giant sumo wrestling pig on the front of the building and the tangy smell of miso…”, he continued. “Man, I should stop now and I think they’re tailing me, they might want to shut me up if I spill too much…”

“Look Katz, relax. Nothing’s going to happen. Is there a name? What is it? Yamazaki? Kuwabara? Yamanaka?”, I implored. C’mon, Katz give me something to work with here!”

“OK, OK…”, he gasped. “It’s called Yabaton but…” Then the line suddenly went dead.

As much as I needed to protect Katz, my priority was to follow his lead to the end. Hopefully the secure cell he was on just had a glitch and he’s trying to call me back. After a few minutes, I did a mental shrug and decided that I’d check up on him in a few days. He’s a rock that way.

Wednesday October 28th, 2:35 pm, Tokyo Standard Time

Creeping through the backstreets of Ginza (in disguise of course), I spied the target Katz told me about up ahead. Sure enough, the side profile of a giant, friendly-looking pig dressed in a sumo kesho-mawashi peering out from the front of the building was evident. As I got closer, I realized that Katz was spot-on with his brief description. The smell of miso was thick as thieves in the air. Keeping pace was the strong smell of fried pork. Real dangerous stuff if you don’t know how to deal with it. But I can. It’s what I do.

secret sumo pig lair... (photo by wm. christman)

secret sumo pig lair… (photo by wm. christman)

When I reached the sumo-pig store front, I was getting a contact-high from the miso and by the time I reached out to open the door all I could do was dizzily lurch through it in a clatter. When I did, two white and blue-clad gentlemen looked at me for a second then said “Irrashaimase!”. This had to be a trick. Then the room went black.

When I came to, I was seated at a long dining bar, alone. The two gentlemen who greeted me were nowhere to be found. There was one lone chef behind the bar who gave me a scowl when he noticed I had awakened.

“We have something very special for you, Mr. C.”, a voice said in my left ear. “Something that we think you will like.”

I tried to turn around to see the face connected to the voice but two large men in what looked like black suits at the sleeves held me by the shoulders and kept me facing forward. Moments later, a plate with what looked like tonkatsu appeared. But it looked strange.

“What is this?” I intoned, “Are you testing out a new truth serum in tonkatsu-sauce form or something equally evil?”

“At least taste it and see, Mr. C.”, the voice sing-songed as I realized that he knew my street name. “Really, we promise not to harm you when you do. Well, not very much at least….”

addictive... (photo by wm. christman)

addictive… (photo by wm. christman)

I figured that I might as well get it over with if they were going to do away with me. Defiantly, I broke apart my chopsticks and plucked a piece of the strange looking katsu off the plate and put it in my mouth. It was crisp, juicy, delicious and the tang of red miso filled my mouth to the brim. A mighty fine way to go, I thought, as I reached for another piece. Within 5 minutes, the entire plate was gone…just a few panko crumbs, some random sauce stains, and a shred or two of cabbage remained. I was dizzy from the feast and didn’t much care if they had their way with me now.

“Mr. C.”, the voice continued. “You have just eaten the pride of Nagoya: misokatsu. The pork is soaked in red miso before it is flash-fried just as tonkatsu is.” Something about the voice sounded more and more familiar as it continued, “…the sauce is also made with the red miso. We think it is the perfect compliment to the miso-tenderized pork.”

“It is very, very good and the texture of the pork is melt-in-your-mouth tender”, I said.“And it’s very addictiv….”, now I felt my own voice trail off. “Oh, I get it, that’s your game, isn’t it? Get me hooked then I become subject to your every whim…”

Now it all made sense. Tonkatsu itself is addictive like a great hollandaise but misokatsu is the equivalent of pork heroin. Soft, crunchy, savory with just a hint of bitter from the miso and it makes you want to come back to it again and again and again…why would you need anything more? Well, maybe more of that sauce…my head spun even more.

The two burly men turned me around in my seat and a grinning Katz was before me holding a voice-processing sound box in his right hand.

“Mr. C., it’s good to see you again in the flesh,” he said, “I trust you enjoyed my latest find?” My eyes must have been as wide as saucers.

“I did Katz, I did”, I said. “But how did you pull this off?”

“My father raised me on Yabaton’s misokatsu so I’m well-connected and I knew you’d be intrigued enough to search it out”, he said knowingly. “And, I knew I had you the moment I made the line go dead.”

He laughed long and loud. “Now Mr. C., there’s the matter of my payment for this and all of the other ‘services’ I have performed. Life for me remains on a dangerous path when I’m connected to you, you know…”

“Alright, Katz. There will be your usual fee plus a little something extra dropped in the usual place”, I sighed. I hated being over a barrel for this and especially now that I knew that Katz engineered this moment of delicious trickery.

“By the way Katz, do you think I can get another plate of that misokatsu…you know, ‘for the road’?” I said, with my stomach starting to growl again.

A look of victory came over Katz’ face. “Of course Mr. C. Of course.”

Yabaton
4-10-14 Ginza Chou-ku, Tokyo, Phone: 03-3546-8810
Open Tue-Sun 11am-10pm. Closed Mondays.
Nearest station: Ginza (several subway lines serve Ginza), exit out of A2 or A6 exit.
Google Map: 東京都中央区銀座4-10-14


Risotto Finish

(photo by wm. christman)

(photo by wm. christman)

Sometimes a restaurant hits upon a concept so brain-dead simple (in execution, at least) that it’s both impressive and delicious.

Ebisu’s Trattoria Il Boccalone features a parmesean risotto that is finished in a giant half-wheel of parmesan. That is, the risotto is cooked to just a moment before you would kill the heat and add cheese to finish it. Instead, Il Boccalone pours the semi-molten risotto into a small canoe-like well dug into a three foot half-wheel of parmesan. The risotto melts the cheese into itself as it is pushed around the cheesy well. Genius.

Il Boccalone may not be the first restaurant to do this but the whole spectacle is impressive. And even better, it was very delicious.