The Adventures Of Fatrick: Weird Things I Ate At The Yakiniku Restaurant
October 24, 2009
My very fist meal in Nabari came at a Yakiniku restaurant across from the supermarket where I bought my first every life-in-Japan groceries. It was a hell of an introduction to my new life – Yakinikku restaurant serve mostly small plates of meat, mostly beef, that are relatively cheap and easy to get carried away ordering. The twist – the meat comes to your table raw and it’s up to you to cook it on a circular grill-thingy built into the middle of the table. It’s fun, it’s delicious and it’s gluttonous. After stuffing my maw with beef for an hour-and-a-half, I vowed to myself to never pass on an opportunity to go to the Yakiniku Restaurant. High probability of contracting gout be damned.
I made my triumphant return this past week, but the evening ended up being a lot more adventurous than I expected. The first time I went the food came exclusively from a cow. I struck out to Yakiniku with a much more daring group than before – we still ordered plenty of straight-up beef, but also a handful of more bizarre items lurking on the menu. I honestly don’t know how I ended up some of these things, as at any other point in my life I would have preferred being shipped to a desert island than even look at some of these meats. I guess Japan has tricked my body into being more open to strange food. Lets check out some of the stranger things I ate item by item, shall we?
Cow Tongue – Cow tongue comes to the table looking more like a big pepperoni instead of something once inside a bovine’s mouth. Still, knowing what part of the cow this circular meat hails from still made me apprehensive about eating it. That nervous feeling grew after the meat got slapped down on the grill – whereas most meats just change color under intense heat, the tongue sort of wiggled inward and shrunk. It was doing a grotesque dance that made it look less appetizing with every shimmey. Once it was sufficiently cooked, I grabbed the tongue with my chopsticks and ate it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad…it had no weird taste and just tasted like a thinner piece of beef. So, not nearly as traumatic as I expected. Though I’d prefer never to watch it cook ever again.
“Hormone” – The Japanese use the word “hormone” differently than the good ol’ USA, though I think I might prefer to eat the American version. When the “hormone” came to our table, all I saw were some rather white blobs. I was told these are actually cow organs. Which organ? Nobody knew. Unflinching, the mystery organs were thrown onto the grill. They ended up tasting like nothing at all. But they were very chewy. And, as noted, a mystery cow part. I stopped at one.
Squid – Squid is actually delicious when you grill it! Pleasant surprise of the night. Also, the most normal thing on this list.
Chicken Cartilage – This is the one meat I almost refused to eat, but caved in at the last moment. I should have followed my first instincts. I mean…who eats cartilage??? Each piece has a little bit of normal, non terror-inducing meat on it which tastes fine. Then you bite into the stick of cartilage…snap. Just…it’s basically like biting into a softened-up bone. The textures just bizarre. It’s both crunchy and kinda soft, and this feel so weird. Oh, and it doesn’t taste good. I was thoroughly weirded out by my cartilage experience.
Pig’s Tongue – Oh dear goodness, this actually looks a little bit like a tongue. And it becomes more tongue-like after you cook it!!!! I cheated on this one because I absolutely doused the thing in sauce before I ate it. The shape creeped me out big time. Getting shivers as I type this.
The first thing I do when I return to America is go to In-N-Out and eat Double Double after Double Double. No cartilage for this guy ever again.
(Japanese Fun Fact #27: They call the equivalent of the AL/NLCS here the “Climax Series.” Heh Beavis, he said “climax” heh.)