A few months ago we went to Japan. I knew a bit about their food and the culture around it but even though, once there, it really, really surprised me. Japanese people make wonders! Their food is a marriage between art and culture. Not only they pay extra attention to the flavour and the presentation, but also everything in the dish must be well balanced, have different colors and textures, etc. It is also very important to use seasonal products, always respecting their flavours without hidden them. They don’t use many spices and condiments like other Asian cuisines. Having said this sometimes we ate things that it was impossible to figure out what it was. Later we learnt, that what we had, were things as odd as cod intestine (!!?!) to mention one…. Anyway spending the first days having for lunch, dinner and, sometimes even for breakfast, fish, in all its ways, and although we did have Wagyu beef (bl..dy amazing!), we wanted to try something different.
I had read about a restaurant specializing in pork (who would have thought!), we didn’t hesitate and booked a table at Butagumi. Located in one of the best areas of Tokyo, the two storey building, from the outside looks pretty insignificant. All menu except a couple of things are pork based, but not any cuts of pork, here they have only “tonkatsu” (cutlet, either fillet or loin, breaded and deep fried) – this restaurant is the mecca for tonkatsu lovers. In Butagumi there are over 50 varieties of pork (from different countries and breeds). They don’t have them all every day, but they always have over a dozen to choose from. The menu is like an encyclopedia of the pig, with descriptions of the animal´s diet (some only drink fresh water straight from the mountains), origin, breeding, etc. There is also a description of the quality of the meat and… the flavour of the fat. They have breeds from Japan, China, England, America, Poland and even Hungary (pigs with long and curly hair!!!)
The chef Oishi is an expert about pork and has dedicated all his life to tonkatsu. Each diner chooses, not only the type of pork available that day, but the cut and the size. Once covered in panko and fried, it is served suspended in a copper mesh so that it can drain any oil left from the deep fry and in order to keep its crispiness. It comes with a bed of shredded cabbage and a type of thick Worcestershire homemade sauce.
We are dying of pleasure eating it….. It is so nice that as soon as we finish we order the same again…. Oh! And something peculiar is that each dish comes labelled with a number which is the number that dish has been served since the restaurant opened.
No wonder at the entrance door there is a note that reads: “Welcome to the Metropolitan museum of Pork!”