It seems every time I go to Japan, I try something else a little off the beaten culinary path. There was that raw chicken meal last fall as well as the tuna eye in Okinawa. At this point, sea cucumber and such seems a little tame. I still need to try blowfish. But this time, with a few days in Japan’s foodie city, Osaka, I decided to get back on the horse after my Kazakhstan equine dine.
So my friend Rie, a resident of Osaka, helped me find some basashi (馬刺し) or horse sashimi. She made reservations at Toitoi, a sort of izakaya, down a few side streets just a short walk southeast from Osaka Station. This was Kyushu-style, similar but still different from the other after-work sort of grilled/fried goes-with-sake or Super Dry sort of thing. In fact, this one had a hot volcanic rock as a grill at each table.
All the sakes were from the region as well.
We order scallops, to be grilled, drizzled with lemon, then butter and rock salt. Tasty and tender.
We had some not so tender pieces of chicken with a nice barbecue sauce, soy sauce, and pureed sweet onion.
A salad of cucumbers cut into wedges and drizzled with a bit of oil were designed to make sure the gaijin flings his food at some point with his chopsticks. Three-second rule – I still ate that piece. Delicious and simple. The cucumbers are smaller, denser, and more flavorful. Another item to add to the menu at home.
Rie tells me the large onions we ordered for the grill are famous and thus slightly pricier. They come from Awajishima Island just west of Osaka. Sweeter than Vidalias.
And for the crowning piece of eating derring-do, we ordered the horse sashimi. It came with little pieces of fat, plus ginger and garlic nearly pureed. Dip it in soy and you’re good to go. Not as tender as I had imagined, due to a bit of marbling, but in the matter of taste, it really was not significantly different from raw beef. And if you add the condiments, that taste gets lost in them.
So while I didn’t realize it at the time, the actual daring dining challenge this night wasn’t the raw horse meat, really. That judgement goes to the oolong tea-sake drink. Ew. Followed it up with the yuzu (a lemon-like citrus fruit especially popular in Okinawa) sake cocktail – much better.
The basashi was a bit pricier than the rest of the menu, but the prices in general are quite reasonable for Osaka. They don’t always take reservations and with only SIX tables and a few spots at the counter, the place fills up fast. You can expect to wait in line outside like any popular joint in Osaka, but this one is at least off the tourist radar.
Read more of my Japan experiences