Tokyo Yoshoku -- Kyobashi Mortier, Nakamura-ya
- Eric Eto
In Japanese, Yoshoku means western food, but it also refers to an offshoot of Japanese style western cuisine which features such standards as omu-raisu (omelette rice), hamburger steak, curry, hayashi rice, just to name a few. This cuisine has been around for several generations, and while these dishes can be found in Japanese restaurants in the US, the quality of what you get is vastly inferior to the stuff you can find at some of the topnotch Yoshoku places in Japan.
From a few sources, I was told that I should get to Kyobashi Dom Pierre for the beef curry, and on two occasions, my attempts were foiled so I'm afraid I can't comment on it. Luckily, nearby Dom Pierre is Kyobashi Mortier (moruche in katakana) in the basement of the Meidiya building, which was also recommended to me as a good place for hayashi rice, and hamburger steak. Mortier is an anomoly of sorts in that it looks like a diner, but it has a distinctly salaryman patronage. The hamburger steak was the best version of the dish that I've come across. About a half pound patty of ground beef, probably cooked in a circular mold, then covered with a mushroom demi glace type sauce, then topped with lightly fried egg with a quivering yolk waiting to burst over the whole plate. While I'm not sure if many Americans will be enamored with this dish as Japanese folks, it represents to me a perfect example of appealing to the umami taste sensation. The hayashi rice was also highly recommended to me, and it didn't disappoint. A lot of red wine was used in the meat stew as evidenced by the purple hue of the onions, like a good beouf bourgignon. That's kind of what it tasted like, actually. Having a little more room for something else, I decided to go for the beef curry as well. The curry was also in the style of the hayashi rice, a dark stew, with evidence of a wine reduction. The curry flavor was mild, but the subdued flavors from the stew made for a complex tasting experience.
Nakamura-ya near the East Side of Shinjuku station is a famous curry house in Tokyo. The story is that the Nakamura-ya first introduced indian style curry to Japan. Nakamura-ya is 6 stories of restaurant--cafe in the basement, sweets and bakery on the main floor, Yoshoku and chinese dining in the main room on the second floor, French and yoshoku dining in the 3rd floor dining room, buffet and restaurant/bar on the 4th floor, and a banquet room on the 5th floor. Their specialty is a chicken curry. We got in just before the lunch rush and their main room on the second floor filled up quickly. For the three of us at the table we had the chicken curry, the less spicy curry (forgot what that one's called), and the beef hayashi stew omelette rice. The house chicken curry was a bit of a surprise. This was the first time I've had a Japanese style curry that actually tasted like Indian food. Even some of the condiments that came with the curry resembles what you get in Indian restaurants, alongside with the rakkyo, and ginger slivers (no fukujinzuke). The curry was aggresively spiced, and I remember reading somewhere that they prepare the spices from scratch (i.e., roasting and grinding) quite often. It seemed a little odd for me to be experiencing an Indian recipe made with Japanese precision, but that's what it felt like -- a perfect fusion between the two. The bigger suprise was the hayashi omu-raisu (omelette rice). The rice inside the omelette was a butter rice, and the beef hayashi stew was rich and perfectly stewed. My dining companion liked this hayashi better than the one at Kyobashi Mortier.
I still haven't been to the main Yoshoku restaurants in Tokyo like Taimeiken, and Grill Mantenboshi, but I will slowly make my way there, I'm sure. My cousin keeps telling me about the tampopo omu-raisu at Taimeiken, which is the classic version of the dish. I've been told by another yoshoku maven that Taimeiken is very old school that it may not appeal to a younger Japanese crowd, but their parents will be crying over the perfect renditions of such well-known yoshoku dishes.
Chuo-Ku, Kyobashi 2-2-8
Kyobashi Dom Pierre
Chuo-Ku, Kyobashi 2-3-4
Shinjuku-Ku, Shinjuku 3-26-13
Chuo-Ku, Nihonbashi 1-12-10
Minato-Ku, Azabu Juban 1-3-1
I don't know if anyone will come across this, but I am trying very hard to remember the name of a restaurant across the street from Tokyu Hands in Shibuya that serves nothing but omu rice. It's a chain. I think the name begins with an "r". Any help would be tremendously appriciated!