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Fugu?

I understand (thanks Fourseasons) that wild fugu won't be available during my visit (in May).
So assuming farmed is available - should I 'settle' for farmed or skip it and hope to get the wild version on another trip.
If I do seek some anyway, where should I go? (I'll be in Tokyo, Hiroshima/Myajima, Kurashiki, Matsuyama, Kyoto & Matsumoto).
Thanks

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  1. You misunderstood what I earlier wrote; I just meant that the famed fugu place Tsukiji Yamamoto is closed from April to September, the peak season for fugu, but that does not mean the others that serve wild fugu are closed as well. The other well known fugu restaurant Usukifugu Yamadaya serves fugu throughout the year. But wild fugu is expensive, be prepared to spend Yen 30-40,000 per person.

    I was told by a Japanese chef that a reasonable-priced city for wild fugu is Fukuoka.

    Farmed fugu is always available. I had a very good meal the last time I tried tettiri, a fugu chain in Tokyo, and price is very reasonable too. http://www.tettiri.com/

    4 Replies
    1. re: FourSeasons

      Typo error, I meant April to Sept as the off season, not "peak"...

      1. re: FourSeasons

        Thanks for the clarification. I had clicked on your link and misintepreted the closure, and my separte research also showed that the quality was better in winter.
        But you've given me all the info I need to help plan the trip (and will be posting more as I nail things down).

        1. re: estufarian

          Hey estufarian,

          Definitely report back on how your Fugu hunt went. :) (if you decide on trying it.)

          1. re: exilekiss

            I'm usually pretty good at reporting back, although sometimes I only find time for the high (and low) lights. I promise AT LEAST to add value (but I'm not into a 'me too' type of response). You'll find my 'contributions' on several Boards.

      2. I would say that if you're going to be around Hiroshima or Matsuyama, you're probably better off finding a place around there for fugu. If you have some extra time before or after your visit to Miyajima, you might consider going further down into Yamaguchi prefecture, since the area around Shimonoseki is considered fugu country (you can check out the fugu museum as well). If you do go further into Yamaguchi prefecture, and I believe this is the case around Kyushu as well, fugu is called "fuku" down there.

        As for Matsuyama, since it faces the Seto inland sea on Shikoku island, which is the home of fugu, I checked to see what the status of fugu was for Ehime prefecture. I was surprised by what I found. Here's the Japanese Wikipedia page on the subject of fugu: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%9...
        There's a table as you scroll a bit, which lists the prefectures (by rank) where fugu is fished (or farmed): the table on the left for wild fugu, and the table on the right for farmed fugu.
        For wild fugu: 1. Ishikawa (10%), 2. Nagasaki (10%), 3. Fukuoka (9%), 4. Toyama (7%), 5. Ehime (7%), 6. Yamaguchi (6%), 7. Aichi (4%), 8. Kumamoto (4%), 9. Miyazaki (4%), 10. Niigata (4%).
        For farmed fugu: 1. Nagasaki (48%), 2. Kumamoto (15%), 3. Ehime (11%), 4. Kagawa (7%), 5. Fukui (3%), 6. Oita (3%), 7. Hyogo (3%), 8. Yamaguchi (2%), 9. Kagoshima (1%), 10. Kochi (1%).

        This is surprising since I always thought of Yamaguchi as the fugu capital of Japan, but Yamaguchi actually ranks pretty low. Also, Ishikawa ranks highest, when it's nowhere near fugu territory as it's traditionally known in Japan. And for you, bound for Matsuyama, Ehime ranks pretty high in both wild and farmed fugu. So this looks like the right place to look for fugu.

        This discovery brought me to ask another question. What kind of fugu are we talking about? I couldn't find that information but I did find a website that lists all the species of fugu in Japan broken down by two main categories:
        Edible: http://www.fugu29.com/iroha/kind/edible/
        Inedible: http://www.fugu29.com/iroha/kind/proh...
        That's a lot of fugu. I wonder what variety of fugu is caught in Ishikawa. I don't think it would be the prized torafugu, but I'm not sure. I did have my fugu this year in Hagi (Yamaguchi prefucture) which is the only place to find mafugu: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/493563

        And a couple of interesting facts:
        *February 9 is fugu day (fu is a way of saying 2, and ku is 9, and thus 2/9 for fugu day).
        *On April 29th in Shimonoseki, there's a small festival bidding farewell to the fugu for the season.
        More here: http://fuku.com/gyouji.html

        19 Replies
        1. re: E Eto

          Just noticed that my original attempt to reply has not made it.
          Thanks for the info - means I can use my limited time in Tokyo for other potential dining adventures.
          Incidentally I love the phrase 'fugu country' - and obviously I will be doing more research now.
          Given my very limited knowledge of Japanese (probably best-termed "survival") can you also point me in the direction (or even better a location) of where might be best to find whale? I'd like to improve my chances of bettering a 'point and hope' experience, although this quest seems to be even more of a challenge to find an English 'menu'.
          Thanks - I'll be doing some more research on the links you've provided.

          1. re: estufarian

            I only know of this place for whale: Kujiraya
            http://r.gnavi.co.jp/fl/en/g584700/in...

            It's pretty famous, a simple google search turns up tons of reviews/info.
            http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&am...

            Let us know how it is, I've never been there before.

            1. re: lost squirrel

              Actually I've found several places (including Kujiraya).
              HOWEVER, when you get into the review details, it transpires that no English is generally spoken, neither is there an English menu - hence my 'point & hope' comment - and question. I'd like to know what I'm trying and be able to request things that I many not culturally expect to be served.
              An example of such a challenge was AmuseGirls attempt to order 'Bull Penis Soup' - the request was accurately translated - but to ensure that the requested dish was served required more effort!

            2. re: estufarian

              "Kujiraya" in Shibuya is probably the only place with an English menu, but there are many whale specialty places around town-

              List of places from E-Kujira:
              http://www.e-kujira.or.jp/link/kujira...

              This place in Asakusa is a whale cuisine izakaya:

              捕鯨船
              (Hogeisen...means "Whaling Ship"
              )http://tokyo.gourmet.livedoor.com/res...

              Map:
              http://tokyo.gourmet.livedoor.com/ite...

              1. re: Silverjay

                Thanks so much.
                Does anyone know of anything outside Tokyo? Because my time in Tokyo is limited I just can't fit everything in while I'm there. But am having more challenges finding places for the rest of the trip as they're a lot less travelled and written up. Currently I'm looking at about 5 meals a day unless I can try some of the dishes (e.g. fugu as mentioned above) outside Tokyo!

                1. re: estufarian

                  The E-Kujira page is a list of whale places nationwide. You'll have to do some cutting and pasting with a translation website if you can't read Japanese....Fugu places are fairly ubiquotious all over- especially in the West. You can ask a hotel concierge for a local rec. There are even fugu chain restaurants. This board is mostly Tokyo-centric

                  1. re: estufarian

                    Maybe you should specify how many days you'll be at your other locations. I know of some places in Kurashiki/Okayama, or in Hiroshima/Miyajima, but if you're only going to be touring around for a day in each place, they might be difficult to get to.

                    1. re: E Eto

                      I think I'll start a separate thread for this. Thanks for the catalyst.

                2. re: estufarian

                  You can find whale meat at many random izakayas. I've had it at some random yakitori places or at some ryokans. However, there are some places in Tokyo that specializes in whale or kujira-ryori (鯨料理). There was a recent issue of Dancyu magazine that had a feature on whale cuisine (June 2007). Five Tokyo restaurants were mentioned in the feature.
                  *Hatsumomiji (はつもみじ) http://r.gnavi.co.jp/p636900/ http://www.hatsumomiji.jp/
                  This is a restaurant specializing in food from Yamaguchi prefecture, and the main restaurant in the feature article. I'm not exactly sure why whale is a specialty, but Hatsumomiji has quite a menu with whale. They have various teishoku (set meals) for lunch, including a very interesting looking whale curry, or whale katsu. The dinner menu looks more interesting with different whale course dinners. Being a Yamaguchi restaurant, it also specializes in fugu, so this could be your one-stop shop if you haven't had your fugu yet. In fact they have a few whale/fugu combination courses. This place looks very intriguing.

                  *Taruichi (樽一): http://r.gnavi.co.jp/fl/en/g362300/in... (in English).
                  This restaurant looks like your standard old-school izakaya, with most of the menu items written on the walls, or on wood blocks. They have a large whale section to the menu.

                  *Komagata Dojou (駒形どぜう): http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g492118/
                  This looks like a traditional dojou (a type of eel) restaurant, established quite a while ago. Mostly floor seating. While dojou is the main specialty, they have a good whale section to the menu.

                  *Kukai (公界): http://news.kukai.biz/ http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/rstdtl/130...
                  This place looks to be a more contemporary izakaya with a full bar. The article featured a few yoshoku-inspired menu items like the whale ragu pasta, or the whale hamburger.

                  *Manoir D'Hasting (マノアール・ダスティン): http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g072100/ http://tokyo.gourmet.livedoor.com/res...
                  This is a Michelin star French restaurant that seems to be doing some whale courses, like whale carpaccio or whale piccata (doesn't sound very French to me).

                  1. re: E Eto

                    Yeah, I was looking at Hatsumomiji, which is also on the E-Kujira page. Besides the standards, they also serve whale sushi, pickled whale, whale curry, and fried whale chunk bento boxes. And, I have no idea why, they also serve Nepalese mo-mo dumplings as well!?!?!?!!...Which, BTW, they claim are experiencing a "boom" in NYC these days...

                    "最近ニューヨークでもひそかなブームが訪れているヒマラヤのふもと、ネパールの伝統的な家庭料理。"

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      OK I'm convinced. My plans are to 'dine fine' on alternate evenings and have 'local specialties' on the other 2 nights. Whale is definitely on the agenda.
                      And I had Momo dumplings here (in Toronto) last Friday!

                      1. re: estufarian

                        Just for the record, I personally do not consider fugu or whale as anywhere close to a sort of culinary nirvana. Going to one of these places may be more of a novelty than a worthy chowhound experience.

                        1. re: Silverjay

                          Fair enough.
                          I will also be visiting some of the highly recommended places. This is for my 'off nights'. Trying to find foods that are preferably palatable but not available in Toronto. My usual haunts back home tend to be both high and low end (financially) - I just don't find the value in the broad middle. Of course, not speaking Japanese will effectively rule me out from the best small finds, so I'm trying to locate 'experiences' that I can't easily find elsewhere.This sometimes works out (e.g. fresh dates and fesenjan in Iran) and sometimes not (most in-notably camel foot in central China).

                          1. re: estufarian

                            It would be a mistake to dismiss the broad middle of the culinary spectrum in Japan. That's where I believe there's a lot of excellence.

                          2. re: Silverjay

                            Agree. The meat of whale is rough, except the rear portion of the body which is full of fat, comparable to Toro (belly of tuna). I think it is very nice interesting experience to have a full blown meal of fugu/whale in a traditional Japanese setting restaurant.

                            But if you ever have a chance to taste a $40000 yen fugu meal, please report back the differences.

                        2. re: Silverjay

                          And you get naan bread with that whale curry. I'm sure you get a choice for rice as well.

                          Also, Hatsumomiji claims to serve wild fugu even during the off-season.

                          1. re: E Eto

                            Whale curry is a must. Had a notable Brain Curry in Kolkata a year ago. Texture was also pretty good. But the service wasn't too good - neither was the rice. But a good Naan!

                            1. re: estufarian

                              I googled "whale curry" in Japanese and got some reasonably positive comments on blogs. Some of the restaurant descriptions of the whale curry though, are depressing since they quote that since whales live so long, they fatten up nicely and become more "delicious". Also, the curry roux itself is made from pork, beef, and vegetables.

                              I came across this interesting page- http://item.rakuten.co.jp/hokkaiya/w6... , which is a gift set of all kinds of wacky canned curry from Hokkaido, including: mink whale, mutton (called Genghis Kahn), seal, sea lion, bear (spicy!), and deer meat curry. You can order them and have a set sent to your hotel!

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                Wow - all my Christmas shopping done in one place.
                                Unfortunately I'd now have to carry it all in my backpack for the rest of the trip! But food for thought!