inton - Pork Madness - Tokyo [Review] w/ Pics
(Formatted w/ All Pictures found here:
So at the end of the long day in Akihabara, we were too tired to head out too far from our hotel in Shinjuku. We had passed by an interesting looking Izakaya called "inton", which basically had a cute Pig Mascot and a claim that they focused in only Live Pig Cuisine(!). Intrigued, we set out to try it.
When we stepped inside the basement-level restaurant, we knew we had finally stopped by an Izakaya in Japan. Smoky, with alcohol flowing everywhere, ah, this could be good. Our first dish was on their daily specials menu, a special Roasted Pork dish (the name escapes me, sorry). The Pork was nicely smoky (they even left some of the roasted wood chips on the plate), with a slightly crisp outer skin and meaty, moist inside.
Next we had a Kushi-age with Pork and Asparagus (a standard). The execution here was a bit too oily and underwhelming. Nothing special.
The next dish was something we'd never seen on any menu before: *Pork* Nankottsu (Cartilage)! We're used to the nice crunchy flavor of classic Chicken Nankottsu at Yakitori restaurants but Pork Cartilage?! We had to try it:
We quickly found out why most restaurants don't serve it: The Cartilage was really hard and nearly inedible. It was a total workout to chew the bits of Pork and tougher Cartilage (vs. Chicken Cartilage), and it was a disappointment.
Next up, we ordered the Buta Toro, their presentation of the prime / richest portion of Pork Belly, nicely roasted over a bed of Onions. The Pork Toro was surprisingly meaty and not overly fatty, with a nice blend of meat-to-fat. The flavors and texture of the Pork held up nicely here (definitely the highlight of the night):
Next up came our order of Kushiyaki Skewers. We had a Bara to Ninniku (Pork & Garlic) skewer, and Buta Tan (Pork Tongue). They were both OK in taste, but nothing special (I've had far more tasty and fragrant Kushiyaki elsewhere). The presentation was cute, though:
Finally we had a special Pork Soup Dumplings served with Collagen(!). They even presented the Collagen separately and had us mix it in the soup as soon as it arrived:
It seemed more like a gimmick than anything. The Pork Dumplings were nothing special (just typical "Pork Dumpling"-type taste), and the soup was extremely salty.
inton also has an extensive Drinks Menu with various Shochu and Sake and other regional alcohol listed. We had the waitress recommend a Sake to pair with our Pork Dishes and it was terrible! :( (That's what we get for letting someone else order for us, I suppose.) It seriously tasted about as drinkable as the "Bud Light of Japanese Sake," Shochikubai, LOL. Overall, given the experience we had at inton, we would probably not be going back, especially with so many interesting restaurants seemingly on every single block of Tokyo.
*** Rating: 6.9 (out of 10.0) ***
Ikebuta Ryouri "inton"
(Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan)
Ahh, Nishi Shinjuku. Shou ga nai...All things considered, I recommend shochu with pork dishes (the Inton website kind of infers this as well). Nihon-shu is a little too delicate and fragrant and pork in Japan harkens to southern Japanese cooking- the place of origin, for shochu.
Thanks for the tip Silverjay.
Yah, we were tired from the all day journeys that day, and wanted to hit something closer to our hotel in Shinjuku. What's worse is that many of the dishes we ordered were recommendations by our server (or validated as being a good choice).
What's your favorite place for pork-centric dishes? :)
Hmm, I don't know off the top of my head about "pork-centric places", but it looks like Tabelog has a "豚料理" designation- "pork cuisine"- which can only mean another sign that the Japanese are more advanced than us (lax liquor laws and robots for old people being the other signs). They have a ranking of a bunch of places.
This one looks pretty good- http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g519403/ . It's in Shinsen, near Shibuya, which seems to have an enclave of Kyushu places. They serve Kurobuta tartar with a raw egg. Now you'll definitely want to wash that down with some of the hard stuff!!
Robb S., any porky recs?....I think I'm going to "go pork" during my summer visit this year.
OK, I'll try to recommend some good spots for pork - how many months will you be here?
I've always enjoyed Kurobutaya, from the Cardenas chain, with branches in Ebisu and elsewhere. Lots of different kinds of grilled pork, several Chinese-style pork dishes (stir-fries, various dumplings), tonkatsu, stews, and a few different homemade pork sausages. All Berkshire pork (kurobuta), as the name implies. And a good shochu list.
Joshu Tokoton Club in Tokyo Station's Kitchen Street complex looks like nothing more than a cheap drinking spot, but they have nice grilled pork on skewers from a small farm in Gunma, plus a lot of motsu-ni (stewed organ meats).
Vin Picoeur in Ginza has a French name, but their "French barbecue" is basically just kushiyaki, mostly pork. Served with an amazing French wine list. If you don't mind going Basque, Lauburu in Aoyama is fantastic, with many different cuts of charcoal-grilled pork.
I sometimes get a craving for Kagoshima-style tonkotsu - stewed pork that's been marinated in shochu for several days until the bone is nice and soft (and not to be confused with tonkotsu ramen). Tamoiyanse in Shibuya (mentioned on this site previously) does a great version, and the various branches of Kyushu do okay versions, some better than others.
I haven't been there, but Le Porc de Versailles in Kinshicho is a theme restaurant serving pork dishes from around the world. It may be a little gimmicky though - the other restaurants from this chain have strange themes like "Alice in Wonderland." Another pork-themed restaurant, Butazo in Ikebukuro, was disappointing, although I desperately want one of their pig-shaped lanterns.
And finally there's great rafti (Okinawan stewed pork) all over town. Perhaps we can start a Chowhound project to find the best.