Kushihan @ Kurobei Yokochou

For our first dinner in Tokyo, mum requested Kushiage (串揚げ) – deep-fried meat, seafood & vegs on skewers, so we headed to Kurobei Yokochou (黒塀横丁).
The location of Kurobei Yokochou was best described as being sandwiched between Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit (八重洲口) and Tokyo Character Street. The area encased within a black-painted timber enclosure = Kuro-Bei, was fashioned as an alley which was lined with various eateries, creating a subterranean food emporium.

Before deciding upon Kushiage, we pondered if we wanted sushi at the world-famous Tsukiji fish-market. But in the end, an idea of piping hot kushiage skewers with a tankard of ice cold lager won us over so we hurried toward Kushihan (串はん), a kushiage restaurant in Kurobei Yokochou…

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At this eatery, there was no à la carte menu. They enquired us if there were any food we would like to avoid and the rest was up to our chef…

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For as a free starter, a waitress brought us a bowl of fresh vegetables each…

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The vegetables were crunchy and tasty.
Then, a steady stream of kushiage followed.
A quail’s egg and a prawn…

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There are two variations of “deep-fried kebab” style oil-cooking in Japan.
Kushikatsu (串カツ) and aforementioned Kushiage, are cooked in a similar manner – a bite size morsels of meat, seafood and vegetables are placed on bamboo skewers. Then, they are dusted lightly with flour first, followed by a layer of raw egg and finally coated with Panko (パン粉) – Japanese-style fluffy breadcrumb, once the preparation is done, each skewer is deep-fried in the pan with 160-170°C oil.

Kushikatsu is a popular street food from Osaka, Japan’s third largest city. The Sinsekai area is especially well-known for being littered with kushikatsu stalls selling deep-fried breaded skewers. The locals and tourists alike purchase a freshly cooked skewer or two, dunk them in a vat full of sweet Worcester sauce once (it will be a mortal sin if you dip the skewer again after having a bite – the locals will be VERY upset) and walk on. Kushikatsu may also be found at Izakayas (居酒屋) – cheap taverns as a part of inexpensive bar menu.
Comparing with its cheap & cheerful cousin, Kushiage can be more upmarket and pricy, especially in Tokyo area. At kushiage restaurants, an individual skewer is cooked by a chef like tempura bars, instead of being cooked in a bunch and kept warm at kushikatsu stalls.

Kanbubi (寒ブリ) and Furofuki-Daikon (ふろふき大根)…

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I had never had kushiage of Kan-buri – cold season yellowtail. The yellowtail around this time of the year was in season, therefore, the flesh was well-fattened and flavoursome. Furofuki Daikon – slowly simmered Daikon radish was another kushiage I never came across before. While the bread-crumb coating around the radish remained crisp, the chunks of daikon inside were moist with Sumiso (酢味噌) – miso with vinegar and sugar.

Chicken and Nasu (茄子) – aubergine…

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The chicken fillet was wrapped around cabbage. And a piece of bacon & cheese was sandwiched between a sliced aubergine…

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I forgot to take the pic of it but in front of us, there was a rectangular tray with 3 different seasonings – thick Worcester sauce type sauce, light soy sauce & sea salt. Our chef suggested which sauce would be best suited as he served us each skewer.

Shumai (焼売) – pork dumpling and Komochi shishamo (子持ちししゃも) – capelin with roe…

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I has eaten a few fried dumpling as well as steamed ones in London but never had a breaded one! Kushiage seemed to be a very versatile way to cook. Then, I was handed a skewer of Komochi shishamo – a female capelin with roe. The fish was well-cooked without being too dry or tough.

Then, we were served with salmon with roe and Tsukune (つくね) – chicken mince balls…

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Well, this salmon skewer with roe was my least favourite. The fish tasted a bit too earthy for my liking and sauce tartare with fish roe was a bit too rich. The chicken Tsukune balls were delicious. They were wrapped with Shiso leaf (紫蘇) – green perilla leaf which gave extra flavour to the meat balls.

By the time the salmon skewers were served, we felt almost full so requested the chef that the next round to be our final order.
All in all, we enjoyed a kushiage dinner at Kushihan. However, it could have been even better if the course included more vegetables, such as pepper, asparagus, carrot and onion.

Making ourselves comfortably full, we headed back to the hotel, longing for a hot bath and a bouncy bed to stretch out tired legs…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

12 thoughts on “Kushihan @ Kurobei Yokochou

    • Yes indeed! Piping hot food and ice cold beer, nothing can rival the combination.
      I am not that keen on salmon normal even though it has loads of Omega 3. I wouldn’t have minded it if it were cod or skate…

  1. It looks and sounds delicious. I’ve really enjoyed reading about your experiences, and benefiting from your insider knowledge – lots more please! Jx

  2. Mmmm, we love kushiage! When we’re in Japan, we always go to the chain restaurant, Kushiage Monogatari. It’s all-you-can-eat and you fry the skewers yourself in a vat of oil built into the table. I’d like to try a more upscale kushiage restaurant like the one you went to the next time we’re in Japan. I’ll have to make note of this place. The chicken and nasu aubergine looks wow.

    • Me too! They are yummy, aren’t they? Do you have anything similar in CA? We have nothing like that in London. About this particular restaurant, I’d prefer Gomi-Hatchin (五味八珍). I found the chef’s recommendation was not well balanced. The other one is much more to my liking. 🍢

      • There actually is a very good kushiage restaurant in Torrance, which is maybe half an hour outside of Los Angeles. It’s an area where a lot of Japanese-Americans have settled down so I guess it’s no surprise that a kushiage restaurant would choose to do business there. The owner is from Japan and speaks very little English and does all the cooking. It’s definitely one of my favorite restaurants, the ramen is very good there too. Thank you for telling me about Gomi-Hatchin, I’ll have to look for it the next time we’re in Tokyo.

      • Thank you very much for caring about my mum. Every time the weather gets bad in Nagano, I feel helpless because mum is on her own. Nagano is a beautiful place but it’s not very easy to live there in winter. This much snowfall was definitely a freakish event. Therefore, it may not come again for some years. The excess snow has to be removed before they get packed and turn to ice block. And a kind of snow which piles high tends to be wet and heavy so not easy to shift them.
        I am not sure if I prefer snow or drought. But dry air is bad for forest fire, isn’t it? Either way, I prefer a moderate weather! X

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