When I crave offal I usually head to the casual standing bar Saisei Sakaba in Shinjuku. When I was contacted by the production team for Andrew Zimmern before his trip to Tokyo I suggested this restaurant and was thrilled to see it on his program. He is seen on the program behind the counter grilling skewered offal over charcoal with one of the chefs.
On a recent night out with some fellow foodies we were introduced to a great offal restaurant by an editor from a food magazine.
Smoked Liver Salad
Offal Sashimi Course
Pork Liver with Soy Sauce Koji, Cervix, Natto Koji, and Irizake
To get to Rukuma it’s best to meet someone who knows how to get there at Ebisu station and have them guide you there. That’s how it is for many restaurants in this city without street names. I know Ebisu fairly well and even I’m not sure if I could find my way back here. A short walk from the station along a busy street passing a ramen shop with a long line, several standing bars, and a few izakaya. At a stoplight our “guide” Mizutani-san, takes a right and then a left along the Yamanote line and we walk along the tracks until he says that we’ve arrived.
I knew we were in for a treat when one of the first dishes we had included unique ingredients like cervix and natto koji. Offal is appreciated for its texture and flavor. The chef was very creative to make his own natto koji and other ingredients you’ll see below.
Nikomi Simmered Offal with Salt-Cured Cambodian Fresh Black Peppers
The salt-cured fresh black peppers from Cambodia was another new ingredient that a fellow chef at the table also was impressed with. The chef suggested having the peppers with the food, but also to try it on its own. Salty with a pepper bite and a great texture like a hard caper berry.
At this point the staff pull down the exhaust vent from the ceiling and bring a charcoal grill to the table. Maybe you recognize Japan’s most famous non-Japanese ramen chef in the photo?
First Grilling Course
Gensouton Maboroshi Shimofuri Pork in Wine Lees Powder
Stomach Fat wrapped around Pork Liver with Pressed Onion Chips
Pork Hire Tenderloin with Pressed Peppers
Pork Hara Diaphragm
Tongue Amazake Misozuke
Tonsoku Pig’s Feet and Liver Andouille Sausage
Hands down the favorite was the stomach fat wrapped around pork liver for its crispy outside but still raw inside. The homemade andouille sausage was also nice. And, again, amazed to find yet another new ingredient – wine lees dried to a powder then used to add umami to the meat.
This was also a new ingredient. Dried peppercorn pressed until paper thin. Leathery texture and a peppery bite. Would love this with a steak.
Grilled Pickled Peppers
Harami with Shio Koji, Guts, Nodobue (vocal chords) with Fish Sauce, Pork Spleen, and Bacon
At this point the staff asked if we were ready for another round. We asked for a smaller serving this time around. The vocal chords were great, slightly chewy.
And a note from a fellow diner regarding the bacon: “What a great meal that was. If I had any beef (pork?) with your report, it would be that you didn’t highlite the bacon experience. Although bacon isn’t as bizarre as most of the stuff that came out, I would’ve liked if you had given a shout out to it because it’s the closest thing to the wonderful bacon we made from the young pigs that we raised in Massachusetts (when I was a kid) and were smoked at a Vermont smoke house.”
The power of the exhaust vent
The shop has an outstanding saké and shochu list. Some good saké that is not on the menu as well, so be sure to ask your server if there are any off the list that they have. Some that we enjoyed this evening included a saké from Aizu Wakamatsu in Fukushima, Kikuhime from Ishikawa, and Kikuyoi from Shizuoka.
While there is a menu, it is best to just say “omakase” and let the chef send out different courses. The staff will ask you towards the end of the meal if you want to stop or if you want more. Just be sure to let them know if you have any food allergies.
Rukuma Twitter Account
Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 2-3-5, Ishii Bldg. B1