|Japanese Kettle Rice|
Kettle Rice in Asakusa
Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s busiest tourist areas. It is the center of Tokyo’s Shitamachi, which translates as “Low Town” and still retains an atmosphere of an earlier era. The main attraction is Sensoji temple which is accessed by a street filled with temple vendors and one of the most photographed Temple Gates in all of Japan. Complete with the biggest red lantern you’ll ever see. You will definitely find yourself in Asakusa at some point during a visit to Tokyo. Like most tourist destinations the world over it is jam packed with places to eat and shwag to buy. Which means the restaurants you visit might be charging you a higher rate for something a local would never eat. You can still eat very well in Asakusa, it just takes a little more effort to avoid the typical “We have English menu” tourist restaurants.
And a slightly adventurous spirit.
|Not an English word in sight|
Welcome to Kamameshi Mutsumi
Kamameshi, or Kettle Rice, is one of my favorite rice dishes to have in Tokyo. It’s a variety of vegetables, meat or seafood cooked with rice in a personal rice cooker heated by open flame. It’s also one of the many foods that despite having always enjoyed Japanese food, I had never heard of before coming to Japan. That list is long, by the way. Kamameshi Mutsumi is easy to find with a bit of Google Mapping and is under a 10 minutes walk from the major tourist spots around Sensoji. However, it is just far enough to be away from the tourist crowds. This place is a phenomenal lunch or dinner spot and the perfect way to end sightseeing in Asakusa.
You’ll know just how legit this place is the minute they show you to your spot on the floor, where you will be eating. Chairs are for tourists. Take off your shoes when you enter, step up to the tatami mat and someone will show you to your table.
|Beer and floor cushions|
Order a beer and bask in the knowledge that you have done a better job than every other tourist in Asakusa. Open Instagram and think of the most sanctomonious comment you can make. “When I travel to foreign countries I only eat at places that don’t provide English menus.”
Well done. Your friends will love you, I’m sure.
Some Kamameshi Starter Suggestions
Jokes aside, that menu isn’t going to be very helpful. It is however well suited for the Google Translation App camera extension. So get your phone out, otherwise you can just follow some of the suggestions here.
I’m going to give you one definite crowd pleaser and two “don’t knock it til you’ve tried it” options. The first is the maguro moriawase. This means bluefin tuna sampler. Here we have three different cuts of Maguro Tuna. This place serves an awesome type of wasabi that had bits of the wasabi leaf pickled and mixed in with the wasabi. It was similar in appearance to a relish. It was the first time for me to have wasabi this way and I loved it.
|Chicken Skin Ponzu Salad|
Next up we’ve got boiled chicken skin served with green onions and seaweed in a Ponzu broth. This is served chilled and the citrusy broth tastes incredible with all those fresh chopped onions. The texture of the chicken skin is very soft and not as chewy as you might expect. Like I said, don’t knock it til you try it.
|Fugu Sashimi Platter|
Fugu Sashimi. Remember when Homer Simpson ate this? Fugu is one of Japan’s most infamous seafood dishes due to its high levels of the poison tetrodotoxin. It’s sale in restaurants has been strictly controlled since the 1950’s. To this day the Emperor is prohibited by law from eating Fugu. But you aren’t! I’ve had Fugu in 2 forms, battered and deep fried (deadly fish sticks) and as sashimi. This was the first time I have ever had it as sashimi. It is DELICIOUS. It has to be cut with a special knife into almost transparent slices. The skin, liver, ovaries and eyes are the super poisonous bits so they have to be carefully removed by a licensed chef. The licensing program requires 3 years apprenticeship followed by a testing period with a 35% pass rate. To take the test you have to prepare and eat your own fugu. How nuts is that?
Fugu typically has to be special ordered ahead of time. The reason we were able to eat it during our visit is that the chef told us another customer had ordered it. There was enough leftover for a round of Sashimi so he kindly asked if we would like it. Speaking of special orders, I’m going to take this moment to mention the booking service on the Taste Tokyo website. If you’re a subscriber to the blog and you want to visit one of the restaurants I’ve posted about it during a trip to Tokyo, I’ll help you make a booking. Just fill out the form here and I’ll see what I can do. Perhaps I could reserve a fugu sashimi dinner for you.
The Main Course
Time for the Kamameshi, assuming you survived the Fugu. They come to your table still in the Kama (tin kettle). Pop the wooden lid off and once the steam clears you’ll be ready for one of the tasteist rice dishes you’ll find in Tokyo.
There are a variety of meats, veggies and seafoods you can put into kamameshi. Use the Google Translate app if you want to try and pick your own ingredients from the menu. If you’re not into seafood then ask for “Gomoku Kamameshi” this is a chicken type that is delicious. I was in the mood for clams. This kamameshi has young bamboo, shitake mushroom, fat clams and mitsuba leaf on top. Delicious!
Takao went with the octopus and it was also incredible. Once the steam has cleared get your rice spoon and mix everything together. To avoid damaging any of the veggies or seafood, mix by slicing the spoon through the rice and turning the rice over as you do. Dont mix like you would in a mixing bowl.
Once mixed, simply serve it into one of the small bowls provided and enjoy the fresh cooked rice with miso soup and pickles. This is a uniquely Japanese meal and goes down a treat with some Japanese beer.
|Streets of Asakusa|
Afterwards, pop back outside and wander around looking for one of the amazing wine bars, beer bars or places selling Japanese swets in the Asakusa area. Asakusa has all you need for a day of sightseeing, or an evening wander in one of Tokyo’s most unique neighborhoods.
7 Days a week
Occasionally closed on rotating days, call ahead if you can