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Food

Christmas Dinner at Gomangoku

Why Christmas? We’re already past Groundhog’s Day, right?

In the next couple of posts, I am returning to 2008 to post things I missed during the midst of my computer hell in which not one, but two laptops died in my hands. So, think back to December, and I will work my way from there to late of November to cover the gap.

One week before Christmas, I received email about a special sake event on Christmas Eve at Ichibee, a sake-centric izakaya in Ogikubo where I like hanging out. It said that Christmas Eve is their quietest day of year. Contrary to the Christmas Eve dinner rush at fancy European restaurants, or trendy date-spots, many Japanese style restaurants are quiet on December 24th and on the weekend leading up to Christmas.

Our Christmas Eve “date” with friends has bucked this trend for the last two years. 2007 saw us in an izakaya that was convenient at the end of a work day. 2008, we tried to fit in, but failed. An Italian place in Kagurazaka was at the top of our list, but was, of course, full. French in Roppongi was, as expected, completely booked. So, we resorted to going to Gomangoku, a subtly stylish Japanese restaurant specializing Toyama regional cuisine and sake, in Sendagaya.

gomangoku toyama restaurant buri "shabu shabu"

“I thought you should try their buri shabu. I guarantee you are going to be happy! They only serve this special dish three months of the year.” Miwa had been there before and called in advance to order this dish that she highly recommended for the group.

At Gomangoku, they have perfected a special shabu shabu dish and I agree with Miwa that there are so many reasons you should experience it. First, the fish is brought in by air from Himi in Toyama, the most famous area for yellowtail. Then, the serving style is very personal– okami comes out wearing a light pink kimono bearing a platter of buri. This fatty fish is thinly sliced, but not too thin, and artistically arranged like flower pedals. After this presentation, she cooks each piece individually and serves one guest at a time. All we had to do was to watch her dip a piece into boiling pot for the briefest moment, hold out our bowl of ponzu and momiji daikon dipping sauce in front her. Finally, we plucked the perfectly cooked steaming jewel just as soon as it hits the sauce, and pop it in.

To finish the meal, we went with okami’s recommendation, hot Himi style udon topped with shiro ebi kakiage, a shrimp and vegetable fritter, and Toyama-style kamaboko which is the usual white fish paste, but specially wrapped in konbu seaweed.

Okami, a Toyama native, is serious about serving the food from her prefecture at its best. When asked why they don’t have the typical self-serve style shabu shabu, she immediately replied “I cannot stand people ruining precious best quality buri and cooking it to death to make ni-zakana or boring and tasteless boiled fish. So, instead, I decided to serve our patrons these freshest and best buri the best way.”

On the Japan Sea between Ishikawa and Niigata, Toyama is famous for winter seafood, especially yellowtail, crustaceans, and cephalopods. The night at Gomangoku was really a showcase of Toyama cuisine. Other than buri caught in the specific small area in Toyama which commands the highest prices of its kind at Tsukiji, we ordered small dishes which were also exquisite presentations. A small heap of shelled shiro ebi sashimi, tiny, raw, opaque, soft-shell shrimp about three inches long, was presented on a pedestal dish and tasted dewy and sweet. Hotaru ika-no-okizuke, or tiny fresh squid marinated in soy sauce, was salty and fishy, but a slight hint of yuzu citrus flavor somehow finished this off cleanly. My favorite dish was shirako steamed in soy milk, which had the texture of a mousse and deep umami. These are really perfect sake-no-sakana to enjoy with Masuizumi, Kachikoma, or several other sake from Toyama.

So, next year, I am giving up the fight and sticking with Japanese cuisine for our annual Christmas outing with friends. Miwa, you have 11 months to scope out another good restaurant!

Restaurant Information: Gomangoku
Tel: (03)5775-7139
1-31-11 Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-0051
Closed on Sundays

Buri shabu at GomangokuBuri shabu at Gomangoku
Buri shabu at GomangokuBuri shabu at Gomangoku
Photos: Okami at Gomangoku with buri shabu

Shiro ebi no sashimi
Photo: Shiro ebi no sashimi

Hotaru-ika no okizuke
Photo: Hotaru-ika no okizuke

Shirako and milk mousse
Photo: Shirako and soy milk mousse

Himiudon with shiroebi no kakiage and kamaboko
Photo: Himi udon with shiroebi no kakiage and Toyama style kamaboko

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  1. [...] between Kanazawa and Wajima. Being right at the border of Ishikawa and Toyama, and right next to Himi, I thought we could have a good seafood dinner with some snow crab, buri, hotaru ika, oysters, or [...]

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