Oh, Aburiya Kinnosuke. If Eats Meats West were granted a last meal, it would surely be from you. Your myriad of inexplicable sauces wouldn’t deter us. Nay, they would enliven us! Often we would ask you what this or that sauce was. “Oyster,” it probably sounded like. Or maybe it was “worcheschestire?” Obviously, neither. Your partial English notwithstanding, there are few places that compare in our mind. Just look at the relative lack of non-Japanese people. That’s always a good sign. The curious robata grill, encircled by whole fish skewered on vertical stakes, imparts the most amazing char.
There are so many flavors that we don’t ordinarily associate with Japanese cuisine, and so many others we couldn’t readily identify regardless. A member of our party purported to not like Japanese food, save for the occasional Americanized teriyaki, yet on this past occasion not only tried everything but also asked for seconds. Those seconds were of course the fried chicken. It’s certainly some sort of dark meat, and I cringe with jealousy at the thought of someone else mastering the art of frying. We couldn’t figure out if the dark meat was thigh or drumstick.
I felt it was the latter. Was that broth dashi or miso? Come to think of it, what the hell is dashi? We were just so delighted by what was admittedly an overwhelming selection of dishes, that we kept asking the ever-attentive waitress for tips and explanations. Her adorable but broken English led to many an argument, I’ll just say that. OK, so we had a few shochu-sours. That probably didn’t help. And it probably didn’t help that I would just automatically nod my head in understanding after every explanation. Once she literally looked right at me with a winked eye and said, “do you understand me?” My cover blown, we were forced to battle back and forth, but that was half the fun. Is that octopus or mushroom at the bottom of the house salad? It honestly could have been either or both, because the marinade was so foreign to our palates. I still think it was mushrooms, though. Maitake perhaps. Some of the standout dishes included the asparagus tempura, crab croquettes, miso cod, and of course the fried chicken and the chicken meatballs (barely a meatball in name only). Not everything was 100% perfect, though. At this point I’m kind of like, I don’t get Berkshire pork. I’m kind of over it. On a table overcrowded with flavors, textures, and scents, it didn’t really stand out. Just sort of dry and a faintly porky. So what? Also, they’ve stopped making the almond jelly, which is hardly a jelly but more of a pudding/paste. In fact, the waitress didn’t know what I was talking about. For shame, Aburiya Kinnosuke. On the other hand, the black rice pudding is still pretty great.