Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kuroson Browbeating Gives New Meaning to "Tataki"


When I was researching on Katsuo noTataki in Kochi, I frequently came across the name of Izakaya Kuroson. Bloggers aplenty had cited Kuroson as serving the best tataki in Kochi. After eating some wonderful Katsuo no Tataki at Yairo-tei in Hirome Ichiba the night before, I was dying to try the dish at Kuroson.

The afternoon after eating at Yairo-tei, I visited Hamakawa Brewery the maker of Bijofu and Shintaro sake, in Tano-cho, in southern Kochi by the Pacific Ocean. The president (shacho) of the brewery was youngish looking man in his 50's, who took over his family business several years ago. He was a down-to-earth and easy-to-hang-out-with. After showing me his brewery and leading me through a tasting of their sake, he asked me what I was going to do afterwards. I told him that I made reservation at Kuroson. His voice changed as he asked me, "by yourself at Kuroson?" He continued, "the food is fantastic, but...." His manner had me curious. "What do you mean by... 'but..."?, I asked. He hesitantly described the nature of owner. Apparently, he barks and yells at customers. He said that even he was a bit scared by him. My face was half-frozen. "Should I go there?," I asked. He said, "I am sure you will be fine, but I will go with you anyway."

Kuroson is located a narrow alley behind a Mos Burger (a Japanese fast food chain). They don't have a menu. You eat what you are served. Their sake list consists soley of Hamakawa Brewery's sake. The taisho (owner) is in his late 50's or early 60's, with short peppery hair and with high energy and spirit. His wife works as a waitress and they have been in business for 20 years or so.

First, we were served a huge plate of sashimi with five or six varieties of fish including, snapper, sea
bream, squid, and octopus. The sashimi was the freshest fish could possibly be, and the cut was very thick. It was neither gooey nor chewy, they had a springy yet soft texture, bursting with freshness. It was incredibly delicious and I enjoyed it but, the portion was beyond generous and I was beginning to get full before I'd even had the tataki for which I had come. I was eating slowly and chatting with Hamakawa-shacho when the taisho started to yelled at me. "Hayaku Tabenka! (eat quickly)!" I thought he was joking, but soon realized that it was no joke. He was dead serious.

Next came the tataki which was sliced very thick. With crispy skin and reddish pink meat inside, it was served with sliced garlic and wasabi. I bit into one of the huge pieces. It was heavenly! The fish was very fresh and texture was crispy outside and soft inside. The skin was so crunchy and flavorful that I could have been happy just eat the crispy skin for my snack. The skin was crispier and smokier than Yajiro-tei, and the slices were thicker and more tender. I felt the tataki was better at Kuroson.

As I was sipping my sake, savoring the tataki, and talking with Hamakawa-shacho we were accosted again by the owner, "Shaberazu tabero (don't talk, just eat)!" Trying to appease him, I looked up and begged him, "I am eating, I am trying."

I wanted to ask the taisho if I could take pictures of him and his restaurant, but I had become apprehensive about asking him anything. Sweating and waiting to be scolded by the taisho, I took a quick photo of the tataki.

It was then that I noticed that the couple next to me was also having trouble with the taisho. They had asked for a menu, a salad, and rice. It seemed that they were being a bit demanding and it was clear that the taisho and his wife were getting irritated. I spoke with the couple and learned that they were visiting Kochi from Hiroshima.

Suddenly, I heard the taisho yelling at me again, "Sassato tabenka (eat now)!" This time, it wasn't just him harassing me. His wife was also giving me a nasty look! My stomach had expanded to the point where I had no room for any more food.
My dilemma was that the tataki was so delicious that I wanted to clean my plate, but the fish was so rich that I couldn't finish eating it. No matter how many times I was yelled at, my stomach was stubbornly refusing to accept any more food. No amount of barking and yelling could make my stomach accept more. Eating was no longer a pleasure, it had become a demanding ordeal. Kuroson was no longer a restaurant. It had now become a battle zone.

Hamakawa-shacho felt so bad for me that he started to help me finish the dish. I needed to drink more sake to wash down the sashimi and tataki,
but the wife told me I couldn't order any more sake. Hamakawa-shacho and I were speechless. We felt so unwelcome that we decided to leave Kuroson immediately.

Hamakawa-shacho was very apologetic even though it wasn't his fault that we were thrown out. It was me who made them grumpy. No matter how nasty and abusive the owners had been, I still felt that it was the best katsuo no tataki I had ever had and was willing to overlook the browbeating that I had endured to eat it. I had never dreamed that the word "tataki" which can mean "to beat" would relate something about this experience other than what was served on my plate.

Afterwards, Hamakawa-shacho and I, joined by his wife and a co-worker, went to a nearby bar to drink more and to commiserate about the self-sacrifice that comes with eating the best katsuo no tataki in Kochi at Kuroson.

Kuroson
3-4-18 Honmachi
Kochi City,
Kochi 780-0870

Phone: (Japan) 088-873-2624

4 comments:

McAlpine said...

Rick & Hiroko !

First of all, thank you for posting this informative post. I had no idea Kochi was famous for katsuo.
I absolutely love katsuo. I can't believe that I was around that area and didn't try it. I will make a note of this and make it a must do.

Marisa said...

Wow! I'm very surprised you were able to snap a quick photo of the tataki. It did look very delicious.

jon said...

Hiroko,

Thank you for your informative posts on this blog. I am in Kochi right now and, based on your experience at Kuroson, I decided to go to Yairo-tei in Hirome Ichiba instead. Even if the food was slightly(?) better at Kuroson, I didn't want a repeat of your experience, especially as I would have gone alone!

Anyway, the shio tataki at Yairo-tei was delicious, the staff were friendly and the market atmosphere was very good. I was even given a free glass of Nihonshu (sake) by a customer from an adjacent restuarant! (Not the first time I've experienced such hospitality in Japan).

At time of writing your post is the number one hit for a google search on "Kuroson", so I would imagine a fair few others might find their way here too..!

Hiroko & Rick said...

McAlpine, you should visit Kochi to eat Tataki definitely!

Marisa, I was a little nervous when I took the photo. Do you think they were nasty because they saw me taking a picture?

Jon, thank you for your comment. I am glad that it was helpful and making your katsuo tataki experience enjoyable at Yairo-tei.

However, I don't mean to steer away you away from Kuroson because the food there is excellent. If you are not Japanese, you probably won't have the same experience with the Taisho.

hiroko