Friday, December 28, 2012
Fukuoka - Kaji Honten
It’s almost criminal not to eat Fugu in Fukuoka, which is a local specialty. And the reason for that is that it is criminal not to be licensed and serve the poisonous puffer of a fish. And so it is said that eating Fugu is like dicing with death and the price of a Fugu meal is commensurate with the years of training a chef requires before passing the requisite examinations to be licensed. While I’ve never experienced it, some say that there is a slight tingle after consumption that is reminiscent of the numbness one feels after having been poisoned by Fugu or rather tetradoxin, the chemical in the Fugu’s innards, which causes death.
We asked the hotel for a recommendation, not having done much homework prior. We were told they couldn’t make reservations yet as the restaurant wasn’t open for the day yet. The taxi driver who took us to the doorstep of Teraoka, only to discover it was shut for Christmas Day, kindly drove us to a local joint called Kaji, who according to its website, has been in existence since 1959.
The main area had a boat like structure filled with live seafood although I didn’t see any puffer fish. No English is spoken but they have a limited English menu and you can get by on sign language (ie. just point and don’t ask).
First up: warm up with a Sake with a torched fin of the puffer fish. No tingles here and didn't taste of much other than someone dropping a piece of seafood into your alcohol by accident. Wasn’t bad but the combination wasn’t what it was made out to be.
I opted for a light course (having eaten all day, surprise surprise).
Sashimi of Fugu is a little chewier than other sashimi. But the chewing, if prolonged, allows you to taste the sweetness of the fish, provided you go easy on the addictive Ponzu sauce, that accompanies it.
The tempura course had but one piece of Fugu tempura which was quite tasty. The texture breaks down with heat to be a little more cottony but retaining a little bounce, so it was actually quite good.
To finish, I had a porridge made with pieces of Fugu and a fish stock. With an egg broken over it and finsihed with spring onions and Nori flakes, it was pretty much comfort food to the finish line, and in my book, the most satisfying way to eat Fugu.
The Fugu hotpot definitely makes my list of to-dos, cos you know what, I lived to tell this tale.
博多割烹 かじ 本店
２丁目-３-１１Nakasu, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka,
Fukuoka Prefecture 810-0801