I’ve eaten fugu fish and it’s been 5 hours and I’m still alive so I think that’s a good sign. Right!?
Kyung wanted to try fugu fish before we left Tokyo. Since our vacation days are winding down and we only have 48 hours or so left here, we scrambled to find a restaurant that prepared fugu fish. Fugu is not one of those fish you can find by just randomly stumbling into a sushi restaurant. According to Wikipedia, only a few places can legally prepare fugu fish, since the fish is so deadly if it’s not prepared properly. We asked around, and it seemed that even the locals didn’t know where to go really. I did some searching on Google and found a Yelp like local review tool for Tokyo called SunnyPages. From here I found reviews for a place called Torafugu Tei, a chain in Tokyo that specializes in fugu fish only.
We dashed into a cab in the rain and made it to the restaurant. The restaurant is inside what looks to be an office building, so from the outside you can’t really tell there’s a restaurant inside (though the office like building is on a street with many restaurants). We walked into the building and found the restaurant, which is split across several floors. We sat one floor below the main entrance, and you get to sit in a traditional dining room where just your party is ensconced in a small wooden room where you take your shoes off, and you sit around a table with an electric table top heat conductor in the middle. Very high tech!
The skin was thick and had a texture similar to cold pork belly. It was very refreshing with the light sauce and had a similar flavor to many starter sashimi dishes you would get at a restaurant that is Michelin rated. So far so good!
Second course was actual fugu sashimi, thinly slivered and arranged on a plate in the traditional fugu preparation style, which is a chrysanthemum (the flower for death). It came with a hint of lemon, more ponzu sauce, and various flavored greens like green onion.
This dish was very refreshing as well. After I ate it, my inner cheeks started getting a weird tingly/itchy feeling that lasted for about 10 minutes. I kept stretching my jaws to get rid of the feeling. Kind of weird.
Next course was the deep fried fugu. The coating was very well seasoned, and the crispy texture of the outside complemented the soft and creamy fish inside. The only thing that was a bit bothersome was the fact that the fish was complete with bone, so you didn’t want to crunch into your fish too hard.
After that was the fugu soup (like hot pot). This part was very shocking – we received large pieces of raw fugu that were STILL MOVING. See twitching fish here!
The porridge came out much more flavorful and hearty. We added rice, raw eggs, seaweed, salt, and soy sauce. There was also pickled ume (plum) and daikon to add additional flavor (I loved the ume but not so much the daikon; Kyung gave me all his pickles).
We ended with a simple slice of canteloupe.
The simplicity and familiarity of the fruit after having such an exotic and unusual meal was a stark contrast. The meal was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and while we were a bit worried about the poison, clearly we’re still here!