04 May, 2009

Oishii Japan Series Part 5 - Blowfish Feast @ Torafugutei, Ueno

Fugu, or Japanese name for Puffer Fish, Blowfish or Globefish, is one of world most celebrated, yet notorious dishes – consumed for hundreds of years in Japan, so what is it that makes this seemingly adorable fish so deadly? The answer lies in the lethal poison within its organs, known as Tetrodoxin, that is so powerful that mere milligrams is lethal dose for an adult. It is said to be 1250 times deadlier than cyanide! Every year hundreds of thousands of Japanese put their lives on a plate, literally, in a gastronomic form of Russian roulette, and HFB was one of them who lives to tell his tale.

The surrealistic dining of death commenced at Torafugutei, a chain restaurant that specialise in Tora Fugu (Tiger Blowfish), with the serving of Hiresake, or Hot Sake Infused with Dried Fugu’s Tail (JPY780 ~ SGD12.00).

The waitress lighted the dried fugu tail and covered the cup to infuse the flavour of the flamed tail.

The sake tasted pretty unique with an intense lingering burnt fragrance, however HFB reckoned that not everyone would take to the experience.

The appetiser, courtesy of the restaurant, was Fugu Kawa Yubiki, or Boiled Fugu Skin with Ponzu Sauce.

HFB thoroughly enjoyed the gustatory sensation of the chewy skin. On its own, it was practically tasteless, and it depended on the ponzu sauce to bring out the flavour – although HFB did felt the sauce was a little too overwhelming.

The Oyogi-tessa, or Fugu Sashimi (JPY980 ~ SGD15.00) was up next and HFB was expecting to be besieged by the experience. Alas it was not meant to be – perhaps with too high an expectation – the deftly sliced, thin piece of meat was fresh all right (in fact it was probably still swimming at the entrance minutes ago), but the sweetness tended towards the subtle side with a slight chewiness to it – nothing extraordinary if you asked HFB.

He preferred the Oyogi-techiri, or the Fugu Nabe (JPY1980 ~ SGD30.00) instead. The hotpot, besides the fish, came with tofu and vegetables. The moment the fish meat was laid down on our table, the waitress pointed to the fish head and we were freaked out by the sight of the twitching fish’s gill!

After recomposing ourselves, we began to dump the fish meat into the hotpot – 10 seconds was how long we were advised to cook our fish. The meat was tender and HFB thought the sweetness of the fish was better defined this way. The meat goes with the ponzu sauce as well.

An extra serving of the jelly-like skin (JPY780 ~ SGD12.00) was ordered, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as the appetiser. In fact it was pretty tiring to chew through them. HFB didn't like it.

The Zosui (JPY580 ~ SGD9.00), or basically rice cooked with the leftover broth from the techiri, coupled with egg, green onions and seaweed, completed the brush with death.

The sweetness of the soup, coupled with the ingredient made the simple porridge dish so satisfying, bringing a nice comforting end to the death defying gastronomic adventure!

As for the bold and daring, you may view a short video clip of the twitching fish gill [WARNING: The sight is slightly disturbing]!


Food: 3.5/5 (Nothing amazing about the fish IMHO)
Service: 4.5/5 (Staff was on hand to prepare the sake and the zosui, patience to explain how to consume the fish)
Ambience: 4/5 (Private dining area)
Price: 4/5 (Once in a lifetime daunting experience though - worth it!)

Total: 16/20
6-7-13 Ueno, Taito-ku
Tokyo Japan

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doraemon said...

the puffer fish pic abit off-putting leh ..eee...

Steve said...

you thrill-seekers, you! As for twitching dishes on the table... NO THANK YOU!

Scenes in Singapore life said...

The first and only time I tried puffer in Tokyo, I thought it to be an anticlimax. The fish itself was nearly tasteless...no tingling sensation. And if I remembered, it was very expensive...about S$100 for a small plate for two of us. We went for ramen later to fill up.

thanks for nice writeup and pics.

FourSeasons said...

What you try is farmed fugu. The real thing is wild fugu, the whole course would be SGD500 per person, not SGD100...Farmed fugu is not that lethal, you don't feel that tingling feeling inside your mouth. For wild fugu, you will also feel warm with the nabe or karaage. That's why people pay for that sensation feel. It is not the taste that people are after but farmed fugu does not provide that sensation.

His Food Blog said...

doraemon : Wait till you see the twitching video, Haha!

Steve: Heh... I can imagine you freaking out from the sight of it!

P.Chong & FourSeasons: FS, you were absolutely right - I did further research on it and found out that the Japanese farmers managed to breed a farmed fugu with no lethal poison within - pretty gutted as I thought I had the 'real' thing!

Any idea where I can sample the wild ones?

FourSeasons said...

I think the season for wild fugu is from October to March, so perhaps you need to come back to try it on your next trip. If money is not an issue, Usukifugu Yamadaya at Nishi Azabu is supposed to be very good.

His Food Blog said...

Yeah, I reckon so.

I did a quick search - it looks really authentic! I would definitely penned it down as my itinerary on my next visit - Thank you for the heads up!

FourSeasons said...

I have never been there myself. Be prepared to pay SGD500-600 per person; I would rather spend that on high end sushi or modern kaiseki ryori. But it is a Michelin 2 star restaurant, let us know how the tingling feeling is if you ever visit there!

Pluto said...

OMG is that twitching gills or fins? OMG... i think i have a macabre fascination.... i watched it again. it is like through the looking-glass effect. Maybe if i was there i'd faint.

His Food Blog said...

Haha... it was the gills - quite a turn off actually. I dumped that 'thing' into the steamboat first! Can't really stomach it.

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