An Awful Lot of Offal
Takashi Inoue spent over a year sourcing out the various uncommon cuts of beef used at the restaurant. It all comes from sustainably raised cattle from sources such as Dickson's Farmstand, Pat LaFrieda, and Oregon-raised American Kobe.
First Stomach (Mino)
Chewy, but with quite a bit of fat that crisps up nicely on the grill and melts out as you chew. Takashi scored the stomach carefully to increase its tenderness.
Second Stomach (Hachinosu)
This is probably the most familiar cut to Western diners. It's the same tripe that gets used in classic dishes like menudo or chickpeas with tripe. Most of the time, it's slow-simmered until tender. Here, fast grilling leaves it crunchy and chewy. I especially like the way the extra tissue absorbs sauce like a sponge.
Fourth Stomach (Akasen)
The fattiest of the stomachs, it's rich in the way that the cartilage around a prime rib bone is. That's my favorite part of the cow, which makes this my favorite bit of stomach. The only downside is that it's got some serious chew to it—you'll know that you're eating organ meat when you bite through it.
I've never seen fourth stomach served at any other restaurant.
Large Intestine (Tetchan)
The only piece of offal I'm not totally into. I've always had a bit of an aversion to its oddly spongy/chewy texture and definite pungent aroma (even when it's very fresh and very clean). Then again, I know people who absolutely love it.
One of the kings of organ meat, sweetbreads actually come in two varieties. The thymus gland (neck sweetbreads) are far more common than the pancreas (belly sweetbreads). Either way, they are creamy and rich, and when properly prepared, should be firm enough to hold their shape, but soft enough to melt in your mouth as you eat them. The flavor is quite mild with a hint of beef liver to it.
Outside Skirt Steak (Harami)
Though muscle tissue is not often considered offal, Takashi likes to group skirt steak in along with them, as it does share the richness and distinct mineral-y flavor of most sweetbreads. Skirt steak is cut from the diaphragm muscle of the cow. The stuff Takashi uses is crazy marbled and melts amazingly in your mouth, like the best Korean kalbi.
Rich and fatty, tongue is considered to be one of the very beefiest of cuts with a robust flavor and tender texture when properly cooked. This tongue comes from Oregon Kobe and has so much fat, it sizzles and chars beautifully on the hot grill.
Normally braised for hours until shreddably tender, beef cheek does surprisingly well on the grill when sliced properly (I.E. ultra-thin). Not quite as fatty as the skirt steak, but even more beefy.
Seasonal Pickled Vegetables (namui)
Pickled vegetables of all sorts are a must to cleanse the palate between bites of meat. Eggplant marinated in soy and sugar, pickled radishes, spicy green beans, strawberries and sorrel, marinated mizuna, and raw husk cherries are the current seasonal selection.
The Japanese are very season-conscious when it comes to produce and plating.
Takashi constructs the marinade for his meat while another cook looks on. In it are apples, orange marmalade, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and a few other "secret" ingredients. It's a recipe passed down from his family.
Marinated and ready to grill.
On the Grill
Takashi is the first restaurant in the U.S. to use these custom-made tabletop griddles designed to mimic the infrared heating of hot coals. The grill surface reaches about 800°F, making searing fast and effective.
The sugars in the marinade and the proteins in the meat brown and crisp up on the hot grill.