Horumon is gut meat. Offal to the food aficionado. This style of restaurant popped up in Osaka in the 1940’s. Horumon is similar to the word hōrumon in the Kansai dialect which means “discarded goods”. Horumon also sounds like the word hormone which means “stimulation” in Greek. Horumon is supposed give you stamina. It’s a bullshit claim, horumon is just good. As far as I recall I have not had a raging hard on after eating it. The first time eating at a Horumon restaurant was at a place in Nakameguro called “Manten”. Manten means “the whole sky” in Japanese. My spirit guide through the last several years in Tokyo has been So Ieki, aka Blunt. Blunt is the co-owner of Hatos bar in Nakameguro. Hatos serves American style real pit bbq. Blunt makes what I consider the best bbq in Japan. Blunt also knows Tokyo, Blunt knows food and Blunt knows I eat anything. Manten is small. Maybe 8 counter seats and 4 or 5 tables on the 3rd floor of a non-descript building on Yamate street. Just a minutes walk from Nakameguro station. There is a tiny compact car size kitchen with a few men in white prepping and slicing as we enter. As soon as we sat down I felt the stare from the owner. We sat at the counter directly across from where the food was being prepared only a couple feet away. I was on the left, Blunt on the right. Immediately the owner looks directly at Blunt and asks if I know what food we are about to eat. He is assured by Blunt that I do know. My Japanese is shit by academic standards but pretty good by “bullshitting” and fucking with people standards. I understood what he was asking so I chimed in with “I’m OK” in Japanese. He wouldn’t even look me in the eye. His gaze went back to Blunt. He then says “I don’t think he will like this” and “I have had trouble with serving foreigners in the past”. I understand and try to sneak in through the back door to get in his good graces by noticing that he was slicing up pork liver and asking in Japanese if that is indeed pork liver? He nods in disgust. I then pipe up like a 6 year old and say “I like liver”. He again stays focused on Blunt and says “I don’t think he will like this”. Blunt gets a bit more serious and explains to him my Japanese credentials and assures him that it will be fine. After 10 or 15 minutes of this passive negotiation we are allowed to order food.
Thank god we were being served shochu lemon sours during the negotiations. I was very booze relaxed for the tense moments. We asked for the chefs choice menu. Course after course pushed across the counter starting with shredded raw pig stomach in a vinegar based sauce and shredded raw pig liver in a soy/sesame sauce. Sadly last year, the Japanese Government banned restaurants from serving raw pig liver. One guy dies and ruins it for everyone. After that we took a trip from the pigs ass all the way up to his brain. The liver and throat parts were ridiculously good. Some things were cooked and some were pulled directly from the operating table and presented in their natural state. On that night we won the lottery. The owner had scored the pig brain at the meat market that morning and everyone at the counter was going to share in his good fortune. Pig brain needs to be served fresh. It quickly goes bad so not many places serve it. He pulls a rectangular plastic container from the fridge and opens it in front of the counter gallery. The creamy white brain of our meal was inside. Small sections were cut and placed in ramen soup spoons and drizzled with rice vinegar and sea salt as well as some other secret ingredient. We are all served at once and we suck the brains down in one gulp like frat boys doing shots after a round of high fives. Creamy and firm like tofu. Super good.
Pork stomach and liver
Nose to tail
The owner had kept an eye on me all night. I made sure to overreact in my appreciation of each course like publishers clearing house had just knocked at my door. A small price to pay to keep the dude off my back. One last lemon sour and it’s time to go. The owner walks us to the elevator as if he is sad to see us go. He gives me and Blunt his card. I give him my card and Blunt sans card explains that he runs a bar in the neighborhood and that I own an art gallery. We chat like long lost friends for a bit and head out into the night. On each subsequent trip to Japan without fail, I eat at Manten with Blunt. Nine times out of ten I don’t have to pass the foreigner test unless there is a new guy working.
Pork liver lightly seared on the outside
Raw pork liver
Poached pork liver
assorted throat parts, stomach parts and some assorted muscles and tendons
Motsunabe (gut stew)