*After my fantastic introduction to the production process at Dassai, Mr. Sakurai Sr. and Mr. Sakurai Jr took me out for a fantastic all-blowfish dinner. Known as “Fugu” in Japanese, yes… it is that deadly, poisonous fish. Yeah, that’s the fish you need to have two years of training and a special license to cut and serve. Wikipedia tells me that According to the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 14 people died of blowfish poisoning between 2002 and 2006. cats_love_fugu.jpgTo top it off – Fugu is a total prized and very expensive. If my hosts weren’t concerned, why should I be?

Well… at the restaurant, I did ask to see the fugu license of the nice lady cutting up our blowfish, but everyone just laughed. gulp.

The restaurant itself was totally quaint and very much that hidden type of place you would never know about unless you were recommended there by a friend of a friend. Not only to they run a restaurant, they also farm their own Fugu!

fugu_sashimi.jpgOur first course was a heaping plate of Blowfish sashimi. Mr. Sakurai showed me his preferred method of eating it. wrap each slice with a bit of chive and the shredded daikon-carrot like stuff. It was delicious. Since my limbs didn’t begin tingling, I quickly forgot about the possibility of poisoning and began to seriously chow down. The texture was quite firm, almost meaty, yet smooth and silky. Delicious!

with_mr_sakurai.jpgMr. Sakurai brought 2 bottles of Dassai along for our dinner. We had both a Dassai 39 Centrifuge and a Dassai 50 Sparkling Nigori. Both were fantastic. The Centrifuge sake is unique. that final production process adds “a little something extra” to the flavor and texture on the tongue. The Sparkling Nigori is Fantastic – it opens with a POP just like you get from champagne. Very festive and fun – perfect for celebration. The bottle comes with an extra hang tag to alert people to open the blowfish_tempura.jpgbottle like champagne. the stopper will fly out! I’m sure this has surprised a few Dassai Sparkling drinkers in the past – it’s not what you expect from a sake, but it is terrific fun.

Next we each got a plate of deep fried Fugu Tempura. The axiom that everything tastes better deep fried definitely holds true for Blowfish. It was crispy and offered a different angle on the flavor of fugu. The Nigori meshed with the tempura like and hand in glove. my favorite pairing of the night!

fugu_fear_factor.jpgThe next course was a bit of a “Lost in Translation” moment. We were each served a small square dish with white something or other in there. I asked what it was, and after a little back and forth and some confusion, I finally understood they were male fugu private parts! I actually can’t tell you how they taste. This fear factor moment pushed me to my limit. Fear was a factor for me! as I sat there staring at the fugu reproductive organs, chopsticks in hand… unsure how to proceed… time for another sip of sake.

blowfish_nabe.jpgLuckily, our hostess quickly arrived with a glorious, steaming pot of Fugu and vegetable stew called “Nabe”. This dish came with a bowl for the fugu bones. Nabe is now one of my new favorite things! It was warming and hearty and the fugu added a great depth of flavor to the broth. after all the fugu was fished out and picked clean, the hostess filled the bowl with rice. it was two, two, two dishes in one! and boy was I getting full!

dassai_sparkling.jpgDessert arrived in the form a cool and refreshing Japanese lime beverage, kinda like a homemade lime-aid. this unexpected treat cleansed the palate and was just about the only thing I had all night that didn’t have Blowfish in it somewhere. Our lovely hostess gave me a fugu tokkuri as a parting gift. I was really touched. On the way out, they also showed me the Fugu tanks and I got to see some live specimens up close and personal. Um, blowfish won’t be winning any beauty pageants. Fugu is kinda Fugly up close, but… it sure does taste good.

My sincere thank you to the delightful Sakurai family for this tremendous and delicious evening. A special “arigatogozaimasu!” to the hostess at the fugu restaurant for cutting up my fish in such a way that I won’t be landing on the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry statistics for 2007. Kanpai!

9 replies
  1. Yumi
    Yumi says:

    Hi, Tim-san.
    My name is Yumi and this is my first time to comment. I really enjyoed your story about Fugu experience. Especially SHIRAKO one. I am from Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, where is known for Fugu. I am really glad that more non-Japanese people are started experiencing our delicacy 😉 I hope you can try shirako next time! It is just like soft tofu, but softer and better 😉

  2. Timothy Sullivan
    Timothy Sullivan says:

    Hiroko-san,

    Well, I’m happy to get your comment. Now I don’t feel SO bad about not eating the Shirako. Maybe if I had had the bottle of Dassai BEFORE, I maybe would have tried it. And I look at it this way, it gives me a reason to go back to Japan. right?

    xo
    tim

  3. Timothy Sullivan
    Timothy Sullivan says:

    Mel!

    Well, I’m the one who should be more macho, but I don’t care. I did the best I could under the circumstances. and yes… give me tempura ANY day. and dassai sake. ANY day.

    I’m glad to know my instinct to reach for the Sake was a good one. it felt like a very natural move. glass to mouth, pour, repeat….

  4. hiroko
    hiroko says:

    Hi Tim san! You are not only one who is fearful of shirako. I am Japanese and I don’t like it! It taste wired, and I don’t like the texture! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!

    hiroko

  5. Kari
    Kari says:

    Timothy,

    I liked your post very much. I shared it with my husband here in Minneapolis and he had one comment: “Things could be worse! Timothy could have had Rocky Mountain Oysters.”

    I want to try that sparkling NIgori!

    Kari

  6. Melinda
    Melinda says:

    Ha ha ha! That is a good story.

    Actually, I must confess that I dislike shirako and always flinch when I see it. I know, I know, I should be more macho than that, but…as a woman, I reserve the right to choose. Give me the tempura any day.

    Whenever confronted with a “creepy” food at the Japanese table, just reach for the sake – especially when it’s Dassai!

  7. KCinNYC
    KCinNYC says:

    I almost died laughing when both Sakurai-san recounted the tale at Sakae Fugu, and the hostess trying to describe “Shirako” in English was high comedy.

    When I asked how far you got, Sakurai-san’s reply was: “No, I don’t think Tim-san ate it…”

    Moral of the story: they will now try to explain Shirako to the non-Japanese guests after they ate it, using the more polite term “gland” as opposed to a certain word that rhymes with “bicycle.”

    Of course, the next day, Nishida-san (Toji) asked where we ate. The follow up question naturally was, “…and how you ate Shirako?”

    (Yes, I ate the whole thing, and it was like tofu.)

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