"Nonna san, do you eat horse meat?"
My Japanese friend, my purveyor of out-of-the-ordinary food experiences in Tokyo, and I were on the subway on the way to dinner. What could I say? I never back down from a new eating experience.
We got off the subway at Morishita and two blocks later arrived at MINOYA, a restaurant established in 1899 and specializing in fresh horse meat dishes.
The nihongo word for horse is "uma" but a pretty euphemism for it is "sakura" which is also the nihongo word for cherry blossom and which refers to the bright cherry red color of fresh, raw horse meat.
We ordered "sakura nabe". The waitress brought out the copper kettle, placed it on top of the tabletop hot plate. Then came the platter of fresh horse meat, along with leeks, tofu, celery, noodles and large white globs which she told us were cubes of horse fat. The horse fat would be rendered in the hot kettle with broth and some miso paste -- we would then cook the slices of horse meat in this simmering stew of fat and broth and miso -- but not too long as apparently, horse meat becomes tough when overcooked.
I took my first bite expecting "uma" to be gamy and a little chewy but it was delicious! Very tender, very rich in flavor and rather sweetish -- it was even better than beef! It was so good that the dipping sauce of miso paste and soy sauce was quite unnecessary.
And it was so good we had to order an extra platter of horse meat and another large bottle of beer.
If you ever find yourself in Tokyo, you must try "uma" -- it's a different treat you cannot miss.
N.B. MINOYA, Morishita 2-19-9 Kouto-Ku Phone number 3631-8298 Subway lines stopping at Morishita include the Oedo, Shinjuku, Asakusa and Mita lines