Monday, March 5, 2018

Nagoya in 24 Hours Part 7 - Misokatsu at Yabaton. Saving the best bite for last.


So far on this (barely) 24 hour stopover in Nagoya, I had managed to enjoy two of the city's iconic dishes -- the can't-stop-at-one spicy tebasaki and the luxurious hitsumabushi.  With just over an hour to spare before I boarded the shinkansen to Tokyo, I decided to throw caution to the winds and go for my last bite of a Nagoya classic, their very own version of tonkatsu -- the differently, distinctively  delicious misokatsu


In Nagoya, there is only place to go for misokatsu,  Yabaton.  "D' original" as we Pinoys would call it,  Yabaton has been in business for as long as I have lived ... hmm, figure that one out, ha!
There are branches all over the city and even a couple in Tokyo and Fukuoka.
I headed for the one on the 9th floor of the Meitetsu Department store, right beside the train station.  My heart sank when I saw the long queue snaking around the storefront,  would I not be able feed
at the source of misokatsu today? 



Just at the entrance is Yabaton's piggy mascot, decked out in ceremonial garb and pointing his hooves towards the open door .  I imagined him squealing  "Irrashaimase" in a most appealing piggy voice. 


I glanced nervously at my watch but I had fallen under Piggy-san's spell.  I took my place at
the end of the line anticipating that I would literally have to eat and run.  
At that precise moment, one of the restaurant staff started to go down the line asking how many diners were in each group.  When I said "hitotsu" (one), she waved me to the head of the line and
into the hallowed doors of Yabaton.  Oh the perks of being a solo diner!
Was I dreaming or did Piggy-san give me a wink as I walked by? 



All the tables were occupied by the lunchtime crowd.  No one seemed to be speaking to each other, they were all hunched over their plates of misokatsu, and as far as I could tell, had all been transported to some sort of hog heaven.



Solo diners are seated at the counter and I slid into the last remaining seat.   My neighbours were either salarymen on lunch break or commuters, grabbing a quick bite before taking the train to their next destination.


Yabaton's menu shows the many variations of misokatsu -- as donburi, as cutlet, with rossu (loin) or hire (fillet), as kushikatsu (skewers).  There's even a sizzling misokatsu!
How is misokatsu different from tonkatsu?  Misokatsu uses miso as a sauce for the katsu.  In Nagoya, they use a red soybean and ferment it in wooden casks for months  until it develops a depth of flavour that is singularly delicious.   
Yabaton's misokatsu are liberally slathered with the red or aka-miso sauce which gives the cutlet a brownish reddish gloss.  I'd use it as lip moisturiser any time!


My counter seat gave me a ringside view of the kitchen.  Serving plates and bowls were on the ready, to be filled with customers' orders.  As this branch is so near a train station and office buildings, there are no leisurely diners here -- the cooks move with precision and efficiency and turnover during rush dining periods is quick.  


Unfortunately, being seated at the counter also gave me a whiff of each plate of misokatsu that came from the kitchen.  How much longer would I have to wait for mine?




Yatto! Finally my order arrived!  This is the Waraji Tonkatsu,  a JUMBO rossu (loin) cutlet that is the specialty of the house.
Yes, it is indeed huge.  When I ordered this, the helpful waitress sucked in her breath and wondered aloud if I would be able to finish it.  
One steely look from me and she murmured "wakarimashita". 
She did linger a bit to suggest that I order the half-and-half : half with miso sauce and the other half with regular tonkatsu sauce.
She explained that red miso sauce, while utterly divine, may be an acquired taste for some, particularly for first timers.  A half-and-half order is a safe and sure bet. 


The Waraji Tonkatsu set comes with rice, miso soup and a small dish of crunchy bits which are the leavings from the bottom of the pan that fries the pork.  
You can eat this as an appetiser with your beer or sprinkle on top of your rice for an even more indulgent eating experience.

Itadakimasu!



The perfect side dish to the unrelentingly umami rich taste of misokatsu is gari or pickled young ginger.  Its tart and pungent bite is an effective counterpoint to the lush flavour of the aka-miso sauce.


I definitely enjoyed the unique taste of aka-miso.  The rossu  was tender and had just the right amount of melt-in-your-mouth fat.   The crisp coating held up well to the thick sauce.  It kept its texture and did not disintegrate into crumbs.
Aka-miso found its way into the nooks and crevices of the crust, making for crunchy miso-filled scrumptious bites.  
The portion of my katsu with the usual tonkatsu sauce was delicious but the half doused with Yabaton's aka-miso was the obvious star of the show.


My waitress'  fears were unfounded.    I finished every bit of the Waraji Jumbo rossu pork cutlet on my plate.  My stomach is definitely bigger than my eyes.


Surprise, surprise!  You'll find a friendly and hardworking Filipina everywhere you go.   This is Mercy,  Yabaton's  helpful and charming waitress.  She has been living in Japan for over 20 years. My misokatsu experience was made even more special by this chance encounter with her.  

Maraming salamat Mercy, gochisousama deshita!
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