May 14, 2013

Takashi Inoue: Putting the 'Variety' in Variety Meats



Chef Takashi: Recently featured looking very sharp on the pages of GQ.
 Reporting on and eating horumon--innards and variety meats--at Takashi restaurant in the West Village was my recent fun assignment for Edible Manhattan, resulting in this article. Conceived by Osaka-born chef Takashi Inoue and general manager Saheem Ali, the restaurant specializes in yakiniku (Japanese grilled meat), with the subspecialty of horumon. 





Artist Aya Hasegawa's charming murals, which Takashi commissioned
to make horumon less intimidating to American diners.


As the mural above (created by a friend of Takashi's, Osaka artist Aya Hasegawa) explains, the term horumon, the Japanese rendering of the English word "hormone," connotes stamina and vigor. The mural posits that the name was an effort to re-brand off-cuts, though in many cultures eating organ meats is said to enhance virility. 

Yakiniku arrived in Japan along with the large numbers of Koreans who were conscripted during World War II and has been gaining in popularity ever since, especially after the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Takashi is a fourth-generation Korean Japanese whose grandmother ran a small yakiniku restaurant in Osaka. Growing up in his family and in a Korean neighborhood, he says, “My snack was horumon; it’s like a street food.” Today, he says, cow guts have gone so mainstream in Japan, “You can go to any supermarket and buy horumon, already marinated and in a ‘barbecue set.’”


When I arrived, Takashi and crew were in the middle of a photo shoot for a new dish he had come up with: squid ink rice with miso-marinated sweetbeads and spicy yuzu aioli. Preparing and primping the dish before a shoot is like putting it through hair and makeup; here, the lighting technicians and cameraman try to show the model off to best advantage.



Beef heart chili with grilled mochi (rice cake) and cheese. Sounds weird, but it's actually delicious.



Takashi's dishes are fresh and daring, and this is no exception: a combination of housemade smoked beef pancetta, baby whitebait fish and monkfish liver, done Spanish style in olive oil and garlic. It's cooked in a sardine tin.



The main attraction: tetchan, or large intestines, which many people consider the most delicious of the cow innards. Cooked on Takashi's super-hot electric grills, you can get the ideal texture:  crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Itadakimasu!