My first dinner in Tatebayashi three years ago was at Namudaimon, a yakiniku restaurant near our apartment. Yakiniku literally means “grilled meat,” and it’s one of my favourite things to eat in Japan.
Paul and I went two nights ago to celebrate pay day! It was 6 on a Tuesday evening, so we had the restaurant to ourselves.
Yakiniku can be many different kinds of meat (and vegetables as well). Commonly served meats are beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and even horse! The meats come from all different parts of the animals – thigh, breast, chuck, rump, ribs, belly, intestines, tongue…you name it!
Besides the various meats, Namudaimon’s menu also offers various noodle dishes and Korean dishes, like bibimbap (a rice dish topped with vegetables and meat) and chijimi (a delicious kind of pancake with vegetables and/or meat – our favourite is bacon and cheese!)
Tonight Paul ordered karubi (marbled beef from ribs) and rice, with sanchu (lettuce) to make wraps. I ordered a half-size bibimbap and karubi, and it came with miso soup. While they prepared the meat in the kitchen, the owner of the shop brought out the grill and set it in the middle of our table.
Paul also ordered a “mega jokki” Suntory beer!
The plate of meat came out with tare sauce and lemon juice. Tare sauce is basically seasoned soy sauce, and the recipe differs from restaurant to restaurant.
As soon as the food comes, we place the meat on the grill to cook. The key is to find the sweet spot – the hottest part of the grill – to get the crispiest meat!
My half bibimbap was rice topped with sprouts, spinach, mushrooms, pickled daikon, and dried seaweed. It came with miso soup and a hot pepper paste (which wasn’t actually that spicy), and I added some tare sauce, lemon juice, and a few slices of karubi.
I wasn’t sure how to eat soup in Japan when I first arrived, but I learned fast! In Japan you first eat the vegetables with chopsticks, and then drink the soup straight from the bowl. No spoons for miso soup!
Namudaimon has several little tanuki statues sitting around the restaurant. Tanuki are basically racoon-dogs, and apparently they’re everywhere in Gunma, though I have yet to see one!
And yes, your eyes do not deceive you. Tanukis are famous for their massive balls.
It was dark out, so I didn’t get a picture of the restaurant from outside, but there are giant tanuki and cow statues standing around Namudaimon. Cleverly, the vents inside the restaurant channel all of the smoke from the grills outside – so if we bike past around lunch or dinnertime, we can smell the delicious aroma of grilling meat! I don’t think there’s a better way to draw in hungry customers.
So there you go! If you’re a meat lover, you should definitely look up a yakiniku restaurant when you come to Japan.