Samuel Faggetti, the executive chef at Four Seasons Orlando, recently returned from Japan, where he ate his weight in ramen, sushi, and seriously good beef. Here, he shares his standout favorite meals.
1. Matsusaka beef
Gyugin restaurant in Matsusaka serves traditional sukiyaki dinners. Everyone sits on pillows on the floor. The chef cooks the Matsusaka beef on a little butane burner next to where you’re sitting. It’s seared on pretty high heat and sprinkled with sugar and soy sauce, which makes it extra sweet. Then the chef gives you a bowl with an egg in it and you whisk the egg. The chef takes the seared beef and serves it in the bowl with the whipped egg, and you eat the beef out of the egg, which is an interesting experience. The chef cooks some vegetables in the same pan, so the beef drippings give them that nice extra flavor. Finally, the chef places the vegetables in the egg that’s left from the beef. This is not an everyday sort of dinner; it’s intended for a celebratory meal.
Gyugin, 1618 Uomachi, Matsusaka, +81-0598-21-0404
Ramen in Japan is enjoyed as a late-night snack after having some drinks. I went to Bungo in Tsu City at 2 a.m. It’s a little spot and there was a man and a woman behind the counter. They asked me if I wanted a miso or soy base for my ramen—those are your only two options. The ramen was absolutely amazing. It was made from sliced pork, corn, and fantastic broth. The man just fired up the wok, sauteed the vegetables, and there it was.
Bungo, 30-13 Daimon Tsu Mie, Tsu City, +81-59-225-6084
I had an incredible sushi lunch at Kimiya, also in Matsusaka. One of the most interesting courses was the ice fish. They are a clear fish and really skinny, roughly the size of a toothpick. Their season is spring, and they are served raw with a little ginger and scallion on top. They don’t have an intense seafood flavor at all but do have a really clean, nice texture. The tempura course was amazing, served with broccoli rabe, onion, and shrimp with their heads on—you just eat the heads. I also enjoyed a baked egg custard with seafood and dashi. The meal finished with yuzu sorbet.
Kimiya, 453-4 Takamachi, Matsusaka, +81 598-51-7200
At the Kurouzunesuto (Crow’s Nest) in Tsu City the bartender is also the cook. Even more than that, he fishes for the seafood that he cooks in the restaurant. In fact, he does everything. He caught little snails in the bay in Tsu City and served them with mizuna greens, lemon juice, and olive oil. They had sort of an offal taste to them. He also had a massive selection of sochu, which he served on the rocks or with a grapefruit sparkling soda.
10-7 Daimon Tsu Mie, Tsu City, +81-59-228-3205
For a different take on Japan, follow along with Tom Downey as he seeks out unusual forms of modern day Japanese perfection.
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