If there is good food to be had in Tokyo by day, there is at least as much, if not more, to be had at night. This is when Japanese street food comes out at its finest: yakitori, gyoza, oden, takoyaki, and all matter of grilled, seared, fried, and otherwise hot charred food. My theory is that it’s because it all goes supremely well with beer, sake, and shōchū.
Dan took us here at night and it was packed with young people enjoying good food. We were happy to wait outside cause the night was nice and the vibe was bustling.
Gogyo is part of the Tokyo frontier doing good new things with old foods. One of their signature innovations is kogashi shōyu ramen (焦がし醤油ラーメン), or ‘burned shōyu ramen’. The broth is a deep black-brown colour, and tastes like all the best parts of things basted in soy sauce and grilled over an open flame. Whenever it’s ordered high flames erupt back in the open kitchen, so you know the kitchen is up to some serious stuff.
Out came the bowls, tall and wide with high rims, , steaming and still lightly sputtering with a sheen of hot oil. You knew what the broth would taste like just by catching the trail of steam as it reached your place. You knew what it would be like but you had no idea how good it was. It tasted of charcoal, wood, intense umami, and ever so much of caramel, the real stuff, and the stuf scraped from the bottom of the pan. The noodles were satisfyingly chewy, slightly thicker than usual. Each of them demanded to be eaten together, heaped up in the spoon. They came with cold wheat tea – bitter, sweet and nutty, becoming almost malty along with the broth. We drank that along with our Sapporo and our Asahi Super-Dry.
You exit Shinjuku station and find your way abruptly into a series of narrow arcades, lengths of coloured awnings and lamps and the sounds of drinks and sizzling grills. One of these is Sasamoto and this is where you want to be. There is the bar with the magic, maybe six seats, and the street then. Dark wood paneling, odd bits of poster plastered and not much else.
I’ve had yakitori but I haven’t had it like this. Probably the only resemblance to prior experience is that there’s meat and it’s on a stick. Well, sometimes. There is no posted menu, no slats of wood to say what they have. And even if they did it wouldn’t do me much good cause I don’t even hear most of what Dan conveys they say they have which is all fine by me because we will eat everything and it will be eaten well.
They start us off with house drinks. I still don’t even really know what they make them with; all I know is that they come in three flavours: yuzu, plum, and grape. We have them all. They are compact and taste strongly of their fruit which means they’re also really strong probably. That’s fine.
Intestine. Chewy and soft. Unnamed animal. That’s fine.
One of the cooks remembers John from ‘last time’. Dan had brought him here last spring, when we were touring through. That’s a good sign.
Raw liver. Yes.
Fatty, hot beef (はらみ). Wikipedia tells me it’s a tender cut from around the diaphragm.
Raw beef with salt (はらみさし).
Uterus with miso (ゆぶくろ). More of this.
3rd stomach (せまこ, or something like that, I didn’t really catch it).
Tongue root (タン元).
Onions wrapped in bacon. So savoury and crunchy. Gimme dat char.
Spring peas with bacon and pepper (えんど). Sweet, fresh, savoury, spicy.
Pork testicles (ほうでん). Clean, floral. Almost like soap.
Chirehizō (チレひぞう), which I’m told is some sort of ‘rare cut of new liver’. That’s fine.
Their famous ‘onion soup’ (ねぎスープ): charred onions with broth and drippings from the grill. Unlikely and great.
Oh and a treat from the guys, pork brain (ブレニコ something?). Absolutely delectable. Like warm cream cheese.
Mmm. That’s all fine. Off to golden gai.