Tuesday 25 December 2012

Sukiyaki Sankosha (すき焼き三光舎)

When you go on a tour with Follow Me Japan, a disclaimer they make on the first day is that people who travel with them tend to put on weight, with a guesstimated average of 2 kg per person. This was met with slightly nervous but mostly incredulous laughter from first timers like us, but after a few days on the road, we soon learned that they were utterly serious about the weight gain. 

The raw egg is beaten, and used as a dip for the beef

On this particular day, after spending a rather chilly morning exploring Asahikawa Zoo, and cooing over the Penguin march and the Seal feeding, I was inspired to make like a bear and hibernate when we got back to the bus. Next thing I knew, I was being woken up and it was already time for lunch. They'd brought us for Sukiyaki (Beef hotpot, cooked in a sweet soy broth) at a restaurant in Asahikawa that has been around for almost a century. 

Beef, with tofu, leek, bamboo shoots, konjac noodles, burdock root and onions

The Asahikawa branch is but one of their outlets, but as a whole Sankosha was founded in 1917. The Asahikawa restaurant is a two storied building on a street corner that very cozily seats 72. Most of the other families were shown to the more traditional parlour rooms where you kneel or sit on cushions on tatami flooring, but M requested normal tables and chairs for her knees. 

D & I had the hot sake, because why not?

Someone mentioned that the owner of the restaurant used to be a butcher, which is why they're so good at selecting top quality Japanese beef to serve. I haven't been able to corroborate this because Japanese to English translation services still remain laughably inaccurate and I keep getting bunches of gibberish. All I know is that the beef we had was really excellent.

Everything was nicely arranged for us in the pot and simmered at the table

Sukiyaki is traditionally a winter dish, and dashing in from the cold to a bubbling pot of fatty but non-greasy, and thinly cut but otherwise massive slices of beef really enhances the whole dining experience. D swears that everything tastes better in Winter, and I completely agree, which was probably why by this day on the trip I was having difficulty doing up the button on my jeans. 

The bowls were so gorgeous
Part of the fun of Japanese hot pot is cooking the beef exactly right for your own tastes in the pot you all sit around. M boils hers to death, while I like leaving a bit of pinkness in mine. The restaurant boasts an 'authentic taste', which apparently explains the inclusion of crunchy slivers of burdock root in the pot. The broth was rich and not too sweet, so we only asked for a top up of clear soup just once when the soup levels dipped perilously low. 

Just four slices of beef on a plate nearly the size of the pot - those were huge pieces
Being rather greedy creatures, D & I ordered an extra plate of beef to share while M looked on at us in horror at the amount we were eating. The marbling on the extra plate of high end beef we got was so, so beautiful though. D and I very nearly swooned when we saw it. 

Asahikawa City, 5 Jyo, 9 Chome, Hokkaido 

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