Tokyo pork restaurants
Succulent, safe pork
Kumi Matsumaru / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Demand for pork has been rising in recent years, partly because mad cow
disease and bird flu have put people off beef and poultry. The growing
demand has even triggered its own controversy in which imported pork was
fraudulently marketed as "produce of Kagoshima Prefecture."
Among the pork products enjoying popularity is so-called SPF pork--pork
free from five specific pathogens.
Thanks to the minimal use of antibiotics in the pigs used to produce SPF
pork, this meat is said to be less odoriferous and retain water better
than other pork, keeping it from going hard when cold.
Among the specialties at Japanese restaurant Yuan in Shinjuku, Tokyo,
are two kinds of nabe stews using SPF pork. Makoto Abe, an official at
Niki Resort Inc., the restaurant's owner, said the menus used to be
available only during winter, but are now available all year round
thanks to high demand from customers.
"The shabu-shabu nabe with SPF pork and the tonyu nabe, in which the
pork is cooked in hot soya milk, both go well with our other dishes,
including those based on vegetables grown without pesticides," Abe said.
"Since SPF pork contains a lot of water, the meat is tender and juicy."
The two kinds of nabe dish are priced at 1,470 yen each during dinner time.
Shasuisen, on the sixth floor of the Isetan Kaikan building in Shinjuku,
also offers a set menu of shabu-shabu dinner with both SPF pork and
Australian beef at 2,600 yen. It also has a 4,000 yen course menu that
includes the two different kinds of meat along with extra side dishes.
The restaurant, which also is known for its various plates using jidori
(free-range chicken) from Miyazaki, touts itself as a place to enjoy
safe and tasty dishes. It uses pork under the brand name Hayashibuta,
but this meat is basically the same as SPF pork.
I had SPF pork shabu-shabu at Shasuisen, and found the meat was very
tender and formed much less aku--the scum that collects on the surface
when pork is boiled in a pot.
According to the Japan SPF Swine Association, only farmers who have
passed the association's strict screening test are certified as SPF pig
breeders as the pigs need to be bred in pigpens that are as hygienic as
Because of the strict conditions for raising SPF pigs and
distribution-related difficulties, Yoji Akaike, chairman of the
185-member association, said the market share of SPF pork in Japan was
only about 8 percent. "But you will find the meat is really soft and
tasty," he said.
Akaike said he personally liked to eat SPF pork back ribs as shabu-shabu.
"I also recommend grilling SPF pork loin and eating it just with salt
and pepper," he said.
One restaurant specializing in SPF pork dishes is Inokoya in Roppongi,
Sourcing its meat from two certified SPF pork producers in Hokkaido, the
restaurant offers various SPF pork menus, ranging from reishabu
salad--salad with boiled and chilled SPF pork--to such innovative dishes
as SPF pork jerky served with cream cheese dip.
"My recommendation is kakuni [stewed square-cut pork belly], which melts
in your mouth as soon as you bite into it," Inokoya chef Masaru Hayashi
said. "Or butabara aburi sushi [sushi topped with roasted pork rib],
which is great with rock salt."
Both dishes are priced at 1,000 yen. Lunch menus at Inokoya start at
about 1,000 yen. For dinner, Hayashi says about 5,000 yen is enough for
a meal and a few drinks.
For those who want to try a bit of the meat before going for a full
dinner, Shabutsu may be the place to go as it serves a lunch set menu
with the pork, which it calls "mukinbuta"--literally, germ-free pork.
The name is believed to have been coined after some media wrongly
reported that the pork was totally germ free.
For 890 yen, 11 slices of mukinbuta are served shabu-shabu style with
rice, miso soup, vegetables and pickles at the basement restaurant in
Ginza, Tokyo. If you are very hungry, you can order an additional
helping of the pork for 350 yen, although I was perfectly satisfied with
the set menu.
Japan SPF Swine Association
(Jan. 7, 2006)