Does anyone else remember the mentions of “cold tinned tongue” from the picnic descriptions in Enid Blyton’s school stories or Famous Five books? As a child, that particular picnic food always gave me pause. Everything else sounded so delicious (peaches in syrup! lemonade! CAKE.) and here was a yucky piece of some animal, not even a proper slice of meat, eaten cold and out of a CAN. Ick.
Suffice to say that my introduction to the idea of tongue meat was not the most pleasant one. And I’m also a bit squiffy about organ meats in general. As such, when we first blundered into 仙台辺見 in Shibuya’s Gourmet Town on our last trip, James and I were slightly alarmed to realise it was a restaurant that only served beef tongue. But since we had a pact to try everything at least once, we sat down, ordered grilled beef tongue, and ate it. Spoiler alert: it was neither tinned nor cold. In fact, we liked it so much that we went back again two years after our first visit.
I suspect that in the time that’s passed since we first ate here, the restaurant has been caught off-guard by tourists wandering in not expecting to eat beef tongue. I say this because on this visit, the first thing the waiter said to us – and the only thing he said in English – was: “We only serve ox tongue.” (There was no such warning on our previous visit.) He seemed most relieved when we smiled and nodded our assent.
If you like beef, you’ll really enjoy the grilled beef tongue they serve here. It’s a very simple dish that packs a punch.
I’ve had tongue at yakiniku restaurants at home, where it tended towards rubbery blandness. Not so here: the lightly-charred meat has a texture that’s chewy in a very pleasant way, and the flavour is meaty and hearty.
仙台辺見 is a chain restaurant with a whole bunch of outlets around the country. I should qualify here that chain restaurants in Japan aren’t in the least like chain restaurants in other parts of the world. For e.g. in Singapore, a chain restaurant is typically one whose primary distinction is that it manages to serve up food of predictably consistent quality most of the time. Here, it seems to indicate that the restauranteur is so skilled that he’s managed to open multiple outlets just to sell the same thing.