Thursday saw us go to Kita Fuku restaurant in Akasaka. Recently awarded its first Michelin star, it specialises in King Crab. It turned out to be an excellent birthday present from Mum and Dad, who clearly have exceptional taste in restaurants even when picking from the other side of the world!
Before dinner we had a quick explore of Akasaka, seeing its TV studio, complete with weather-girl doing her evening slot outdoors standing next someone in a pink cat costume (sorry no pics, security wouldn’t let us), and stopping off in Family Mart for some very benri (‘convenient’) socks. We arrived for our reservation at 7, the restaurant itself was a little hard to find considering that it’s on the 7th floor of an inauspicious building. However, the first two letters of its name are written in Hiragana on the sign (きた). Gabby would definitely recommend booking as she had to 3 weeks in advance and when we arrived at the restaurant we saw why: it only has three private rooms, which each serve only 1 group per evening.
Immediately when we arrived, we were greeted by our Kimono-wearing hostess for the evening, removed our shoes, and were shown into our typically Japanese decorated room with tatami mats and low table; the noisy street below and flashing lights were instantly forgotten. Once the door closed, everything that followed for the next 4 and half hours was a timeless crab-eating experience (except for the trip to the e-loo down the hall, Gabby’s digital camera and the state-of-the-art induction hot plate).
We ordered a glass of Yebisu and a bottle of water to get the evening started. We were soon glad to have had something go down to line the stomach before the amuse-bouche of sea urchin and seaweed, floating in a cold briny fluid. The orange sea urchin and slimy tadpole like seaweed combo was a bit of a gastronomic education but tonight, I was in it to win it. So everything went down the little red lane joyfully. Indeed, over the next 10 courses I think I may finally have shaken off the image of the fussy, cheek storing, ham, avocado and strawberry eating child for good….
Straight after came the rather more sedate wild asparagus and broad bean tempura with macha flavoured salt. Broad bean tempura is delicious and it was all polished off fairly quickly.
We were then served our pretty entrée on a wooden tray. Some of the explanation of what we were eating was lost in translation but this is what we could make out: Ika (‘squid’) sashimi with roe, wasabi flavoured something, chargrilled bamboo shoot, sweetfish nigiri, tofu with plant stem and japanese pepper.
Highlights were the yummy peel-yourself bamboo, the tongue numbing plant they used in the nigiri instead of wasabi and the gutted but otherwise whole small raw fish that went in face first; skull has an interesting texture!
Sensing that it was crab time soon, I asked our hostess, who had come in to prepare the shabu-shabu, what she recommended we drink with it. It was dry sake which she immediately went to fetch and she also brought with her twenty or so antique sake cups for us to choose from. After this she cleared away our trays and having had crab decorated plates placed in front of us, we were finally ready to meet our crab for the evening.
The 12 year old king crab from Hokkaido was not happy when he was brought in by our first crab chef and plonked onto a wooden chopping board next to a Big knife. It turned out he/she was about to have a very good reason to be miffed when halfway towards Gabby, Crab was pulled back and her/his Gabby-chasing legs were quickly lopped off, de-shelled and handed to us as sashimi on a stick.
There was no time for shock or compassion as I have never eaten something so fresh in all my life, though I was conscious that Crab was watching me eat its own leg as it was losing all its other limbs, crunch after crunch. But I couldn’t feel too shellfish as the crab was delicious, sweet and obviously more like lobster than normal crab. Still the size of handball, Crab was taken off to the kitchen to be boiled out of his/her misery and we were left with the momentous task of polishing off its four remaining limbs. Its claws were immersed in the shabu-shabu, whilst its other legs were either lain on the bbq, part steamed over the shabu-shabu, poached or par shabu-shabued. All were served in quick succession, depending on the specific cooking time, and had to be eaten instantly to stop it over cooking. Each variation highlighted a different texture or taste and the japanese lime and salt on the table for seasoning did the crab justice.
We’d almost finished all this meat before Crab returned, now pink, filling its whole little plate. Crab was dissected by another chef who offered us the best bits, the sweet and ‘totemo oishii’, for want of specific knowledge of crab anatomy, ‘bum’ of the crab. Unironically served with its tweensy heart, which had been halved and offered to us both. Yum scrum bum! Once the chef was done, and after a little Japanese conversation practice, we were given some alone time with the crab. On the verge of developing crab-sweats, we finished the crab. We were left with two overriding emotions: that it was a completely delicious feast and that we would not need to eat for a couple of days, as Crab could comfortable have fed 6!
We were therefore quite shocked when rice, miso soup, bonito sashimi with Chinese yam, a beef bowl, a mound of tiny fish, a mini radish (maybe daikon) and some aubergine was served next! Thankfully I’d had my 1 kilo ‘soba fail’ experience, quite literally under my belt, because I found room for all this wholly unexpected other meal, most of Gabby’s and 3 helpings of the perfectly cooked rice. 4 hours after the meal started, our hostess came to clear away our meal and let us know that the following course would be dessert. By this stage, I’d eaten so much that adding a little more to the aquarium that had become my stomach would only be a small stretch.
There was a surprise in store for dessert but thankfully it wasn’t culinary. The restaurant had iced “Happy Birthday” alongside my dessert. The “H” coming in the form of a crab with outstretched claws and feet. I wondered whether this might make the message spell “Crabby Birthday”, though a double consonant away from disaster, it would certainly have been a fitting summary!
Dessert itself was a very balanced ending to the meal. Cherries dipped in the thick sweet cornflower the Japanese love and jelly noodles with crunchy candied orange rind. Very refreshing and the perfect balance to all the raw seafood.
It had been a wonderful, delicious meal, but perhaps equally as importantly, it had been quintessentially Japanese and so much fun! As we wobbled out of the restaurant and down the lift back into bustling Akasaka, full and now feeling like a mobile fish cemetery, Gabby and I both thought that it was one of our most enjoyable meals ever, and, in our opinion, definitely worthy of a second star.
After dinner we went for a very slow stroll home…
Thank you so much Mum and Dad for such a subarashii (‘wonderful’) present!
Restaurant Website: http://www.kanikitafuku.com
Address: 7F, Kokusai Amano Bldg, 3-13-6 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Telephone Number: 03-3505-1323
Read more of our restaurant experiences in Japan: