14 (Wed) April 2010
at Kinaru (WHERE)
-Bundang, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Korea-
with AUSOM colleagues
The izakaya is a Japanese-style pub/restaurant. Here in Korea, a given izakaya generally falls into one of two categories: the vast majority feature simplified menus with familiar mainstream Japanese appetizers and a few Korean dishes thrown in for good measure, serve both sake and soju, local beer and a token Asahi or Sapporo on tap; much rarer is the establishment that steers towards authenticity, featuring menus written in Japanese with bonafide izakaya items and Japanese drinks exclusively. The first, though by no means cheap, is comparable in price to a mid-tier Korean watering hole. The second, largely due to the cost of the booze, is extremely pricy.
I’ll opt for the second, to hell with the money, if it means I can get my hands on a plate of ankimo.
Ankimo is a Japanese dish. Pate made from monkfish liver, typically served with ponzu and topped with pickled radish. It’s a delicacy in Japan and a rarity here in Korea. My understanding, completely unverified through any legitimate source, is that fishermen catching monkfish in the East Sea would send the livers to Japan and the flesh to Korea, such were the respective preferences of the two countries in the past. Ankimo is now available in Korea, but only in certain Japanese restaurants and izakaya that cater to a discerning clientele.
I first discovered ankimo back in 1999, when I spent a month working at my uncle’s sushi-boat restaurant in San Diego, California; after hours, the sushi chefs (all Japanese) would gather at a tiny, unassuming izakaya in a suburban strip mall for “real” Japanese food – a sign on the door warned: “NO CALIFORNIA ROLLS.”