It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of eating horse and in particular basashi or horsemeat sashimi.
For many years I have yearned to visit Kumamoto and dine on the fine equine delicacies of the area but my schedule has never allowed. Luckily I have stumbled across Bashunro, a specialist horsemeat restaurant that flies fresh horsemeat from the stables of Kumamoto on a daily basis.
For those of you wanting to know, horse meat is a little more gamy than beef but not as strong as wild-run venison. In Japan horses are specially bred for meat generally in small farms just like high-end wagyu. If you are REALLY curious, pony up for a plane ticket and giddy up to the nearest on-trend Izakaya.
Bashunro is in an upscale area of Osaka where private bars charge $500 a head just to get a seat.
Walking down the dark alleyway a two story backlit image of a stallion leaves no pretence of what lies inside.
I push aside the noren over the doorway happily humming the Mr Ed theme song… “A horse is a horse, is a maincourse of course…”
First course (of course) was a plate of Basashi. The platter included Futa-ego (belly), Toro (fatty belly), Tategami (mane), Jo bara (top belly) and harami (point end brisket). The white somewhat chewy parts of the mane were a challenging and fascinating texture. Although not as intensely marbled as the horsemeat I have tried from Nagano the flavour was delicious.
I love the poster we were given to show which cuts of horse we were eating. This is now my screensaver.
Next up was a steak tartar of the equine variety sliced skilfully with the chef’s yanagiba. A simple dish lightly seasoned with shoyu.
On the counter a thick stone was slowly heated for our Yakiniku course. The stone was seasoned with fatty mane, thin slices of horse shoulder “kurashita” and vegetables grilled at the table. The dipping sauce was a seasoned ira-zake (sake), very different but worked well.
Last course was hari hari nabe.
Hari hari nabe is a traditional spicy Kansai style nabe (hot-pot) served with Minke whale. It has been adapted in recent times to include horsemeat instead of whale but almost always includes maitake mushrooms and crunchy mizuna lettuce. We finished the nabe with a firmer style udon from Akita prefecture.
There was no tongue, heart, intestine or liver on the tasting menu but I guess you can’t always have everything you want.