Big-Game Hunting in Tokyo

If you don't have time to join the hunt but you're still in the mood for something more exotic than chicken or beef for dinner, you can book yourself a table at one of the small but growing number of Tokyo restaurants that serve game meats and game birds.

You can find delectable preparations of venison, rabbit, and inoshishi (boar), along with wild birds like quail, wild duck, pheasant and guinea fowl. Note that prices tend to run a bit higher than they would with more everyday ingredients. Here are a few of our favorites.

(Note: the seasonal game items mentioned below are typically available in late fall and winter; call ahead for current menu details.)

A Ta Gueule (Ebisu French) - 03-3449-8757

UPDATE: A Ta Gueule has moved to Kiba. (03-5809-9799)

The chef here is a veteran of a two-star restaurant in Brussels, and he is a master of the game meats - there are always at least a few choices (rabbit, quail, plus a daily special), with more extensive offerings in fall and winter. When we visited in late November there were fresh Japanese quail and pheasant hanging outside, but they weren't quite ready so we settled for some beautifully prepared French pheasant along with an amazing rabbit terrine with foie gras.

Currently the menu also features Eurasian woodcock; Scottish ptarmigan; French mallard; French red quail and Hokkaido venison. They promise to have fresh caribou sometime after Christmas.

Drinks include two dozen reasonably priced French wines (Y5,600-Y13,000) and three Belgian beers. Budget around Y10,000-16,000 at dinnertime, Y3,000-5,000 for lunch. [data]

Brasserie Manoir (Ebisu French) - 03-3446-8288
The decor here captures the feeling of the French countryside, with mirrors everywhere, wood panels, and ducks and a deer head mounted on the walls. The restaurant is connected with Hazel Grouse Manor in eastern Hokkaido, which supplies them with fresh vegetables, seafood and wild game.

You'll find grouse, wild duck and other game from October through January, and Ezo venison year-round. The venison steak with mushrooms and red wine sauce is a standout, and the wild duck was a revelation - pleasantly gamey in flavor and far less fatty than expected. Recommended starters include the four-meat terrine and the foie gras pate with fig.

Wines are from Bordeaux, Burgundy, California and Chile - more than sixty wines in total, at all price ranges. Around Y8,000-10,000 for dinner with drinks. [data]

Zum Einhorn (Kamiyacho German) - 03-5563-9240
This excellent little German restaurant offers an extensive game menu every winter (until early March), with six different mains. All of them are good, but our favorites were the fantastic rabbit in sweet prune sauce with black pepper; the richly flavored Baden Baden-style venison steak with apple and potato; and another venison dish, this one served with tasty spaetzle noodles and red cabbage.

Other mains are pheasant, guinea fowl and quail; prices range from Y3000-4600. For drinks you can choose from several nice German beers and a handful of German and French wines. Around Y8,000-10,000 per person for dinner and drinks. [data]

La Chasse (Roppongi 1-chome French) - 03-3505-6144
The two tiny dining rooms are rustic and cave-like, the stucco walls decorated with animal pelts and a boar's head. The name means "the hunt", and the specialty is seasonal game (pheasant, boar, deer), much of it bagged by the chef himself.

The assorted game platter is a good introduction to the menu; there's also fabulous foie gras, hearty provincial dishes like cassoulet, and fantastic desserts. The wine list includes reasonably priced (Y6000-9000) wines from southwestern France, along with a strong Bordeaux selection. Around Y15,000-20,000 per person for dinner and drinks. No English. [data]

Gibier (Ebisu izakaya) - CLOSED
Named after the French word for 'game', Gibier is a chic, dimly lit, intimate little bar with a big charcoal brazier behind the counter. The game section of the menu includes venison sashimi, deep-fried rabbit, duck tsukune (meatballs), grilled duck, boar grilled with herbs, and roast pigeon. (There's also good free-range chicken, Berkshire pork and other upscale izakaya fare.)

The duck tsukune is highly recommended, and our rabbit was also tasty although a bit on the salty side. Our boar, on the other hand, was tough and chewy, overpowered by a strong sauce. The sake list is first-rate, with several monthly specials; there are also many exotic teas. Around Y4000-6000 for drinks and food. [They also have a branch in Naka-Meguro.] [data]

Allt Gott (Kichijoji Swedish) 0422-21-2338
You'll find the best reindeer steak in town at this excellent Swedish restaurant in far-off Kichijoji, available all year round except Christmastime. [data]

Momonja (Ryogoku Japanese) - 03-3631-5596
They've been serving wild boar for 280 years now, and their signature boar stew is Y4000 a pot. Other dishes include venison stew and venison sashimi. Sometimes they have bear in the winter, but usually they don't. [data]

Tetsugen Nikusho (Omotesando izakaya) - 03-5774-4533
The large menu features unusual meats like rabbit, boar, deer, horse and frog as well as more common ones. You'll find a nice sake selection and over fifty kinds of shochu. Budget around Y5500. [data]

Okariba (Kyoto izakaya) - 075-751-7790
OK, so it's way off in Kyoto, but we found some of the best boar meat we've ever eaten at this rustic little izakaya, where the chef is also a hunter.

Three hefty skewers of barbecued boar are Y1400, the venison sashimi is tender, and there's good shochu and sake to wash it all down. He also serves bear meat in the wintertime, after mid-November. And it's only two and a half hours by Shinkansen. [data]

by Robb Satterwhite
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