When talking about game meats, reactions generally fall into two categories which resemble that of a love-hate relationship, people either rave or cringe at the idea of game meats. While some may draw the line at beef or lamb, others are wonderfully appreciative of relatively exotic meats such as venison, rabbit, and squab to name a few. These meats are rich, earthy and very flavorsome.
Izu is an area southwest of Tokyo and offers stellar views of majestic Mt Fuji all year round. In this area, game or GBA meat, as it’s known in Japan is a common feature on restaurant menus. Situated right in the middle of the Izu Peninsula is the traditional Japanese restaurant, Izu no Satarou (伊豆の佐太郎) which specialize in deer (shika 鹿) and wild boar (inoshishi 猪). The restaurant looks like a big wooden hut built in olden day Japan and has both standard seating as well as tatami style seats. The raw wooden furniture, including the impressive wooden table in the middle is a perfect display of understated beauty.
The sets (or teishoku 定食) include a deer and spring onion stir-fry, deer or wild boar tempura, or the wild boar hotpot which comes with rice, pickled vegetables, and soup. Other options with soba or udon are also available.
We got the deer stir-fry and tempura sets from the genial host lady who greeted us warmly. There is really no way to fault the Japanese when it comes to ‘omotenashi’ hospitality!
The venison was lean yet tender, with a subtle hint of gaminess. Deer meat obtained in Japan has been known to taste different to that of deer meat from other countries like France, but it’s tasty nonetheless!
The stir-fry gave a slight char to the meat, and its juices brought even more flavor to the chives and spring onions. The deer tempura was also surprisingly good, its crisp breading marrying well with the curry powder and mayonnaise dips.
Game meats may be an acquired taste of sorts but they definitely open people up to a world of flavors to the otherwise mundane lives of our palates. Are you ‘game’ enough to give it a shot?