Pork and beef are by far the most popular BBQ meats. Some people love the light and mild taste of pork and others enjoy the more intense, hearty flavor of beef. But there are people who would prefer a middle ground. If pork is white meat and beef is red, these people are searching for a mixture of the two--a pink meat.
Sambariki has come up with an answer for these middle-ground seekers: horsemeat. Located less than three minutes from Ikebukuro Station on foot, this all-horsemeat BBQ restaurant is an interesting find in the back streets of Ikebukuro. Assuming you don't get lost in the sometimes tricky maze, it’s very easy to spot the obvious green sign and fiery-haired horse logo.
I was lucky enough to attend the grand opening on Friday, June 14th, and the house was full of people. We had to wait around 15 minutes, though they served us beverages while our table was vacated by previous patrons and set for our group of 5. The restaurant contains a total of 40 seats, with the largest table fitting six people comfortably. Being the first day, it was crowded and the waiters and waitresses bustled from the tables to the kitchen and back. This made for an interesting scene, as you could tell that it was a busy restaurant but at the same time as a customer, you could sit back and relax.
To start our meal, we had basashi, or horse sashimi. The combo plate for 840 yen comes with five different cuts. Each cut is conveniently labeled with a tag that tells you what it is (in Japanese katakana--no English yet). Like fish sashimi, it was served with a lightly sweetened soy sauce. The texture varies vastly from chewy horse rib to very soft melting horse fillet. The taste isn’t anything new, but at the same time it is something I’ve never experienced. Horsemeat has the meatiness of beef and also the smooth saltiness of pork.
After the basashi, we had our main course of horsemeat BBQ. There is also a combo plate for this with five different parts and tags indicating the names. Our waiter explained how each part should be cooked and kindly grilled the first few pieces for us. The grilling time varies from part to part with the shortest only taking ten seconds and the longest five minutes. Besides basashi and BBQ, Sambariki also serves vegetables for BBQ and à la carte dishes, such as salad, fried horsemeat, and ramen, ranging from 480 to 680 yen. For drinks they have beer, whisky, makgeolli (a Korean spirit) and sours from 350 yen. You can also enjoy a small performance when ordering a veggie cocktail for 680 yen. The waiter or waitress will mix this with a hand-held blender to create a red, green, or yellow cocktail of your choice.