Grilled beef tongue isn’t exactly something that springs to mind when I’m thinking about what to eat, probably also because I’ve never had it before. However, after a trip to the One Piece Mugiwara store in Shibuya one evening, I decided to walk across the street on a quest to feed myself something for dinner.
The first signboard I saw was a lit signboard with delicious looking set meals on it beside a very narrow and steep stairway going underground. The wording was all in Japanese so I didn't know what exactly they were serving, but since I was feeling pretty adventurous that night I thought - why not?
Although it wasn't a very big restaurant, the space was utilized very well and decorated with warm lighting. It certainly isn't what you would expect from a restaurant located underground.
After being given an English menu, I came to realize this restaurant specializes in beef tongue. At Negishi, the focus is not only on taste but on health as well. Unlike the normal white rice that restaurants usually offer, here every set meal comes with mugu-meshi, which is rice and barley. It is richer in fibre and calcium than normal white rice, which helps in moderating cholesterol and blood sugar.
Another thing Negishi is known for is its tororo, which are Yamato Yams from Tako Town, Chiba Prefecture. They were nicknamed "medicine of the mountains" because they are rich in protein, vitamin B complex, vitamin C and minerals. The digestive enzyme found in the yam also promotes the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Its texture is a bit of a sticky, gooey mucin which doesn't exactly sound appetizing but it goes very well with the rice, I promise.
The star of the meal was of course the beef tongue. According to their website, "a serving of beef tongue grilled on a metal mesh has 1/3 the calories and 1/4 the fat of sirloin steak." There are 3 types, namely shirotan (thick slices of white beef tongue), negishi (thin slices of white beef tongue) and gankochan (thin slices of red beef tongue).
I had the double beef tongue set, which includes negishi and gankochan. They looked so good but tasted even better. The texture was just the right amount of chewy and the flavor was meaty and perfect. The set came also came with Negishi's special oxtail soup and everything just went very well together.
Other than beef tongue, Negishi also serves grilled beef kalbi (Korean style marinated beef), pork loin and spicy pork. The big eaters out there will be happy to know that every set comes with free refills of mugi-meshi!
There are currently 34 Negishi restaurants in Tokyo so you just have to visit the website to find one near where you are. The one I went to was the Koen-dori restaurant, which is in front of Shibuya Parco.