If you asked people in Japan, what do they know about Sendai, a lot would probably answer the “Gyu tongue.” Gyu tongue (beef tongue) is Sendai’s local delicacy and has an 80 years old history. Even if it is a very famous local delicacy, it is not frequently consumed by locals. Japanese people usually expect to pay for lunch less than 1000 yen. In fact, you can find cheap yummy lunch options that cost less than 500 yen. Beef tongue is 'luxury priced', often ranging between 1500 to 2000 yen, and so does not appeal to Sendai locals. However, it is definitely recommended by locals to the visitors of Sendai. A Sendai beef tongue lunch usually refers to the beef tongue set meal, which comes with barley rice, grated yum potato, beef tail soup, and spicy pickles. There is a choice of seasoning for the grilled beef tongue, and one can choose between salt or miso. Now there are franchised beef tongue restaurants- that first started in Sendai- in major cities around Japan. Even if you are not traveling to Sendai, you can taste the Sendai’s luxurious local delicacy.
The history of Sendai beef tongue started by the first owner of Ajitasuke, 80 years ago. Ajitasuke was originally a Yakitori (grilled chicken skewer) shop, and at the time: simple Yakitori restaurants could be found everywhere. Ajitasuke was trying to differentiate from other competitors by selling grilled beef tongue, which was a unique delicacy back then. It is said that the shape of the current Sendai beef tongue was established through repeated cooking methods, such as seasoning and cutting and that Ajitsasuke made it suit the local people's taste buds successfully.
Ajitasuke is the original restaurant where the whole Sendai beef tongue tradition started 80 years ago. They have managed to keep this recipe and taste secret since the opening of the first restaurant. There are five branch restaurants in Sendai, one in Tokyo and one in Hokkaido that inherited the taste of Ajitasuke; however, tasting the tongue in the original restaurant is highly recommended. The original shop is atmospheric, and you might somehow feel a melancholy.
Kisuke has a 45 years old history and has devoted local fans. Kisuke offers not only the beef tongue set menu but also unique Kisuke original beef tongue dishes. Some locals go to Kisuke for a drink along with beef tongue 'al a carte menu'. Kisuke has been successfully franchised around Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures, Osaka, and Nagoya. You can find Kisuke in the Sendai JR station, and there is always a long queue outside. It is only a 5-minute walk from the Sendai station to the closest Kisuke.
Waka is a beef tongue restaurant that has opened recently. The interior of the restaurant is modern and sophisticated, but the taste of the beef tongue served is impressively traditional. Waka has been more popular with young people.
So what is your impression about Japan's grilled beef tongue dish? For some cultures, it might sound strange; however, it is super delicious, juicy, and tender. If you are in Sendai, it is one of the must-eat local delicacies. And if you like it, you are lucky as you can find it in many places around Japan!
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