Kushinobo 串の坊 (Tokyo)

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Address: 3-15-17 Shinjuku (in the Isetan Kaikan building 8th floor)
Website: www.kushinobo.com
Type of Meal: Lunch

When you think of fried Japanese food, tempura is likely the first thing that comes to mind. During my visit to Japan, my husband and I happened to stumble across Kushinobo and was introduced to kushikatsu or kushiage - in essence deep fried skewers. Originating from Osaka, a variety of ingredients is breaded in panko, skewered and then deep fried for bit-sized morsels of goodness.

Numerous sauces are available including ketchup, mustard, kushiage sauce (a sweet Worcestershire blend), salt, lemon juice, sesame sauce and ponzu (a citrusy soy sauce). All the condiments sit on the table so you’re able to add as little or much as you want. Luckily for us, the waitress at Kushinobo came by and pointed to each space on the dish to tell us what sauce goes where. The finished product is below and can be copied as a cheat sheet.

We settled on their lunch special (¥1,575) offering eight skewers with an appetizer (in this case a small dish of very fishy sardines that I couldn’t stomach), a pot of raw veggies and a choice of grains:
  • Steamed rice and miso;
  • Hot tea over rice with salted sea kelp and pickles; and
  • Rice and raw egg and pickles.

Wanting to try something different but not desiring raw egg, I went with the hot tea over rice. Dishes of salted sea kelp, puffed grains and sesame seeds were brought over to allow me to top the rice. A small kettle of tea accompanied it and when mixed with the condiments turned it into a hot savoury soup. With a few scoops of pickled vegetables (inside jars on the table) the rice mixture was quite hearty and delicious. In fact, I wouldn’t have mind having a larger bowl of rice and tea with some grilled chicken.

Our first set of skewers consisted of a shiitake mushroom topped with tartar sauce (unexpectedly delicious as I wouldn’t think mushroom and tartar combines well), pumpkin (decent but nothing exciting) and cubes of pork with scallions in between (the scallions allowed the pork to retain its juiciness but the meat was rather bland).  

The seafood skewers were more up my alley. My favourite of the meal was the squid wrapped around a basil leaf which was tender and had just a bit of freshness to it. Beside it the fish paste smeared on green pepper was also a nice combination.

It wouldn’t be a meal without a fried shrimp which was fresh and decent but not nearly as sweet as all the other shrimp I had up to this point in Japan.

To end, a kabob of chicken cubes with celery (I liked it) and a root jelly with a sweet bean paste. The second picture is the inside of the jelly; I have no idea what exactly it is but remembered it also being in the hearty bowl of kenchin udon from Kamakura Gozan Bekkan. If someone knows what this is called please email me or post in the comments below. Really it doesn’t taste like much but a thick gelatin and hint of taro?

In general, kushiage seems less oily then tempura but is a bit harder on account of the panko coating. The plethora of sauces is nice as it offers a lot of choice but does tend to overpower the ingredients themselves. Thus, I found the ones that have a herb accompanying it were more appetizing. However, kushiage does lend itself to snack on with some drinks. So, perhaps it wasn’t the best choice for lunch but accompanying a beer or cocktail would be perfect.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!