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Ginza 1st Building, B1
1-5-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Hours: Mon-Fri, 5:30pm to 2am; Sat, 5pm-2am; Sun/Holidays, 4:30pm-11pm
With eight locations in Tokyo, and six locations in their homebase of the Kansai region, Kuruma has established itself as a leading group of restaurants under the umbrella of a company called Idea Co. Ltd. This conglomerate also operates another chicken-speciality chain called Torikagura, as well as a pair of teppanyaki restaurants called Midou and Kanrou, as well as a kushi-katsu restaurant called Dankeh. Kuruma is all about serving the very best Miyazaki Jitokko (commonly shortened to Jidori). Broken down, Miyazaki is a region on the southern island of Kyushu (which likes to call itself one of the “four season food baskets” of Japan), and Jitokko refers to an indigenous breed of free range chicken found in both Miyazaki and nearby Kogoshima. It is recognized that through agricultural research and cross-breeding experiments (involving Jitokko, White Plymouth Rock, and Kyushu Road breeds) beginning in about 1965 resulted in the discovery of what is known in present-day as Miyazaki Jidori (officially branded as such in 2004).
Sourcing from Miyazaki Jidori producers on a direct contract basis, Kuruma is able to bring the highest quality and absolutely freshest product to their outlets (apparently, gate-to-plate in under 24 hours). For comparison, consider that Miyazaki Jidori is raised over 180 days, whereas regular supermarket chicken is speed-raised in just 90-120 days. The resulting difference is improved taste, quality, texture, fat, lack of gamey smell, all without the use of growth hormones. Though this does make raising Miyazaki Jidori a very difficult proposition, and thus this premium brand is carefully protected both by farmers and their related industry associations. Sort of like the way Miyazaki Beef is as well. If you’ve ever had this premium beef, you’ll be even more amazed at what this prefecture does with chicken, and quickly understand why it can hold its own as a specialty restaurant serving only this product.
The menu at Kuruma offers diners a choice of set course options, a la carte, side dishes, and seasonal items that change every month. I find though that the a la carte menu gives you the best variety as one would expect, and if you happen to be with a group of friends, makes for more sharing and sampling of more items across the board. I would recommend that you definitely try one of their most popular dishes, the Jidori Momo Sumibiyaki (charbroiled thigh meat). It comes served on a hot plate along with some grilled green peppers and crisp cabbage leaves. Since the meat is still sizzling and spewing juices all over, the server kindly brings it to your table with a nice hard paper covering all sides and instructs you to wait til the heat dies down a bit on the hotplate.
The rich color and texture of this thigh meat is simply amazing, with just enough “bite” and meatiness but still soft enough to almost seem to melt in your mouth while chewing. Each bite seems to bring out more and more flavor and the overall charcoal scent is something to experience (Kuruma boasts about using three different kinds of charcoal in their grills). The dish (980 yen) is not large but one sample will have you asking for more.
Using the thigh meat again, the Jidori Tataki (800 yen), is lightly seared over charcoal once again and then finely sliced, topped with a huge mound of chopped green onions and ginger. A dipping sauce of daikon grated ponzu is served along side. The tartness of the dip and the refreshing ginger add a new component to the smokey flavored and softer meat that is not cooked fully through (hence the Tataki name).
Continuing with the raw theme, and I am sure some readers at this point will be open jawed with shock, but Kuruma also offers a Jidori Sashimi Moriawase (raw sliced chicken meat and organs) for 1,500 yen. It comes served just as a fish sashimi dish would, with sliced daikon, onions, and ground wasabi to flavor. I think you can get a sense of just how fresh this chicken meat is by the glistening appearance. I was a bit hesitant at first, but knowing I’ve eaten a lot stranger stuff around the world then this – its still domesticated fowl after all – but having a taste of it, I was struck by how meaty it still was despite being raw and a little bit sweet tasting too the more you chewed. The only way you could possibly be able to serve safe chicken sashimi is to source it absolutely fresh (what’s processed is eaten within 24 hours), which Kuruma does.
How can you go to a chicken-specialty place and not have yakitori? We didn’t and ordered up three varieties: momo (thigh), hatsu (heart) and negima (thigh and long onions). I prefer mine to always be just salted (no teriyaki please!), with a few exceptions at other yakitori-ya that I am fond of (one is famous for its spicy miso style) as I find that really allows you to judge the quality of the chicken meat/parts. Here, the taste was spot on, very juicy and flavorful, showcasing Miyazaki Jidori to its fullest.
Lastly, to get a more filling offering into our stomachs, we elected the Jidori Nabe (hotpot). The broth was outstanding, fresh vegetables and several cuts of chicken meat all cooked inside the liquid. A fine end to a great dinner at Kuruma, accompanied by once again way too many jugs of beer. My friend who happened to take the final receipt with him home called me the next day saying he didn’t think Kuruma had raised its prices that high as he was flabbergasted when he saw the bill, but then after careful review, realized just how much beer each of us had over the four hour gathering, which had contributed to the sticker shock. A phone call and meal, that I will definitely never forget!
P.S. I’ve been to their Shibuya location as well, but like the more upscale, and less boisterous scene at the Ginza outlet.