Monday, February 15, 2010
Friends and fellow-foodies, married couple Sanj and Cutie, told me and Matt about this place in Little Tokyo serving Sumo Stew called Chankonabe (thanks, Noel). Literally, it is stew served to sumo wrestlers in Japan which pretty much covers all the essentials in a person’s diet. Coupled with a sizeable amount of beer, this stew is what keeps these colossal athletes on top of their game.
Initially, the plan was for Sanj and Matt to play a few sets of squash before meeting Cutie, Cookie Goddess, and I for some Sumo Stew at Sekitori. Unfortunately, Matt had a toothache and was not feeling very “athletic”, so we decided to postpone our date. After feeling the initial hunger pangs signaling dinner, I decided a cancelled squash game should not stop us from having our fix of Sumo Stew. Therefore, Sanj, Cutie, Matt and I went ahead and met in Little Tokyo to have some sumo-sized soup.
After dumping our car on the first passable parking slot along Pasong Tamo, we proceeded to Sekitori which is right on the mouth of Little Tokyo’s entrance. Like other restaurants in this area, the ambience is very relaxed and almost artisanal. There is a small room with a glass window near the kitchen where a man is making udon (thick wheat-flour noodles) the traditional way. We are ushered towards the back of the resto where our friends were already sitting on a slightly elevated platform with some low tables.
Sanj already ordered our Sumo Stew and picked out the broth it will be cooked in. You can choose from three different flavors of broth: regular, miso and kimchi. We opted for the last one since Sanj and Cutie say it is their favorite among the three. We also had a few orders of sushi (uni and saba) and some Takoyaki made by this man from Osaka in a stall outside. The sushi was very fresh and the Takoyaki delicious, much better than the commercial ones you find in malls.
Our waitress then comes in with a hot pot and a mountain of ingredients for the stew. According to Sanj, this is actually a small portion compared to the actual stew that sumo wrestlers consume. And it was enough for the four of us to share! As I took pictures, I noticed the group of Japanese diners smiling in amusement at my dropped jaw (or they could just be smiling for the picture). The amount of vegetables, meat and seafood we were about to consume was truly an awesome sight for me.
The waitress proceeds to cooking the stew on our table as we finish off our starters and down some sake. She cooks the vegetables, meat and seafood first, and then when all of that is served, she then cooks the udon. Judging by the smell, I knew the broth was going to be a winner.
And it was. The kimchi flavor was not overpowering and too spicy. It was a perfect balance of flavors and strong aromas, backed up by a nice and pleasant kick. I happily slurped it up with the vegetables, seafood, and meatballs.
When we have been served the first portion of the stew, the waitress started cooking the udon. I love udon above all other Japanese noodles so I was very excited to try Sekitori’s “homemade” ones. Thankfully, the wait was not in vain as the thick, slippery noodles slithered into my mouth. There was a little bit of resistance as I bit into them, which is how really good udon should be- not too soft, and definitely not mushy. I ate way too many bowls of this.
This was a most enjoyable meal for me, surely something new and different. I promised Cookie Goddess that we shall return with her, and I am looking forward to it. We ended the night in true “Salaryman” style and had a few drinks at Bugsy’s, the new “neighborhood bar” at Salcedo Village. A few shots of Burn Bugsy Burn (for Cutie and I) and bottles of San Mig Light (for the boys) later, we were ready to call it a night. As I fell into my alcohol-induced coma, I was still thinking of that stew and those delicious strings of udon.
Pasong Tamo Ave.