Natto, which is also known as fermented soybeans, is a dish well-loved by the Japanese for its high nutritious value. Recently, we introduced a restaurant which served all-you-can-eat natto, and this time we’re back with another great natto dining experience!
Ibaraki prefecture has opened a local goods retail store and restaurant, named Ibaraki Marche, in Tokyo’s Ginza. Natto is widely used in many of the local dishes of Ibaraki, so one can expect Ibaraki Marche to serve the best tasting natto.
Ms. Rinko, a reporter over at our Japanese sister site Pouch, headed over to the restaurant to try out their natto lunch.
Natto Tonkatsu Set + Natto Bar
Our reporter ordered a “Ibaraki Specialty: Natto Tonkatsu Set” that costs 1,280 yen (USD13.8). Deep-fried pork cutlet with fermented soybeans may sound like a bizarre combination, but you can’t go wrong with the nation’s two favorite dishes put together, can you? So what exactly is it?
At first glance, the dish looked just like any other tonkatsu dish. But upon closer inspection… tiny beans could be seen in-between the cuts. That’s right! It’s not any other tonkatsu; it’s natto-filled tonkatsu! The juiciness of the cutlet, made from Ibaraki’s premium local “Rose Pork”, together with the umami of the natto, created a divine taste that was hard to resist. A bit of lemon squeezed in added just the right amount of extra flavor that married well with the tonkatsu and natto blend. Heavenly!
Oh yes, and before we forget, the lunch set also came with a “Salad Bar” as well as a “Natto Bar”.
“Natto Bar”? Just hearing the name got our natto lover reporter excited. Ms. Rinko resisted the temptations to start feasting on the tonkatsu right away and headed to the natto bar to take a look…
There were two kinds of natto – the normal-sized ones and the smaller ones, which are also known as “Hikiwari natto”- and five types of special sauces – western ohba sauce, parmigiano, miso garlic, ume and Japanese sesame sauce! The usual soy sauce and mustard, as well as olive oil were also available.
And of course, our reporter tried all the possible combinations. Yes, 16 bowls of natto! They were all equally good, but the most interesting one was parmigiano which made the natto taste almost western.
Natto Commuter Pass
Here comes the most important bit, which is also the reason why our reporter visited in the first place. The restaurant has released a “Natto Commuter Pass” on the 16th of this month, which is a concession ticket that gives its holder access to free flow of premium natto!
The pass is sold at a affordable price of 1,000 yen (US$11) per month. Sales end on 28 Feb., or when all 710 tickets have sold out, whichever comes first.
Five types of natto, all of which are premium natto that originates from Ibaraki, had been chosen from the list of natto products sold in the select shop to be on the commuter pass menu.
Unfortunately, our reporter’s stomach could only handle three more servings of natto after the super-satisfying natto tonkatsu lunch set.
According to the shop staff, shoboro natto-zuke (first on the left) contains picked radish and hence does not require extra flavoring. Next up was Ms. Rinko’s personal favorite – kurohouc (center)! The staff recommended adding olive oil to the black beans, which gave the natto a very smooth texture. Last but not least, ganko ittetsu (first on the right) is natto that is fermented under strict weather and humidity considerations. Its smell is mild compared to the usual natto, so for those who are new to natto or dislike it, you may want to go with ganko ittetsu.
No matter whether you love or hate natto, it’s definitely worth stopping by during your next trip to Tokyo. Even if it turns out that the commuter pass is no longer available at the time of your visit, you can still get your hands on some of the Japan’s best natto in the select shop.
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-2-1
Opening Hours: 10:30~20:00 (select shop), 11:00~23:00 (restaurant)
Tel: +8103-5524-0818 (select shop), +8103-5524-0827 (restaurant)
[ Read in Japanese ]