All Parts of the Cow (On the Grill)
Tsugie in Osaka
Waste not, want not could be the unofficial motto of Osaka’s Horumonyaki culture. Here, all of the parts of the cow that normally get discarded are the star of the meal. Offal has long been a sought-after dish in the city known as “the nation’s kitchen”—an Osaka chef named Kitazato Shigeo trademarked Horumonyaki as far back as 1940. At Tsugie, one of the great Horumonyaki joints in Osaka’s Tenma district, we wanted for nothing. Along with our friend and guide Yuko Suzuki, we sampled everything from your standard flank steak and short ribs to cheek, raw heart, and grilled tongue—and a number of the cow’s different stomachs, all of which have a distinct and identifiable flavor.
Tsugie’s bar is structured around a charcoal grill, the centerpiece of the tiny restaurant. Working the grill was Tsugie’s owner, Takeshi Yamakawa, who looked like he could be one of the patrons, having the time of his life even as he had his hands full pouring drinks and cooking three plates at once. There are no seats in the place—you’re served standing up, a tradition called tachinomi (literally, simply: “drinking while standing”) whose increasing popularity in Japan is emblematic of a larger cultural shift away from formal dining. Chefs like Takeshi are at the vanguard of this shift, serving up bigger flavors for cheaper prices in a more casual setting.
At the bar, we made sure to keep to the literal meaning of tachinomi, washing down our meal with biru and sake. “In Kyoto, they’d throw this stuff away,” Yuko told us as dish after dish arrived. At Tsugie, they take it and dress it up with sesame oil and yuzu and ginger soy sauce and chili paste. Then, it’s served piping hot to the clusters of Japanese businessmen and women who head straight here after work—a testament to Tsugie’s ability to create a symphony with the most traditionally reviled parts of an animal. The end result: something so delicious you can hardly believe it was once part of a cow’s stomach.