I’m not exaggerating – out of all the delicious food Oana and I tried in Japan, gyutan is right up there with okonomiyaki. Gyutan aka ‘beef tongue’ is a Sendai delicacy and, while some Brits might be a bit put off by the idea, it is the most delicious and tender meat. The Japanese really do know how to prepare the best food.
Surprisingly, gyutan is not thick and rubbery as you might expect. Gyutan in Japan is tender and juicy and heavenly. We actually found a place in London after we returned to England that served it but, sadly, it was nowhere near as delicious as the one we found in a busy izakaya surrounded by fairly drunk businessmen.
Most places in Japan have picture menus, so we ordered copious amounts of food through the age-old method of communicating by pointing. We both ordered gyutan ‘meals’, which came with miso soup and mini-omelette, along with gyoza… then we ordered extra gyutan because we’d never tasted anything so delicious. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of the place we went to but it was one of three between our hotel (Toyoko Inn Sendai-eki Nishi-guchi Chuo) and the train station, so should be easy to find. Incidentally, Toyoko Inn is a very good chain of budget Japanese hotels if you are thinking about your next trip.
We didn’t have enough time to explore much of downtown Sendai, but our handy Sendai guide book informed us that the other food hotspot is Sunmall Ichinbancho, which serves everything from chanko (pot-based cuisine traditionally eaten by sumo wrestlers) to zukedon (a bowl of rice and fish, Sendai’s other main delicacy). Dateuma market is also in this area if you want to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables. The 700m-long Sendai Shopping Street Arcade and Ichibancho Yonchome are also good places to go for shopping and a tea/cake break.
My other food-based purchase in Sendai was actually a collection of Sengoku Basara soft drinks, which were OK at best. From left to right we had Sanada Yukimura (strawberry), Date Masamune (unidentified flavour) and Mitsunari Ishida (grape). Obviously I bought them for the novelty value and at 200 yen a can, it was totally worth it.