Hoofin' it in Oimachi: Jingisukan grilled lamb at Kitaichi Club

Hoofin' it in Oimachi: Jingisukan grilled lamb at Kitaichi Club

This cozy shop in Oimachi provides quality lamb at affordable prices. The Mongol hordes would be so proud
Nice pink cuts of 'namaramu' (raw lamb) sit upon cabbage and moyashi bean sprouts atop a jingisukan-style grill.

In the 13th century, kamikaze "divine winds" blew back a Mongol fleet dispatched by Kublai Kahn to invade Japan. In comparison, Genghis Khan's 20th century culinary invasions have been much more successful. Well, kind of. Jingisukan -- the great leader's namesake -- is Mongolian in name, but has managed to become firmly entrenched in modern Japanese cuisine.

Jingisukan features a pot of red-hot charcoal topped with a convex grill that is used to grill mutton or, more frequently (and more deliciously), 'namaramu' -- tender, unseasoned cuts of lamb. The style is associated mostly with Hokkaido, along with a few other prefectures in northern Japan, where they cook up jingisukan for hanami, New Year, the summer Bon festival and more. Really, any occasion for celebration is reason enough to break out the grill.

Kitaichi Club (Oimachi 1-1-10, Shinagawa-ku, tel. 03 3774 9789) is a small jingisukan restaurant in Oimachi, five minutes walk from the West Exit of JR Oimachi Station along the Oimachi Line tracks. Don't be shy if the half dozen counter seats look full: through the kitchen there is a stairway which leads to several tables in the basement. 

How to grill up some lamb

After you've ordered your beers, store your coats and baggage under the seats or in the protective hangars on the wall and tie your bibs -- things are about to get greasy! Namaramu sets are a bargain at ¥800 and include a plate of bean sprouts, cabbage and onions -- two sets for three people is probably enough for normal eaters. A plate of gluttonous 'tokujo' cuts of lamb is ¥880 but doesn't include the veggies.

Grease up the grill with the bit of fat provided, create a layer of vegetables, and once they've cooked a bit, drape the lamb over the vegetables, pushing them closer to the grill with your chopsticks when you want to cook them. Careful not to burn the meat -- the tender lamb is best enjoyed slightly rare.

Kimichi (¥350), edamame (¥350) and miso cabbage (¥300) are nice to munch on while you wait for the grill to be delivered to your table, and don't forget to accompany the meat with rice (small ¥100, medium ¥200, large ¥300). Kitaichi Club also offers motsu nabe (offal stew) -- ¥980 for beef motsu and ¥1,280 for the garlic-y and collagen-rich kasumotsu.

The restaurant provides the perfect closing note: When you leave, they give you a piece of Hokkaido milk candy, and if the wrapper is a winner, you get a free beer on your next visit.

Daniel Morales is a writer and translator living in Tokyo. He writes in English about Japanese at howtojaponese.com and in Japanese about English at howtoengrish.com. He also blogs for the Japan Times at Japan Pulse.
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