PA 2

Recently, we dined on a gigantic, gooey, and glorious cheeseburger. We were glad we did, but honestly, in one sitting we consumed enough beef to last us a week.

So for our next meal out we decided to head for the opposite end of the dining spectrum in both ambiance and ingredients, and headed to a different part of Tokyo to try their pickled avocados with a flavor that’s been over 30 years in the making.

Whereas we got our giant burger in rowdy Shibuya, this time we visited the much more staid neighborhood of Koenji in the west part of Tokyo. Our destination was Kyu, a tiny restaurant that serves small plates of foods to go along with its large selection of alcoholic drinks.

PA 13

Inside we met the owner/chef, who also goes by the name Kyu. The friendly and laid-back proprietor alters her menu each day depending on what sort of quality ingredients she can get her hands on, but as we perused the list of offerings, we quickly settled on one item.

PA 8

Japan has a long-standing gastronomic love affair with pickles, but the ingredients used are usually indigenous to Japan, or at least Asia, such as daikon radish, eggplant, and cucumber. So when we saw Kyu had pickled avocados, we knew we had to try this Japanese take on the Mexican/Central American fruit.

PA 6

Kyu makes her pickled avocado in the nukatzuke style, which means the ingredients are buried in a bed of salted rice bran to ferment.

PA 5

The chef was even generous enough to show us how the dish is made, and it seems incredibly simple. Simply slice the avocado in half, remove the seed, and place it in the rice bran. Surprisingly, Kyu says she doesn’t bother removing the skin at this point. “I’ve tried making it a lot of different ways, but I got the best color and fullest flavor by leaving the skin on while it ferments,” she explained.

PA 7

After completing the above steps, all you need to do is let everything sit for about 24 hours, and your pickles will be ready to eat.

PA 3

PA 4

Once our crash course in pickle making was done, Kyu placed a plate of sliced avocado in front of us. With the faint yet enticing aroma of bran oil spurring us on, we picked up a piece with our chopsticks and enjoyed a mouthful of delicious, melty avocado nukatzuke.

PA 9

Kyu’s been running her restaurant for five years, though, so it’s not like the unique pickles are the extent of her culinary skills. We supplemented our avocado with the equally unorthodox tempura corn, plus a few other dishes (and a glass of nice cold beer, of course), before finishing our meal with a bowl of miso soup with clams, a rice ball, and a few more slices of assorted pickles.

PA 11

PA 10

PA 12

Tasty as everything was, the avocado was definitely the standout. Armed with Kyu’s recipe, we’re anxious to try making it for ourselves, even if there’s one big reason it probably won’t taste quite as good as what she’d made for us.

When making nukatzuke, the rice bran culture gets added to slowly over time, and can last for decades. Depending on the exact ingredients that’ve passed though, different flavors will emerge, and Kyu’s been building hers up for a long time. “When I opened my restaurant, a cooking acquaintance of mine gave me some of her rice bran culture, which she’d been using for 30 years. I combined that with some of my own that was five years old, and that mixture is what I use to make the avocado pickles,” she informed us.

So if we start today, we’ll have a shot at duplicating Kyu’s flavor around the time we hit retirement age. Thankfully, in the meantime, we can always go back to her restaurant in Koenji.

PA 1

Restaurant information
Kyu / 休
Address: Tokyo-to, Suginami-ku, Koenji Minami 3-56-5
東京都杉並区高円寺南3-56-5 1F
Open 3 p.m.-midnight
Closed Sundays and holidays
Telephone: 03-3316-7319

Photos: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]