And every bite is delicious!

One day, our Japanese-language reporter K. Masami, who is based in Japan’s central Kansai region, joined some friends for a Costco shopping trip. On the way out, they got a hot dog, which is, of course, customary when shopping at Costco (at least in Japan), but as they began the trip back home, they wondered, should they stop for a proper lunch?

They decided, in time, that they should, and somebody suggested a restaurant local to Osaka and Kyoto called Zunbera-ya, which is known for offering food challenges and absurdly large dishes. There was some debate about the merits of eating a huge meal when they’d already had hot dogs, but somehow, despite the debate, they found themselves entering the restaurant and being seated at a table.

Of course, once inside, our reporter’s eyes were accosted with advertisements of huge portions like the “Cho Max Zunbera Mt. Everest Plate”, which was a 40-minute food challenge composed of 5.5 kilograms (12.1 pounds) of food, which you would get for free if you finished it in time. She’d be up to the challenge if she was coming in with an empty stomach, but today was not the day to take on Mt. Everest.

Masami’s hands trembled with fear as she flipped through the menu, seeing huge dish after huge dish, afraid she would have no choice but to order a dish titled something like “Mega Super Pile-on” until her eyes landed on the menu for those with average-sized stomachs (or those foolish enough to visit the restaurant after eating a hot dog). Masami decided on the “Tonpei-yaki Set” (950 yen [US$7.38]), which was composed of stir-fried pork and vegetables wrapped in an omelet and drizzled with sauce and mayonnaise, accompanied by rice, miso soup, and pickles.

The group called over the server and each of Masami’s friends began to place their orders. Everyone asked for things with ordinary portions like a “Fried Shrimp Set” (1,220 yen), since, after all, they’d all already eaten a hot dog. Except for one person. The one friend who had suggested Zunbera-ya in the first place, the same guy who didn’t blink at eating a mountain of chicken cutlets or a 2.5-kilogram (5.5-pound) pork cutlet bowl, looked up at the waiter and boldly and confidently said, “Give me the Super High-Calorie Set, please.”

This dish contains 3,436 calories and cost 1,870 yen. When Masami dug through the menu to see what kind of food could come out to 3,436 calories, she learned that it included six and a half servings of rice. That is a lot of rice.

What’s more, while other items had encouraging descriptions like “A compilation of our most popular menu items!” and “A special set dish we highly recommend!” all the menu said about the Super High-Calorie Set is that “The rice never ends” and “Eat this occasionally”, as if they didn’t really want to recommend it. It was…kind of scary, actually.

But Masami’s friend was not daunted by some lukewarm advertising. He had plenty of confidence that he could take on the sheer amount of rice in this dish–and would likely ask for plenty of the restaurant’s free rice and miso soup refills on top of it.

After some time, the food began to arrive at the table. As it turned out, the regular dishes came larger than usual too. Masami’s tonpei-yaki was quite a bit bigger than she was used to seeing. It was almost as big as okonomiyaki.

This struck fear in Masami’s heart, but the food was pretty tasty, so despite the large portion, she steadily chomped away. It was so good that she couldn’t even stop when she got full.

Then the Super High-Calorie Set arrived.

It came with karaage fried chicken, fried ground meat cakes with eggs in the middle, “stamina udon” (stir-fried udon with meat and veggies), French fries, a croquette, and a salad of thinly shredded cabbage. Oh, and don’t forget the mini-size curry and the miso soup.

And, of course, a mountain of rice.

With so much food packed onto a plate the size of a small dog, Masami couldn’t help but feel full just by looking at it, but her friend merely placed his hands lightly together, said, “Itadakimasu“, and began eating.

“Since it’s not just karaage or just croquettes, I get to eat all kinds of things, so I never get tired of it,” he said, enjoying a crispy-fried piece of chicken. Little by little, empty spots began to appear on the plate, and in no time at all, he’d finished nearly everything. The curry and rice he saved for the end. Munching with a look of pure bliss on his face, he explained, “As long as you’re mentally prepared for the curry to get cold, it’s best to eat it last.”

Masami could only watch, gaping in surprise, as he finished off his tremendous meal. She could not help but be impressed, even though, truth be told, she ate the entirety of her own extra-large tonpei-yaki.

Masami had to say, in addition to having huge portions, Zunbera-ya’s food was really good. If you ever find yourself feeling like you need to eat more calories, you can take on the Super High-Calorie Set or other such insanely-portioned dishes at Zunbera-ya, or you can settle for their smaller-but-still-huge regular set meals. You can’t go wrong either way.

Of course, if you aren’t in the Kansai area, don’t fret, because there’s plenty of big food to eat across Japan. In Niigata, for example, you can find the Big Bomb Onigiri, and in Tokyo, there are maguro mountain bowls–so you can find plenty of big portions to fill you up!

Restaurant information
Manpuku Shokudo Zunbera-ya (Matsui-yamate branch) / 満腹食堂ずんべら屋(松井山手店)
Address: Kyoto-fu Yawata-shi Kinmeidainishi 21-9
Open 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Open daily (Closed on New Year’s Day)

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