Located in a quiet part of a student neighborhood, this is where our kakuni dreams came true.

Kankuni is one of Japan’s most decadent foods. Thick cuts of braised pork belly simmered in a broth that includes soy sauce, mirin (cooking sake), and dashi (bonito stock), good kakuni is moist, meaty, tender, and tremendously filling.

All of those mouthwatering qualities were recently running through the head of our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa. But perhaps because it’s so decadent, you’ll often find kakuni as a side dish, not the centerpiece of a meal. Seiji, though, wanted his kakuni to take center stage, and so he went on popular restaurant website Tabelog to look for a restaurant that specializes in kakuni rice bowls, which is when he found out that in all of Tokyo’s, there’s only one kakuni bowl specialist.

Luckily for Seiji, the city’s one-and-only kakuni bowl specialty restaurant is located in the Takadanobaba neighborhood, not far from SoraNews24 headquarters. So when lunchtime rolled around, Seiji hopped on the train for Takadanobaba Station. “Baba,” as the locals sometimes call it, is a student town, with the prestigious Waseda University nearby as well as a number of specialized schools. However, the restaurant, called Kuroshiro, is about a 15-minute walk to the southwest from the station, away from the hustle and bustle of commuting or carousing college kids.

Kuroshiro has a very low-key exterior, with an unmarked sun-faded awning and equally unassuming aluminum storefront sliding doors. Thankfully, a sidewalk signboard with the restaurant’s name (くろしろ) and a flag announcing kakuni bowls (角煮丼) told Seiji he’d arrived at the right place.

▼ Though the flag’s text was backwards from the angle he’d approached from.

In Japan, the basic foodie rule of thumb is that the more focused a restaurant’s menu is, the better job they do preparing those dishes. So Seiji was reassured when he saw that there are only two main dishes listed on Kuroshiro’s menu: the Kakuni Bowl Set Meal (角煮丼定食) and the Premium Kakuni Bowl Set Meal (特上角煮丼定食).

Something else drew his attention too, though: the price. The standard Kakuni Bowl Set Meal is 1,700 yen (US$11.30), and the Premium, which is essentially an extra-large portion of kakuni, is 2,800. Those aren’t cheap prices for a casual restaurant in a casual part of town. However, since this is Tokyo’s only kakuni specialist, Seiji felt like he should see it at its very best, so he ordered the Premium.

Still, at this price point Seiji was hoping that Kuroshiro would provide him with both quantity and quality. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for them to deliver on the first part of that promise.

As soon as the server placed Seiji’s meal in front of him, he was filled with startled excitement at the amount of meat. This is some jumbo-sized kakuni, not just in terms of surface area, but in thickness of the cuts too.

▼ It even comes with a little wooden sign that announces its presence with “Tokyo Kakuni Bowl Restaurant Kuroshiro.”

Between the shape and the size of the pieces of pork, Seiji felt like he had a kakuni mountain range in his bowl.

Of course, this feast for the eyes would quickly become a dagger in his heart if the beautiful-looking meat turned out to be of poor quality. Though Seiji loves kakuni, he’ll be the first to tell you that not every restaurant does a good job with it, and if you’re unlucky you can end up with tough, stringy pork.

Seiji intended to test the tenderness of Kuroshiro’s kakuni, which he intended to do by taking a tentative bite…but he actually didn’t even need to go that far because as soon as he touched the pork with his chopsticks…

…it jiggled, revealing its tantalizingly tender texture!

Now knowing that the kakuni both looked good and felt good, Seiji was happy, but not surprised, when he did take a bite and confirmed that it tasted great too. In fact, it was so good that it brightened up not only his day, but his outlook on life. Seiji’s been a little down in the dumps lately, feeling like he’s in a bit of a rut. Going out and finding exactly what he’d been searching for, though, and having it exceed all of his expectations, served as a reminder that there are still great things out there waiting for you to find them.

OK, so Kushiro is definitely worth visiting. There’s one thing to keep in mind, though. Remember how we mentioned the non-descript building exterior? That’s because Kushiro is only open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a different restaurant operating in the same space at night, so you’ll need to get your kakuni fix at lunchtime. The good news is that Kuroshiro is planning to open a second branch, one closer to Takadanobaba Station, next month, but for now this one is still Tokyo’s only kakuni bowl specialist.

Restaurant information
Kuroshiro / くろしろ
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 3-37-2
Open 11 :30 a.m.-2 p.m. (last order 1:30 p,m,)
Closed Mondays, Wednesdays

Photos ©SoraNews24
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