You know those foods you don’t dare touch because, while traveling somewhere in the wider world, you came across a version that was just perfect? So much so it’s practically fact you’ll never again find a more satisfying incarnation? To spoil that memory with some debased, lackluster imitation would be a downright shame.
For me, that food is sukiyaki. I grew fond of the Japanese stew while trekking throughout Asia. Until last week, I had never eaten it stateside; three years passed since my last delicious encounter. Often during those years friends and coworkers would pass along recommendations. I would nod politely but remained weary; ultimately, I’d chicken out, instead nursing my fond recollections.
But enough eventually becomes enough, and at the insistence of a trustworthy colleague I ordered the beef sukiyaki at Kaname Izakaya, an authentic, family-run joint in the I.D. I’m glad I took the plunge—my memories of sukiyaki were shrouded in such nostalgia, the many details that make this meal so enjoyable had become buried: the calming warmth of the broth, the fun of having tofu and beef and vegetables all in one bite, the sweet tang of the meat, the seemingly bottomless pot.
At Kaname that pot is heavy—and, careful, hot—and brims with three or four cubes of tofu, a considerable helping of shaved beef, glassy noodles, and, my favorite touch, a little-cute mushroom atop a bed of vegetables. The broth teems with complexity and is reminiscent of a sugary soy sauce—perfect for soaking up the heaping bowl of rice. It all makes for an authentic, if not transporting, and filling experience.
The spread is sizable and takes up half of a two-top table—sharing is encouraged, and one order will satisfy two light eaters. At lunch the beef sukiyaki costs $8.95 (a vegetarian version is a dollar less), and at dinner the price jumps to $13.50 or $11.50, veggie-style.