If you are a fan of Japan's unique regional cuisines, you will surely know that the central Kyushu prefecture of Kumamoto is well-known for horse sashimi, or basashi. Asakusa's new Basashiya Masashi izakaya-style restaurant welcomes you to sample this traditional Japanese treat.
While horsemeat is not commonly eaten in many western countries (and has no euphemistic moniker like "pork" or "veal"), it does have a significant following in some diverse parts of the world. Italy, Mexico, and Russia are among the top-10 in equine consumption, and the people of Kazakhstan eat more of it than beef! The horsemeat served at Basashiya Masashi is sourced from Senko Farm in Kumamoto, where the same sort of attention and care is taken in its processing as is the case for the more renowned Kobe beef and Nagoya Cochin chicken. The result is a top-quality meal that has made the izakaya a popular dining destination in Tokyo's historic Asakusa neighborhood.
If you are a novice, order the ¥2,380 "goten mori", which gives you an assortment of sashimi cuts to sample. One of the more interesting pieces is tategami, the white fatty meat under the horse's mane. The texture is quite unique and the flavor is mild and savory. Raw liver is also something of a must-try, as its distinctive texture makes it a favorite of many who taste it. The comparatively high body temperature of the horse ensures the safety of its raw liver consumption.
If uncooked food does not suit your palate, the horsemeat sukiyaki at Basashiya Masashi is absolutely delicious, and the staff take care of the preparation right at your table. The seared horse steak is also a winner, tasting like a sweeter, softer cut of beef that might convince even the most dedicated of backyard barbecue chefs to revise his repertoire. If you need a nutritional reason to indulge in horsemeat, note that it is leaner than beef and high in iron and B12.
While basashi is the main draw, there is actually a wide-ranging menu to choose from. Of particular note is the Amakusa Daiyo, a high-grade Kumamoto-sourced chicken that is served yakitori style, fried and on the leg. The karashi renkon, wasabi-laced tempura-esque pieces of burdock root, is another Kumamoto specialty worth making a special trip for.
Being an izakaya, Basashiya Masashi is well stocked with adult beverages. Wash your meal down with a good selection of everything from beer to whiskey to Japanese sake and shochu. A good local Kumamoto sake called Bishonen is a fine choice if you like to keep your food and drink geographically themed. Kumamoto shochu comes in many varieties and is a fine accompaniment to basashi.