A sophisticated Japanese casual diner located in a high-end shopping area and visited by many single women. You get lively performance of a certified grilled chef in the open kitchen and specialised chicken dishes in a warm atmosphere of wood and bricks.
With eight locations in Tokyo, Kuruma has established itself as a leading group of restaurants under the umbrella of a company called Idea Co. Ltd.
Maybe it was in a rush to close shop, we were not served the otoshi (appetiser), very rarely did I experience such a slip-up in Japan. We were served the salad straight away.
2/ 鶏と水菜のサラダ chicken and mizuna salad
鶏と水菜のサラダ chicken and mizuna salad is a salad mixed with chicken and fresh mizuna greens with a tangy vinegar sauce. The mizuna was very refreshing and was very good with the gingerly sauce.
3/ 親鶏もも炭火焼 jidori momo sumibiyaki
Next up, their signature Jitokko Jidori Momo Sumibiyaki (charbroiled thigh meat) 親鶏もも炭火焼. It comes served on a hot plate along with some grilled green peppers and crisp cabbage leaves. Since the meat is still sizzling and spewing juices all over, the server kindly brings it to your table with a nice hard paper covering all sides and instructs you to wait til the heat dies down a bit on the hotplate.
The rich color and texture of this thigh meat is simply amazing, with just enough “bite” and meatiness but still soft enough to almost seem to melt in your mouth while chewing. Each bite seems to bring out more and more flavor and the overall charcoal scent is something to experience.
Miyazaki Jidori Free-ranged Chicken “Jitokko”
Kuruma serves Miyazaki Jitokko (commonly shortened to Jidori). Miyazaki is a region on the southern island of Kyushu (which likes to call itself one of the “four season food baskets” of Japan), and Jitokko refers to an indigenous breed of free range chicken found in both Miyazaki and nearby Kogoshima. It is recognized that through agricultural research and cross-breeding experiments (involving Jitokko, White Plymouth Rock, and Kyushu Red breeds) beginning in about 1965 resulted in the discovery of what is known in present-day as Miyazaki Jidori (officially branded as such in 2004).
For comparison, Miyazaki Jitokko is raised over 180 days, whereas regular supermarket chicken is speed-raised in just 90-120 days. The resulting difference is improved taste, quality, texture, fat, lack of gamey smell, all without the use of growth hormones. Though this does make raising Miyazaki Jitokko a very difficult proposition, and thus this premium brand is carefully protected both by farmers and their related industry associations. Sort of like the way Miyazaki Beef is as well. If you’ve ever had this premium beef, you’ll be even more amazed at what this prefecture does with chicken, and quickly understand why it can hold its own as a specialty restaurant serving only this product.
4/ 鶏の唐揚げ, 6/ チキン南蛮 chicken karaage and nanban
Next up in the course, fried chicken in two styles – chicken karaage 鶏の唐揚げ and chicken nanban チキン南蛮. Inspired by Chinese fried chicken recipes, chicken karaage is a delicious izakaya or bento box favourite, comprised of crunchy, deep fried pieces of marinated chicken served with a liberal squeeze of lemon juice or a side pot of kewpie mayonnaise. The chicken was deeply satisfying with crispy skin and right level of savoury and umami.
Chicken nanban tasted like the karaage but with a nanban sauce spread liberally on it. The chicken was marinated with a lemony sauce and the skin was soften than the karaage.
Origins of Chicken Nanban
In a small town called Nobeoka on the southern island of Kyushu, chicken nanban チキン南蛮 was born. The irony is, like many famous Japanese dishes, chicken nanban has foreign roots. According to the creator, it was inspired by a dish called Nanbanzuké, which is made with fried fish and onions soaked in a sweet vinegar sauce.
The Portuguese brought Peixe Frito de Escabeche to Japan in the mid 17th century along with other fried dishes such as Peixinhos Da Horta (better known as Tempura). The term “nanban” was originally used to refer to these European traders and missionaries, so nanbanzuké simply means “soaked European-style”
Just as the Portuguese dish evolved after arriving in Japan, Chicken Nanban has seen its share of changes as it spread back around the globe. Most recipes today have you prepare a flour or starch coated karaage, which is then soaked in sweet and sour nanban sauce. Topped with a chunky lemon tartar sauce, the contrast of tastes and textures is sublime.
5/ 鶏の串焼き yakitori
Next up, 鶏の串焼き yakitori – 手羽先 tebasaki (chicken wings), (L-R) 神楽とりささみ（わさび）kagura torisasami wasabi (chicken breast with wasabi), ねぎま negima (thigh and leek), 砂肝 sunagimo (chicken gizzard), こころ kokoro (also called hatsu, chicken heart), レバー riba (chicken liver) and 丸つくね tsukune (chicken tsukune).
Not sure if it was near closing time, the yakitori was rushed out together with the rest of the meals, and by the time we got to them, they were cold. Not good for yakitori. However, they were still very good cold. So it must be good if hot.
6/ とりの親子井 chicken oyakodon
A classic soul food of Japan, the literal translation of Oyakodon (親子丼) means “parent-and-child rice bowl.” Chicken (as in parent), egg (as in child), and onions are simmered together in a dashi and soy sauce base broth then served on top of steamed rice.
Kuruma’s とりの親子井 chicken oyakodon is delicious because of the use of their very fine Jidori chicken.
The chicken was the same used for everything else (Miyazaki Jidori) but the thigh is a dark meat that is perfect for oyakodon.
7/ 宮崎地鶏ラーメン Miyazaki jidori ramen
宮崎地鶏ラーメン Miyazaki jidori ramen uses a noodle that resembled instant noodle. But Kuruma is not a ramen store so I am not picky.
The main attraction is the broth. Made with the chicken stock boiled from the bones of the Miyaki jidori, it was sticky with collagen and full of flavours. Served with chicken meatballs, it is an overdose of chicken flavour, yet you don’t feel that it was made from chicken powder.
9/ 自家製ヨーグルトアイス homemade yoghurt ice
自家製ヨーグルトアイス homemade yoghurt ice cream tasted like frozen Yakult.
Maybe because we went just before closing time and did the last order, the food all came at once, and by the time we finished the first couple of course, the rest of the maki courses had turned cold. Did not notice much service as I could see the staff busy with cleaning up and closing the tab.
The clientele was mainly women, with only a couple of single men sitting at the bar counter. Surprise find in Shinjuku.
Kuruma Shinjuku 車 宮崎地雞炭火燒 新宿店
〒160-0022 東京都新宿区新宿3丁目30-11 高野第二ビル B1F
Tel : 03-6380-4531
Date Visited : Jun 2019