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Extravaganza de Cangrejos en Osaka

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Esta cena de cangrejo tuvo la más alta relación de dólares a calorías que he visto en mim vida - pero absolutamente valió la pena.

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A los visitantes de Osaka se les advierte que no deben distraerse mirando hacia arriba cuando manejen, ya que pueden tener un accidente al ver uno de los cangrejos gigantes giant crabs con patas móviles que adornan la gran cantidad de establecimientos que se especializan en cangrejo en esta gran ciuidad.

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En la ventana, una promesa de plástico de las delicias que nos esperan dentro.  Entro e inmediatamente me reconocen como el gaijin de cuyo hotal llamaron para hacer la reservación.

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Como la mayoría de los restaurantes en Japón, éste sirve exclusivametne un platillo, que encuentras estampado por todos lados.

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Al sentarme, contemplé el servicio de mesa minimalista.  LLega una mesera y se me pega como con cemento.  Es mi noche de bodas con mi nuevo zoom Nikon.  Ella lo acaricia y me felicita, impresionada con su tamaño.  Me comienzo a preguntar si ofrecen más de un tipo de cangrejo en este establecimiento.  Finalmente, me las arreglo para ordenar.

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Estoy tan enamorado de mi nuevo zoom que olvido que no enfoca a menos de 60 cm y hago una muy mala foto del platillo cuando éste llega.  La mesera comienza a colocar patas de cangrejo en la parrilla de carbón al centro de la mesa.

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Sesos de cangrejo Crab brains, mmmh, la parte más sabrosa del maldito monstruo marino, aunque en Occidente no acabamos de acostumbrarnos a servirlos por separado.  Los japoneses son mucho más listos que nosotros cuando de vísceras marinas se trata y los sirven como el clímax de la cena.

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Más patas de cangrejo acaban en el brasero ...

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... hasta que están suficientemente firmes para comerlas.  No hay necesidad de cuchillos; los muchachos de la cocina ya han rebanado y abierto todo por nosotros.  Palillos ...

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... y pa' dentro.  ¡Qué delicia!  Tan ricas en iodo, tan frescas y tan jugosas.  Supongo que el maldito cardiólogo no tendrá quejas con esto, ¿O sí?.

Llega la cuenta y cuando la mesera exica que esa larga cifra no es la fecha sino el precio, comeinzo a pensar en el cardiólogo de nuevo.  Un hombre sale a comer sano una vez en su vida y vean cómo le pagan.  Al menos, con las atrocidades fritas deep-fried atrocities uno sabe que esperar.

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El propietario me regala una estatuilla de un buey para consolarme - 2009 es el año del buey.  Me retiro después de una hora de placer culinario y camino por la elegante calle entre samurai corporativos en sus Bentelys y geishas en kimono, y camino de regreso al hotel.

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74 comentarios

so how much did the meal cost??? it was just some legs n brains?
  • FX's answer→ It was all of the crab, which to me seems to be mostly legs and a diminutive but really delicious brain! I try to forget the cost of that meal.

  • #3
  • Comment by will
Haha did you leave 10% tip or did you not have enough?
  • FX's answer→ Will, tipping is not usual in Japan. But maybe that's the way to get upstairs for the other kind of crab?

The food looked wonderful. Well could have been worse too, it could have been a sea urchin restaurant :) Always great shots FX.
(Which lens you did you get :)
  • FX's answer→ Geoff, sea urchin seems like the diet option compared to this one!

    I bought a couple prime lenses with aperture rings so they will also work for my video camera's DOF adapter. The I used that night was a Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8, that's Nikon before-last generation wide angle professional zoom. It is good but doesn't really work for macro shots. I like the constant aperture and the lens is really sharp. I saw your photo blog, very encouraging, you might want to add also the shutter speed and ISO in the data, it would be interesting especially for the long exposures. The D300 is a great camera! I am eagerly waiting for Nikon to release a seriously-video-enabled full-frame camera to beat Canon's new EOS 5D

  • #7
  • Comment by sets
mmmmmmmcrab brain, my BSc. subject.
And Kanidoraku my dream destination.
  • FX's answer→ Is it really the crab's brain or a combination of organs?

  • #9
  • Comment by macha
Ahaha, dotonbori-crab. I had that crab myself last weekend. If you home-order one (they come from Hokkaido or Russia)it's about 10000 Yen.  If you eat them as nabe you can use the delicious stock to add into rice. The good thing is it's in season now and very tasty.

Tip: Keep your eyes peeled, you might spot very small vans with live crabs in a cooled-aquarium driving around the city.

By the way, if you will be/were in Japan during late autumn you should try Sanma, a fish that is extraordinarily tasty and cheap as chips but unimpressive when out of season.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks for your tips Macha!

  • #11
  • Comment by Erik
Thank you for an interesting article. Could you please share some details about the "charcoal grill in the middle of the table" that were used for cooking the crab? I wonder if it actually would be possible to build one like that at home? Do you have any pictures of the charcoal grill that you could publish? Did they have some ventilation for the charcoal grill (so as not to be bothered by the fumes)?
  • FX's answer→ Erik, the Japanese are just awesome when it comes to tabletop grilling. They use some really expensive charcoal which is placed in a clay jar with a little steel mesh on top. You could use any clay salad bowl that is fire resistant. Or buy one from La Chamba, the Colombian black clay cookware, I have one such tabletop stove from them. Or a stone bowl from Korea. There is very little smoke since it's charcoal and not wood, and no special ventilation. I've had similar things in many places all over Japan including for breakfast. It is infinitely superior to electric or gas grills seen here in the West I must say. In Korea they have some restaurants with tables with a pit for charcoal dug inside the table and a system that sucks the fumes into the table, very advanced. I forgot to take a picture of that one, sorry!

  • #13
  • Comment by Stephan Eisen
I forwarded your link to a friend who loves Japan. He said he read about this restaurant before and it will be closed soon...
  • FX's answer→ Stephan, in fact they have several locations of this restaurant all over town so if indeed this one would close, just look up and follow the giant crab!

Fantastic! That steaming crab looks really good

Cheers and have a nice weekend,

  • FX's answer→ Thanks, I had to back up in the corner of the room to get that picture!

We loved the crab, but couldn't touch the kanimiso *shudder*
  • FX's answer→ The more I answer comments, the more I learn! So what I described erroneously in my article as "crab brain" is the hepatopancreas which the japanese call kanimiso. And Mellie, you should have tried it, a treat!

Fantastic pics! thank you for sharing, those look like Spider Crabs, or also known as Snow Crab, the fat of the crab also known as the tomalley of the crab is the liver & not the brain, which as you have mentioned IS the best part of the crab!!! Crab & Lobster brains is the size of a grasshopper's. Please feel free to check out my facebook albums for some good eats from from the Northwest. Let me know what you think.........
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Paul, indeed, the Nikon hepatopancreas it is and not the brain!

  • #21
  • Comment by sets
Re7: Actually it's the hepatopancreas (liver+pancreas in mammals).
If crabs had brains that big they would have conquered the world!
  • FX's answer→ Sets, this really made my day! Yesterday at dinner I was speaking about fish offal and crab "brains" with a gentleman, and promised to check with a crab medical examiner what exactly that delicious organ was. And the good Lord sent you my way!

What lens did you get!? I just got a 24-70mm f2.8 and totally loving it.

AWESOME CRAB. worth every yen?
  • FX's answer→ Jaden, I am not sure about the value-for-money thing in this time of crisis and inflated Yen, but it was a really grand meal, no question!

    For the lenses I got all sorts of f1.4 to f1.8 primes with aperture ring, including an awesome Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s and a Voigtlander Nokton.

    Happy new year and hope you are doing well!

  • #25
  • Comment by barbara
Well, you have opened up my mind, I never thought that crabs might have a brain. I suppose they do - but that one looks pretty big!
Was the crab just crab, or was it seasoned with something?
Did you visit Kappabashi (Kitchen Town) in Tokyo?
One comment mentions urchins - I have eaten them, here in Switzerland, they are delicious!
  • FX's answer→ Barbara, apparently this is another part of the crab which I call brain - hepatopancreas. 'Sets' commented that with such a big brain, the crabs would have conquered the world!

    I did visit Kappabashi Dori 3 times and then its cousin in Osaka 2 times. Came back with a load of extravagant cookware - but you know me.

  • #27
  • Comment by Diana Blinda
hello Francois Xavier,

i am happy to have discovered your blog and since then, I enjoy reading it.

Now i am writing to ask how did you organized your trip to Japan, and what is your favourite place there, which you reccommend for the first time visit in Japan.

me personally i like to visit cities with great architecture, relaxed people, good food, and good weather. Until now my favourites are Singapore, Barcelona and Helsinki.

Please receive my best wishes for a great year 2009 !

  • FX's answer→ Thanks you Diana, unfortunately Japan is not a place of architecture. The Japanese are great builders, but they used wood and fires, atom bombs and modernizations have left precious few original buildings. If you want old buildings go to Nara and Kyoto to see temples. Of course they have modern architecture, very impressive train stations like that of Kyoto or the Shinjuku and Chibuya districts in Tokyo. People are very nice and food is really incredibly fascinating in every aspect. Good luck!

  • #29
  • Comment by scott
Nice,thanks. I’m in New England and lobster and crab “tomalley” are more common than the rest of the US. In fact we did a lobster sashimi this season. Last time I was in Osaka I asked the office “expert” for a challenging dinner. We ended up in one of those tiny restaurants down three alleys that only exist in Japan. I’m a big fan of uni but “trio” of squid innards and certain parts of horse were once only events for me.
  • FX's answer→ Scott, I find the way the Japanese use fish guts/offal/internal organs absolutely fascinating. It sounds so disgusting a concept to a European, on the face of it, and yet it is a winner, great flavors. And who are we to judge them, with our tripe soups, liver pâtés and fried brains?

  • #31
  • Comment by Zeppole
You are my culinary hero! May I be your trusty side kick...evil minion...ewerer... anything?

As always the photographs, food and desriptions are amazing!
  • FX's answer→ Zeppole, to my deep regret I must inform you that there was not enough flesh in this crab to feed me, let alone a trusty side kick!

I think you have a magnetism for freakie places, it's really amazing this building with the spider crab on, it seems a piece of art by Venturi o Claus Oldenburg.In Spain we adore this kind of crab but I can imagine how can be the experience to eat it in Japan,in such a sophisticated neighbouhood.Next time you travel to the West Country for cheese, you should try The Crab House Café for rustic and cheapy version (see my blog).Fanstastic photos.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Cris, this sign is so successful that most tourists see at least one of their branches while in Osaka, my friend Zed actually had told me about it. Too bad I didn't have a video camera, you'd have seen the legs move too!

  • #35
  • Comment by chef4cook
Wonderful pics!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, I had way more pics but they were quite soft because of my length long minimum focusing distance unfortunately!

  • #37
  • Comment by Laura D.
I absolutely love the shot of the chunk of crab being held in chopsticks.  The steam is what makes that picture--wispy and insubstantial, yet vital to our understanding of the deliciousness of the crab.

P.S. The giant mechanical crab outside scares me.
  • FX's answer→ It took me a few tries to get that one right, light on the steam, background, bokeh. Glad you like it!

  • #39
  • Comment by sets
I actually measured the lipid contents of crab brain and did caloric estimates. Crab brains are extremely rich in fat and protein so you might want to adjust the healthiness and yen-calorie ratio ;)
  • FX's answer→ Sets, is it even conceivable that such a meal (pretty much nothing besides the crab itself) would contain more than, say, 500 Kcal?

Fabulous photos, and such a delicious meal!!  mmm!
  • FX's answer→ Glad you liked it!

  • #43
  • Comment by sets
Re:is it even conceivable that such a meal (pretty much nothing besides the crab itself) would contain more than, say, 500 Kcal?

Why not? Did they state that on the menu?
You did have sake in your 'crab brain' didn't you?
But then again, crabs could vary in caloric content according to their lifecycle, that the same shell size could yield completely different figures. Considering the recent surge of awareness in calorie intake, the food industry may well benefit by opting the lowest figures...
  • FX's answer→ There was no alcohol in the meal and, at the end of the day, one eats only a minute amount of crab flesh. They don't mention the calories but it seems to me really, really seriously light. I can prove it: no sumotori were to be seen in the restaurant.

  • #45
  • Comment by michael
  • FX's answer→ Aha, yes, that might work. But I'm not joking, this is really what happened...

  • #47
  • Comment by Leon
Haha, I went to Osaka just last year in December, and I went to one of those crab restaurents last year too. Did you eat a sushi which had the green roe of he crab on top? It's very strong in taste, but is fantastic.
  • FX's answer→ Leon, I never hesitate to eat sushi whenever I cannot avoid it, so I didn't get that sushi but they served crab roe in various other guises in Kaiseki dinners!

Hepatopancreas? I don't think they'd bother picking out the miniscule brain and other bits. Kanimiso is most likely "just whatever is inside" mashed up nicely.
  • FX's answer→ Yes

  • #51
  • Comment by sets
Oh I totally agree with macha. That's invertabrate biology geekery and irrelevant to culinary culture. To add: these creatures have powerful enzymes that mashes "just whatever is inside" the moment they die (or even as you dissect them alive), that's how crabs in the culinary sense only contain these yellowish mash of whatever.
  • FX's answer→ Sets, this thing with the enzymes is really intriguing, do these enzymes have an effect on the human eater?

  • #53
  • Comment by donsiranni
Francois,I to love Japenese food,sushimi,all the seaweed stuff,but,for high cost it's tough to top fugu-in an upscale(safe)eatery(I wasn't paying).The puffers are netted from small pits in the marble floor next to the tables. It would make an exceptional photo,as the tissue thin white flesh slices show delicate red(poison blood) concentric lines,almost a perfect flower petal appearance surrounded by the espacially toxic offal, deep fried. Don
  • FX's answer→ Don, I promise to visit a fugu place next time I'm in Japan!

  • #55
  • Comment by Donna Young
I was so crazy to have crab after reading this article, that I went on a serious crab dinner mission. I ended up in Queens, NY in an Asian neighborhood where I had the most wonderful Shanghai crab soup dumplings. (The soup and some pork & crabmeat are tucked INSIDE the dumpling.) You nip the dumpling and sip out the soup (which is steaming hot!) and then you eat the rest of the dumpling with soy sauce and ginger. FAB! Then I had a mound of sauteed bluefin crabs in a ginger garlic sauce. It was crabalicious! It wasn't quite the same as the Japanese crabs but yummy none-the-less! Cheers, FX!
  • FX's answer→ Donna this sounds like an exciting food adventure, I'd love to try these bloated dumplings!

  • #57
  • Comment by anm
Hi Francois

Trust me your cardiologist wont be pleased as crabs are high in cholestrol ,any shell fish ........
  • FX's answer→ So a pound of fondue has as much cholesterol as a pound of crab? Really  nutritious animals!

  • #59
  • Comment by sets
Unfortunately I've never studied human physiology. The harnessing of enzymes in seafood culture is an intriguing subject, indeed. I would imagine you could ask anyone in the crab industry and they would come up with a list of practices intended to avoid the damaging effects of autolysis. (And its reverse, too)
Uhm, crab allergy, maybe? Although I'd suspect that to be a reaction to the products rather than the enzymes itself. I'm not sure.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks for your insight Sets!

Great writing, just as tantalizing as your pictures.

What is the little bamboo scoop for, the one next to your chopsticks?
  • FX's answer→ Nate, the bamboo scoop is used to scoop the crab meat out of its shell.

  • #63
  • Comment by Michael
My mother stopped by when I was looking at this article, and her being a huge crab fan, I had to talk her down with the price of going to a Japanese crab restaurant! Great pictures as always, but can I ask what the crab brains taste like in respect to the rest of the crab? No place that I live (Being in in the lovely area of Western New York) is brave enough to try serving it.
  • FX's answer→ Michael, glad your mom liked it! The hepatopancreas' taste compared to the crab flesh is like foie gras compared to duck flesh.

  • #65
  • Comment by Melit
     I'm going around the world without leaving home, but
just reading your articles.You are an excellent story teller
with fine sense of humor.
     Sometimes your photos looks like paintings...like
Rembrandts' use of light.
     I love crabs,too.I'm green with envy!!!!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Melit, ah Rembrandt, what a nice compliment to hear! I need more flashes and softboxes to rembrandtize a picture though, these were shot just with the camera and no attachment!

Another fantastic article, but then all your articles are fantastic. The crab certainly looks delicious but the whole thing must have been a great experience. Fantastic !!
  • FX's answer→ Yes this really is a memorable experience. Hope you can try it one day!

  • #69
  • Comment by Keith
Hmm... Last time I was in Osaka I didn't remember the crab being that expensive.  
Btw, is this in dotonburi? If you haven't gone there, it is definitely the place to go in Osaka for food, especially okonomiyaki and takoyaki.  The entire street is all restaurants. When we were ther we ended up having like 5 dinners haha
  • FX's answer→ Keith, this was in a street geared towards high-end food for the locals, I don't think many people could afford 5 dinners in this street in one night!

  • #71
  • Comment by Mia
I just went to one of these in Kyoto!  The great thing about Osaka is that the main shopping street has a few places that sell grilled crab legs on the go out on the street.  I asked how many you get for the listed price of 500 yen, and the guy said two pieces.  I must have looked disappointed though because when I bought them, they gave me three.  :)  Probably helps to be a girl.

Never heard of kanimiso before.  Funny that it has such a simple name in Japanese.  Is the kanji the same as miso (as in soup)?

P.S.  I'm new to your blog and LOVE it!  I'm going to try your pumpkin gnocchis this week if I can find those pumpkins.  It is Japan after all!
  • #72
  • Comment by david wong
I want to know where and the name of this restaurant with the big crab, I saw this in tokyo too.
  • #73
  • Comment by ma. elena torres valdez
de veras que estoy muy agradecida con personas como tu, que tienen la oportunidad de viajar a traves del mundo y se toman la molestia de compartirlo con todos aquellos que no podemos hacerlo, y soy de mexico y tengo un pequeño restaurant de comida japonesa. me gusto mucho tus articulos. nuevamente gracias.
  • FX's answer→ Gracias, me encanta que le ha interesado a alguien mis articulos!

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