There’s something fishy about Kochi, a city in southern Shikoku. But residents of (and visitors to) the area wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kochi is famous for skipjack tuna, known as katsuo in Japanese. These fish utilize the warm Kuroshio current that runs just offshore to head to and from their breeding grounds. The fish is at its fatty best in October, but Kochi residents will eat it in any form – as sashimi, as dried bonito (perfect for making Japan’s popular dashi stock) or as a seared form known as tataki.
You can find this dish all over Kochi, but it’s fun to prepare it yourself. At Tosa Tataki Dojo, ¥1100 gets you a hunk of tuna freshly carved off of one of the stream-lined fish. Employees will help you spear it successfully and lead you over to the fire. It’s constantly being fed straw to keep it hot, so beware that the temperature can feel a tad unbearable. Thankfully, it only takes about a minute or two to develop an excellent sear on the outside of your tuna.
From there, your tuna will be expertly sliced into pieces that your mouth can manage. It’s self-service on all of the toppings and the choices are fairly extensive – regular onions, green onions, shiso leaf, a wedge of the local citrus, ginger, a dab of wasabi and a generous portion of salt. I tried my tataki in a multitude of permutations and even without the additional flavor, that was some pretty tasty fish.
The setting is casual – seating is communal at group tables or along benches along the walls. You can add a bowl of rice and some miso soup to round out your meal if you like. If that’s still not enough, there is a separate restaurant just a few doors away where you can get a variety of set meals, most of which feature tataki. And you can pick up various tuna products – as well as the typical local citrus, cookies and candies – at the gift shop in the complex.