Kuniwake is a yakiniku restaurant squeezed into the Kokubuncho entertainment district of Sendai. The manager — a gruff old man — waits for you inside, where the decor is black and the lighting low. I’m usually wary of these kinds of places.
However, a group of us had been wandering around for about an hour looking for a restaurant from my friend’s guidebook. It turned out to close at six pm every day. We eventually agreed on Kuniwake instead.
I thought we were going to have problems when the manager refused to serve us gyuutan (cow tongue), a regional speciality of Sendai. The sign outside advertising it had been one of the things to draw us in. We were hungry and decided to go for the all-you-can-eat yakiniku option, where plates of meat are brought to you within a specific timeframe and you cook them yourself on a mini-barbecue embedded in the table.
The rules were simple. They would bring us three types of meat, one after the other. Afterwards, we were free to choose more meat from a restricted menu. The second of these plates was the dreaded horumon (offal), but the first and third plates were the best yakiniku I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was the meat quality or the preparation, but it was amazing.
Afterward, we finally got our gyuutan. We didn’t realise we had to specify we weren’t trying to get it for free under the all-you-can-eat option. Once it was understood that yes, we’d pay extra, the gyuutan was served. It tasted like steak with the texture of over-cooked squid and an odd aftertaste. I didn’t particularly like it, although it took me several pieces to decide whether it was the taste, texture or concept that bothered me.
I highly recommend this restaurant and you can find a map here (in Japanese). Sendai in general is a great place to visit in Japan — check out Matsushima and Gundam Shot Bar Zion while you’re there too.