October 04, 2016

Chicken Cuisine With 100 Years Of History


Everlasting Taste In Changeable Era

Shimbashi is a city that keeps itself busy by letting its business workers work hard during the day time. At night it changes into one of the famous bar districts in Tokyo, again letting its workers turn into bar hoppers. Since its opening of Japan’s very first trains about 150 years ago, the city welcomes several hundreds of thousand people a day. It is an important part of the city that contributes into Japan’s economic system. Now the streets of Shimbashi are filled with modern buildings, where during the Meiji Era there have been horsecars running through the same streets. All the samurais have turned into workers known as “salary man” with suits and neatly tied neckties. There is a restaurant that has been seeing this change of the city, and that is Suegen, a long-established chicken cuisine restaurant, which we are going to talk about this time. Since its opening in 1909, it is guarding the land of Shimbashi for more than 100 years.

Suegen is a traditional Japanese restaurant that serves chicken pots called “Wa”. There are many of the notable regulars visiting this place since its opening. The dinner course menu can be a little pricy. However about 20 years ago they have started lunch time service, serving more reasonable lunch menus. What we’d like to introduce to you this time is their typical but yet popular lunch menu called “Kama Teishoku (Kama set meal)”.

The word Kama Teishoku is coming from Japanese word “kama”, which means “iron pot” and is used to be popular for cooking rice in the old days. The menu is originally served as lunch catering for its workers of the restaurant. What is used in this recipe is the same kind of minced chicken meat, which they will use for the dinner pot menu later. They cook the minced chicken with original stock, soy sauce and several other special ingredients, pour mixed egg at the end, and served on top of rise bowl (sort of like Oyakodon, if you know of).

The recipe is especially invented for those delivery drivers coming into the restaurant to deliver food supplies before its opening. It is a simple recipe so this can be served fast and is easy to eat, as those workers are on tight daily grind. The rumours have broke into the public crowd as this dish becomes so popular within the drivers. Suegen then officially starts to serve this dish as lunch menu from 1993. So of couse more people can enjoy this dish!


“かま定食”の名前の由来は、お釜の「釜」。もともとはまかない食としてふる舞われていた。鶏鍋に使われるつくねの材料・合挽き肉に割り下で味をつけ、卵で溶いてご飯に乗せたいわゆるひき肉の親子丼。開店前にお使いに来た業者や配達の運転手などに、サッと作れてサッと食べさせられるものとして編み出された一品だった。ところが、これを食べた人から思わぬ好評! 「もっと多くのお客さんにも味わってもらおうよ」ということで、平成5年より一般客にも提供されている。

It Goes Smooth Down Your Throat

Explaining how good the food tastes is always difficult by words. As we have become more aware that it is understandable that you would want to let other people know of this taste as you actually eat. Simply speaking, the minced chicken tastes much different (yes, it is a chicken cuisine restaurant so how can it not be). They mix the meat of chicken, game fowl, and duck for two times by grounding all together to make their original minced meat. Of course the recipe on what is mixed for how much is a confidential note. The reason why they ground the meat together is to make the texture more smooth. This is so you can find more smoothness when you eat the meat. Carefully minced meat allows depth in taste and unique texture. It is voluminous in amount, but is no big job to finish the whole dish as you will find it so easy to eat. Assuming our body can continue on consuming if the food is first quality. Never feel full!

The chicken served on lunch menu is the same chicken served at dinner menu (which comes in a posh course menu). It is reasonable enough that you can enjoy the same quality at lunch price. When you order the lunch set deal, they will come with chicken soup and pickles for a price of 1000 yen. Hard to imagine this can be the price to enjoy the taste of long-established restaurant.

Number of foreign customers are rising, as they get introduced of this place from their hotels. Suegen is also used for business occasions too. Foreign guests get excited about its classical Japanese zashiki seatings with shoes off, and the tasteful dinner by looking at traditional Japanese interior, such as Japanese writing hanging scrolls and classical flower arrangements. Few have been seen poking the hot pot during summer time, drinking ice cold sake, and turning their faces red as apples. In the end they have left the place saying that it is a “great food and a good Japan experience”. As a Japanese, this is a place where you can proudly introduce to people.



The Taste Mishima Has Loved

There is another reason why many people visit this restaurant. This restaurant is a place where Yukio Mishima, one of the famous and a representative of Japanese literature, has chosen as his last dinner of his life. To wrap up some history quickly, Mishima has visited Suegen with the members of his activists group “Shield Society” on 24th November in 1970. The person who has been in charge of Mishima’s table is the wife of Suegen’s third generation now (also know as the president of Suegen). It is in May that same year when she has married her husband now, and Mishima’s table is her first ever job to take care of. A day after on the 25th, Mishima has entered Japan’s Self-defence Force in Tokyo and has committed a suicide. Mishima has been a regular his when he is a kid, taken by his father. Suegen is a familiar restaurant for Mishima, and thus he has chosen this restaurant as a place of his last dinner. All the interior of Suegen haven’t been changed since when Mishima’s time. They are now shining in light brown color, offering nostalgic and unique feelings to the Mishima fan customers. Walking the same place as Mishima has walked. This is quite a lot to take for fans.

Suegen has been seeing the changes in city and era for more than 100 years. Within that is also some big historical changes that Japan has gone through. Not just their original taste, but also they have secured some important histories of Japan. From the Great Kanto Earthquake to its air raid in Tokyo during the World War II, Suegen’s building have survived these life threatening events, and is evidential so when you look at their black and white photograph of their opening, which is placed on the wall inside. This is a place where you can enjoy its longly established taste and feel the history what Japan has gone through.




Tori Kappo Suegen

Address: 2-15-7, Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3591-6214

Opening Hours
Lunch / 11:30~13:00
Dinner / 17:00~22:00 (On Saturday until 21:00)
*There is an irregular closing day on one of the Saturdays a month.

CLOSING: Sunday and National Holidays

鳥割烹 末げん

TEL: 03-3591-6214

昼 / 11:30〜13:30
夜 / 17:00〜22:00(土曜日は21:00)


writer / EMI.N
photographer / MIREI SAKAKI

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