Last night, I went to Magurosen (마구로센). I would have gratefully accepted my tokens of Facebook likes, and moved on with my life except that I can't have anyone going here. Yes, there is a giant, 80-kilogram tuna to greet you as you walk in. Omg, it's so cute. #hugeeyes. And sure, such a creature must be met with appropriate pomp and brouhaha. Ready the big, sharp knives and headset mic.
Don't get me wrong; seeing a beautiful, bigeye tuna in person was pretty special. Once a week, Magurosen flies in a tuna freshly plucked the night before from the Indian Ocean (this is what they said, most likely to dispel any concern that it came from the radiation-tainted waters of the Pacific). But it's fine; where radiation fails, mercury will prevail, right?
Watching a fish this size get broken down (or in my case, being the one to deliver one of the bisecting slices) was fascinating. And when the body opened up, allowing me to take in all the beautiful shades of savory red it had to offer, my anticipation had mounted to dizzying heights. I ran back to my tatami mat and flexed my chopsticks. I'm ready for you, tuna.
We decided not to go the "course menu" route, which sounded like a weird jumble of tuna sashimi, rice porridge, salad, spicy fish stew, beans(?), shrimp tempura, udon noodles...and god knows what else. Instead, we chose kama toro and otoro, the two most prized areas of the toro area, off the a la carte menu.
I would not have fed this crap to my cat. Both tuna sashimi platters were so bad that I was knocking back shots of sake hoping to get drunk enough to force feed myself this slop. Thick white veins of fat made the pieces impossible to chew. Isn't this shit supposed to melt in your mouth? My chopsticks were so greasy from handling the tuna that it left oil smears wherever it touched down. At one point, I shut the door of our private dining room, and said to my dining partner, "You will never tell anyone I did this." I started throwing the toro slices into the udon soup. My logic? Maybe cooked, they will improve.
It wasn't until later that I discovered what the hell was going on. Magurosen uses smaller, FROZEN tuna for their a la carte menu. Smaller tuna has a higher fat to flesh ratio accounting for all the pools of grease dripping off our gristly "toro." How were we to know that we wouldn't get the tuna we just saw getting carved up outside if we went a la carte? I don't know, but somehow if we had ordered the course menu, we would've gotten the fresh tuna.
Feeling sorry for us, the chef threw us a few slices of the fresh tuna. We ate them. They were delicious.
When I ordered off the a la carte menu, I wish to god the waitress gave enough of a fuck to slap me across the face and tell me not to. I wish I didn't feel crazy for thinking that if a tuna is butchered live in front of me, I get to eat that tuna instead of being served frozen tuna. What kind of sushi restaurant has frozen tuna?
Like many dining experiences in Korea, Magurosen was more about show than substance. Abominable knife skills, and the sushi is pretty Koreanized (think spicy fish stew as an accompaniment). However, the show is pretty great, and it's free. You just call ahead, find out when they're doing it that week (usually Thursday at 8 PM), and show up. If I had it to do over, maybe I would order the course menu though I think it's ridiculous to be forced to opt into getting all this random shit just to have tuna.
Thank you to Tim for paying for this absurdly expensive, worst-sushi-ever dinner. What a gentleman.