Once again my reputation as the guy who eats weird food was a huge asset in finding this weeks item. Some of my co-workers arrived in NYC before me and found a place called Sakagura that served Ika Shiokara and I had no choice but to rise to the occasion. In my research into this dish I found out that it is frequently consumed by drunk old men, who like its strong flavor. Not exactly the audience you look to for culinary inspiration. While I love squid, and have processed and prepared whole squid many times, I have never even been tempted to try it raw or do anything with the entrails but throw them away, quickly.
The restaurant itself was very cool, it was located in the basement of a building and walking down to it felt very much like I was going into some kind of secret underground place where they might serve illegal exotic game. Anyplace that has an entire menu dedicated to Sake can’t be bad can it? Sake in hand I was ready for my squid. I didn’t really have an idea about what the portion size for a dish like this might be and I was pretty happy that a tiny little bowl arrived.
It was very pretty to look at and had a very nice briny, oddly earthy scent to it. I jumped in with both chopsticks and grabbed a few pieces. The raw squid had a very firm and chewy texture with a pretty hearty snap as I bit through it. The texture was the bad part. The flavor however was outstanding. It was quite salty with a very rich flavor and mouth feel. The touch of citrus rind on top was just enough to help cut the saltiness a bit and allowed me to really enjoy the underlying flavor. It had a sharp minerally flavor to it much like organ meats from other animals. As I continued to eat I found that I got used to the texture of the squid more and more, I would not say I ever grew to love it but the work it took to chew it really forced me to take the time to appreciate every bite so I guess it served its purpose. This dish is certainly not going to be for everyone, especially if you don’t like strong organ meat flavors but I really enjoyed it
This whole experience was a very pleasant surprise and I have to give Ika Shiokara a resounding Try It.