The first time I visited the Chicken House was to pick up a whole Christmas Chicken. My wife, daughter and I had planned to only eat half on Christmas eve and half on Christmas day. Well, that didn't happen. We couldn't resist and consumed the entire bird in one sitting leaving only the bones. We thought, "this must have been a fluke, right? It was a Christmas special."
A few months later I attended an enkai (office party) at the Chicken House. This time there were six chicken and vegetable dishes. Of course a good amount of our consumption was alcohol but became vultures leaving only the bones. Again, had to be a fluke. Big party with lots of money spent. Fluke, right?
It was time for me to go it alone mano a mano, Justin versus the Chicken House. I was determined to discover if this "leaving only bones" was for special occasions or every day.
The Nakatsugawa tourism board and the restaurant association encouraged local eateries to create dishes using local chicken and tomato (Nakatsugawa tomato = Kashimo... Best tomatoes in the world if I do say so). I decided that I was going back to the Chicken House for my "battle to the bone".
With a slight drizzle of rain, I approached the Chicken House, a building mixed of 1970s concrete gaud and remodeled wooden Edo style facade. I felt like a cowboy in a spaghetti western ready for my dual. You can eat inside or get take-out from an outside stand.
"Just one please..." I said to attendant as I entered and promptly shown to a table in a small room. I wouldn't call it a "room" as the wall between me and the next party was only a curtain but enough to create privacy. Though not highly decorated or fancy, it felt comfortable and was the perfect setting for my face-off. "Tori to Toma don kudasai" (Chicken and Tomato over rice, please) "sherbet or coffee for dessert?"
Within a few minutes she returned with a large bowl filled with rice, beautiful red tomato sauce and two large chicken drum sticks partnered with a salad in creamy sauce and a sesame soup.
After a bite of the salad and a sip of the soup which reminded me of Chinese food, it was time for the main. First a spoonful of tomato. Kashimo tomatoes are sweet; somewhere between a super market tomato and a Yamanashi peach. To many it might be a surprise that tomatoes can be so sweet. Next was the chicken. The drums sat there glistening in a blend of its juices and a bath of tomato and rice. I picked one up, faced it down, took a bite and ... "a light from culinary heaven shone upon my tastebuds." Like kryptonite to superman I had been weakened. How could anything be so tender and juicy. I couldn't stop eating. With one hand holding a drumstick and the other holding a spoon, I continued to spoon in tomato and rice and bite the chicken. But could I go to the bone? Within 30 minutes I had consumed every bit of the rice, tomato, salad and soup. As for the chicken, even the gristle was tender and I almost considered eating the bone but will admit that I licked the bowl clean (how embarrassing).
Finally I had my coffee dessert (which you can get refills for) put on my hat, paid and returned to the rain.
I had been defeated yet was fully satisfied and whole convinced The Chicken House chicken is the best chicken I have ever had.