If you walk around Sendai Station, on every floor you will see a distinctive orange sign, outside a shop selling gyutan. Gyutan is one of Sendai's specialties, but don't be put off by the fact that it's cow tongue. Prepared with professional skill, it is as beautifully tender and full of flavor as any cut of meat. The orange sign belongs to Date no Gyutan, and they know how to serve gyutan.
Date no Gyutan is a small chain of shops and restaurants, founded in 1991. They are centered in and around Sendai Station; their main store is only a few minutes' walk away. This is their biggest store, which has both a shop and a restaurant. It also seems to be a bit less busy, and more relaxing than one located where half of Sendai walks past.
Don't be intimidated by the classy interior; the staff are very friendly. I was instantly shown to a counter seat, where I could watch (and smell) gyutan being grilled. The grill is heated with wood, which flames occasionally as marinade drips down. The chefs don't blink, working with practiced skill, their movements almost flowing. I enjoyed just watching them, handling several orders at once with no trouble. It was surprisingly quiet, so I could easily listen to the music playing in the background. They were all old hits in English, but they set the atmosphere well.
On the menu is a wonderful variety of dishes, from snacks to set meals. Although the tsukune and gyutan sausage looked mouth-watering, and I hesitated over the gyutan curry, I eventually chose the gyutan stew set. It came with the traditional barley rice and “tail soup” (a clear soup with a couple of pieces of meat), as well as a salad. If you're hungry enough (or really, really want to finish off the sauce from the stew!), you can ask for a refill of rice. The salad was refreshing and came with an appropriate amount of dressing, which was sweet and slightly tangy. The style of soup isn't my favorite, but it was full of flavor. The stew was delicious; the gyutan was so tender it melted in my mouth.
Gyutan isn't cheap, but I left the restaurant satisfied. I'll definitely be back to try more. As a meat product, gyutan might not make it through customs as a gift for family or friends, but I highly recommend trying it while you're here. It's one of Sendai's specialties for a reason.