Commonly associated with sumo wrestlers looking to get a calorie-packed meal to bulk up for an upcoming match, and hungry diners seeking something warm during the cold months, nabe or Japanese-style hotpot also has a more refined side. Enter Negima, an unassuming restaurant in Kita-Ikebukuro, which specialises in Edo-style maguro (tuna) and negi (Welsh onion) nabe. Contrary to its big servings, the restaurant is tiny and only seats eight.
Negima is inspired by nabe from the Edo era prior to the invention of refrigerators, when fresh produce especially fish couldn’t be kept for long. So folks back then had to use up the ingredients by dropping them all into a pot of flavourful dashi broth where everything would be cooked thoroughly.
Nabe at Negima is served as a course meal. You start with an Edo-style tamagoyaki, or egg roll, which has been lightly seasoned with katsuo dashi and shoyu. Pair it with sake and you’re off to a good start. Next, you’ll be presented with a beautiful platter of nabe ingredients before they are cooked inside a light dashi broth along with wakame seaweed and fresh greens.
You’ll be able to sample various cuts of tuna, including the haramo (belly) and kama toro (gill flesh); they are both equally tender and elevated to another level with just a sprinkle of hand-crushed pepper. The thick slices of negi are cooked until soft and make for a refreshing relief between mouthfuls of tuna. To finish, you get to savour all that flavourful broth that’s been simmering with the tuna by pouring it into bowls of perfectly cooked Japanese claypot rice, much like a chazuke.
Although there’s only one type of nabe on offer, the restaurant does it extremely well. Negima’s simple yet refined take will give you a newfound appreciation for this classic one-pot meal.