The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores Izakaya Kura
A Japanese restaurant that offers authentic taste and appeal using quality Japanese-made food ingredients
Mexico City / Mexico
Proper experiences for even casual drinkers
Izakaya Kura is a Japanese restaurant located in the Roma district, which is in the center of Mexico City. The restaurant opened in April 2016 and was based on the concept of "a Japanese izakaya where you can go for a casual drink." The owner and head chef is Takeya Matsumoto. He is renowned as a consistent chef that treats each dish with the same earnestness and does not allow compromise. The Japanese food that Mr. Matsumoto offers has been highly praised from various quarters, and has been selected as a "Mexico Restaurant 120" by Larousse Cocina in the four consecutive years up to 2020.
90% of the customers are Mexicans, and the restaurant is embraced and loved by many local people. This is because it always offers an ample menu of authentic dishes as good as those of izakaya in Japan. It selects its food ingredients with great care. Fresh ingredients are procured, and these are cooked in a way that brings out their appealing qualities to the full. There is also an ample drinks menu. It offers a wide selection, including sake, shochu, Japanese whisky, and cocktails. There are always dozens of sake brands to choose from, and rare brands are also available depending on the season. In addition, the restaurant constantly strives to increase customer satisfaction, such as by offering original red and white wines that can only be enjoyed at Izakaya Kura. Many customers are charmed by the special commitment to quality that Izakaya Kura offers, from its interior right through to its cuisine and drinks. Amongst restaurants in Mexico, Izakaya Kura has an early opening time. Mexicans often eat lunch after 14:00, but Izakaya Kura, which always focuses on customer convenience, opens at 11:30 for customers who wish to enjoy its great value set meals, etc.
Belief in Japanese-made Wagyu beef
In accordance with Mr. Matsumoto’s insistence on quality, the Wagyu beef that Izakaya Kura uses is specially imported directly from Japan. Despite Mexico being a long way from Japan, there is a reason for insisting on Japanese-made Wagyu beef even though it must be specially imported. "In fact, this is because I had a very disappointing experience in the past. I ate meat served as "Wagyu beef" at a famous restaurant in Mexico. The moment I ate it, I realized it was not Wagyu beef, because the flavor and everything else about it was so different. If you serve something as Wagyu beef, then unless the customer is eating the real Japanese product, then the "Wagyu" brand will get a bad image. I felt strongly that, as my mission, I had to offer real Wagyu beef to Mexican people," says Mr. Matsumoto.
Kura began importing Wagyu beef three years ago. Currently, it buys Wagyu beef from Japan as whole animals. Buying whole animals allows various parts to be used and broadens the range of dishes that can be offered. "In addition to charcoal steaks and skewers, we offer a variety of other Wagyu beef dishes, such as hamburgers, roast beef and carpaccio. We strive to enable our customers to enjoy the original taste of Wagyu beef. Of course, in order to satisfy the tastes of Mexicans who like to put chili sauce on their food, we separately provide soy sauce-based sauces containing chili, etc., and are careful not to force our sense of values on our customers. Impressions expressed by Mexicans who have eaten Izakaya Kura’s Wagyu beef dishes include, ‘Is this really beef?’ and ‘The sweetness and aroma of the beef fat are completely different to that of any beef I’ve ever eaten.’" Through commitment and belief, the flavor of real Wagyu beef is being reliably provided to Mexican people, and new value is thereby being conveyed.
Wanting to offer Japan’s best food ingredients in Mexico
Mr. Matsumoto says he is always looking for better food ingredients and is continually gathering information to help him stock Japanese-made ingredients that are not available in Mexico. The Japanese-made food ingredient that he focuses on most is "fresh fish." Importing as "fresh fish" is not easy because the import procedures are complicated and clearing customs takes a long time. However, there is a reason why Mr. Matsumoto regularly contacts JETRO in order to seek solutions. "We basically try to use local fish produced in Mexico, but there are a lot of fish in Japan that you cannot eat in Mexico. For example, nodoguro (blackthroat seaperch) and fatty aji (horse mackerel) cannot be purchased in Mexico. Aji can be obtained in Mexico, but the fattiness of the aji produced in Japan is totally different. When you eat it, you will definitely notice that the taste is different to that of the Mexican variety. I really want to offer that taste to Mexican people."
Wanting to be an establishment that can convey the taste and appeal of authentic Japanese cuisine
With a boom in Japanese food occurring around the world, and countless Japanese restaurants opening in Mexico, Japanese dishes are no longer regarded by Mexicans as special food. However, Izakaya Kura represents a special presence in Mexico City. The Japanese food offered by Izakaya Kura has provided the lifestyles and eating habits of various people with a new sense of values. "Japanese food has become familiar to Mexican people. Going forward, it is necessary to offer authentic Japanese cuisine separately from Mexican style Japanese food. As the market for Japanese food in Mexico gets larger, Izakaya Kura must continue to be an establishment that can always offer the authentic taste of Japanese cuisine. In order to do that, one important factor is insisting on Japanese-made food ingredients. We would like to share information and Japanese-made food ingredients with other people in the Japanese food business in Mexico City, and thereby heighten each other’s level of quality. We want Izakaya Kura to be an establishment that leads the Japanese food business in Mexico City, and continues contributing to the development of Japanese food culture in Mexico."