Despite its reputation for being deadlier than cyanide, fugu—a poisonous blowfish considered a delicacy in Japan—has killed fewer than two dozen people in the last 15 years. If 23 people sounds like a lot of dead fugu fans, consider this: these are the poor, foolish souls who attempted to catch and prepare the blowfish at home, instead of allowing a trained chef to do the work for them. A trained chef knows that the fish's neurotoxins are inside its eyes, its skin, and its organs. The flesh of the fish is perfectly safe—and quite delicious.
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Training to become a certified fugu chef takes years, and only a handful of those chefs reside in the US—including one right here in Houston: Manabu Horiuchi, the sushi master at Kata Robata. And come Friday, December 26, Hori-san will be serving the luxurious fish in an array of different preparations, including soup and sashimi.
Hori-san estimates the fish will cost $35 for five pieces of the fish's soft, fatty flesh, which it gains as a protective layer of warmth during months spent in the cold, winter waters off the cost of Japan. The fish will be on Hori-san's menu for as long as it's available this year, though expect the season to be short.
Kata Robata often features such speciality items on its menu, such as the geoduck it serves when in season, making the restaurant a destination for gourmands who enjoy seeking out such unusual delicacies. While the crunchy geoduck goes well with a sparkling white wine or a dry Riesling, the soft fugu is traditionally served with warm sake. Some Japanese even infuse hot sake with blowfish tails, though that practice is falling out of favor as dried tails become more difficult to find and purchase. We recommend sticking with regular old warm sake if you decide to get daring this winter at Kata Robata.