Fire Whole 4000

5th Floor, 2-5-1 Azabajuban, Minato Ku, Tokyo, 106-0045, Japan

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Fire Whole 4000 is a Chinese stockpot and gyoza restaurant in Azabubujan in Minato Ku that opened in early 2018. It is the younger sister of a restaurant of the same name in Shinagawa, where chef/owner Kimoda Kinya was born. It is located on the fifth floor of a building in Azabubujan itself, and there is a lift at ground level that takes you directly to the restaurant entrance. The name is a little complicated to explain. “4000” is “shisen”in Japanese, a pun on Sichuan. “Fire” comes from the Japanese name for the hot pot, 'fire wok' in Japanese. “Whole” is the same pronunciation as 'hall', meaning place.

At each table you are presented with a large steel stockpot placed on a central electric hob, the stockpot split into two sections. In one you have some root vegetables and the other Sichuan peppers. A waitress comes along with a pot of stock and the two different stocks, one mild and one spicy, begin to heat up. You are then presented with assorted trays of ingredients that are cooked in the stockpot. We had an array of vegetables, and separately a tray of fish and later meat slices. It is up to the customer to do the cooking incidentally, so you need to be comfortable with this aspect, especially as the staff do not speak English. We were fortunate in that we went with a local who was adept at both the language and cooking. We tried a variety of things, including shrimp, kue (longtooth grouper), pike perch, clam and sea bream. The vegetables were good, including some excellent okra. For the meat we tried pork from Gunma prefecture, a mountainous area north west of Tokyo, from a farm run by a Mr Kato near the city of Ota. There was also beef tongue from the USA, and wagyu A4 grade beef from Hokkaido. I thought that the pork was the star here, having excellent and deep flavour. I have absolutely no idea how to score something like this, where the customer is actually the cook. However the ingredients were well sourced.

The two actual bits of cooking from the kitchen were some excellent large gyoza, with good dumplings and more of the lovely pork (14/20). I also enjoyed mapo tofu, made with minced pork, tofu and sansho pepper in place of the traditional Sichuan peppercorns. Sansho is a related pepper, and has a similar numbing spiciness as Sichuan pepper, but I prefer it since the spicing effect is subtler. The tofu was silky, the pork again good, and the bite from the sansho pepper lovely (14/20). 

Service was pleasant if not overly attentive, though the owner was very friendly. Our bill came to ¥9,648 (£66) per person with plenty of beer to drink. Fire Whole 4000 offers a fun evening provided you are comfortable with the hotspot cooking, and the few specialities that were actually prepared by the kitchen, the gyoza and the mapotofu, were excellent.

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