Yakiniku AT KOME Florence

Florence is really embracing Asian cuisine at the moment. San Lorenzo is blooming into something of a little China Town and Korean and Japanese restaurants have been popping up like wildflowers all over the city for years. Kome in Santa Croce is one of the latter – a two storey Palazzo containing, on one floor a sub-par, slightly overpriced Kaiten Sushi (there’s better in Florence) and on the top floor under arched stone ceilings – a Japanese -style Yakiniku or BBQ restaurant. But I can’t recommend the sushi when places such as Yagura and the excellent Fusion Bar (in the Gallery Art Hotel) do a much better job, but the Yakiniku is very good.

Yakiniku is a simple affair, one orders from the meat and fish menu a selection for the table and it’s served raw for you to cook yourself over a table BBQ along with a selection of vegetables and whatever sides you desire. It’s similar to Korean Bulgogi, likely due to the Koreans bringing Bulgogi to Japan sometime after the second world war,  though others attest that Yakiniku is simply a Japanese way in which to eat western style food, as would seem to be the case as the word was first used to describe exactly that in Kanagaki Robun’s ‘Seiyo Ryoritsu’ (Western Food Handbook), in 1872. However, the argument on the subject is unimportant so long as the food is good.

We ordered the mixed meats and everything was excellent. A good selection of choice cuts of beef, along with chicken and pork which came with several sauces and glazes including an oily chilli. Along with that we took a collection of rice noodles served cold, a huge basket of tempura and a small salad. Appetisers are a nice touch and slightly above expectations. On this occasion a small slab of seasoned white fish served over a blanket of spinach and lettuce and on the table moments after ordering. The wine menu however is a list of white Italian “Asian pairing” clichés (we ordered a decent bottle of Gewurztraminer – nothing to write home about) and a good few bottles of Sake and other rice wines. 

The dessert menu offers a list of European dishes combined with Asian clichés like Green Tea Ice Cream and Green Tea Tiramisu, which is tasty and good after-BBQ food.

Service is hit and miss. Our waitress for the evening seemed alert enough and was much more pleasant than the vacant waiters we were used to from the sushi restaurant below. But then what does one really need after the table is filled and ready to be devoured, but a polite person to later take away the shame of empty plates?

If you still need an excuse to try Kome, then wait ’till August 29th which is the official “Yakiniku Day” in Japan. Or if you prefer the Korean experience then try Goong on Borgo Ognissanti which has a couple of Bulgogi tables – though be warned it is an ugly, whitewashed little restaurant with a minimal menu. Personally I’d recommend KOME as the better option, if for nothing else than the sheer fun of getting your hands dirty tugging cuts of beef to and from the grill.

KOME, Via dei Benci, 41, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy