Eating out / Succulent summer venison

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Roasted summer deer meat at Cava.K. in Kikugawa, Shizuoka Prefecture

By Daichi Okayasu / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKIKUGAWA, Shizuoka — The winter hunting season is often considered the best time of year to eat venison. The meat of game animals like deer, however, is also in season during summer, when deer are hunted to prevent damage to crops. During this time of year, deer consume large amounts of weeds so their bodies accumulate a moderate amount of fat, making for a soft, pleasant texture in their meat.

Attracting diners from around the nation with its signature game meat dishes is a restaurant serving Western European-inspired food called Cava.K. — pronounced nearly the same way as the district it is in, Sabaka, a countryside area of Kikugawa, Shizuoka Prefecture.

“The deer meat in summer is fantastic and only available for a limited time,” said owner and chef Masayuki Yamaguchi, 52. “I really hope people can try it.”

Yamaguchi recommends sampling meat from both bucks and does as well as various parts of the animal, saying, “It’s interesting to compare the flavors.”

Recently, I decided to splurge on a full course of deer meat, making a reservation for a ¥9,200 course, though a ¥6,800 game meat course is also available during the summer. That day, I was served deer hunted in the town of Mori in the prefecture. Except for the dessert, deer meat was used in the other six courses — from appetizer to main dish.

The appetizer, which included deer sausage and smoked deer heart, was followed by small dishes of roasted doe tenderloin and deer belly stewed in red wine. Biting into the tenderloin, the juices spread throughout my mouth. It paired well with the zucchini puree. The belly was so tender that I felt as if it was melting on my tongue.

The main dish was roasted summer deer, a simple dish prepared by char-grilling aged buck meat. The flavor of lean meat struck an excellent balance with the rich sweetness of the fat.

Game meat dishes are said to test a chef’s abilities because venison possesses peculiar traits, which is “an interesting aspect of game meat,” Yamaguchi said.

High-quality game meat is widely available in Shizuoka Prefecture due to the presence of venison processing facilities throughout the prefecture. Deer meat in particular has attracted attention for its high protein and iron content and low calorie count.

“I continue to serve game meat simply because it’s delicious,” Yamaguchi said. “When it’s in season, it’s an ingredient I fall in love with.”


Open: Tuesdays to Sundays. Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Closed: Mondays (but open when they fall on national holidays, and closed the following day)

Address: 791-11 Sabaka, Kikugawa, Shizuoka Prefecture

Phone: (0537) 37-1820

Credit cards accepted

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