いらっしゃい!
...an expat libertine with a penchant for sparkly dining partners, jazz bars and izakaya.
Opinions here expressed are not necessarily shared by any with whom I associate. Fault for errors and any offense caused is entirely my own.
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Entries in Fish (19)

Thursday
Aug302012

Selan, Kita-Aoyama  北青山

Due to close tomorrow and scheduled to be reborn as Kihachi Honten in the Spring of next year, Selan is a popular lunch spot situated between Aoyama-Itchomo and Gaienmae stations, on the Ginko tree-lined promenade (Gaienmae Ichonamiki) leading into the Jingu Gaien park.

Thanks to the comfortable terrace looking out onto the avenue, and the neighbouring Royal Garden Café, the atmosphere is more European than might be expected.

Sitting out on the terrace in early Spring or late Autumn, looking forward to or desperately hanging onto summer is always a pleasure. 

Although the drinks are a tad over-priced (although standard for the area), the mid-range set lunches offer value for money – three courses followed by tea or coffee.

The food is generally good, although it would be nice if the pasta dishes featured something other than spaghetti.

On occasion, the choice of ingredients combined miss the mark… Smoked mackerel and aubergine in a rich tomato sauce being particularly jarring.

On the whole, Selan is at its best with simpler (perhaps less adventurous) dishes, such as the kyo jidori pasta, or seafood pasta dishes.

The salads are sizable, fresh and well presented, the soups delicious and filling.

Although not exactly stingy with the bread, I can’t help but wish they’d leave a basket full on the table and be done with it, instead of making offerings with each course.

Today, the pate was excellent, but needed something to spice it up a little, perhaps chutney/s and a more robust "home-cooked" style bread. 

When busy, the atmosphere is pleasant enough. The service is okay, but drink orders take overlong to arrive.

Still, not a bad choice for a relaxed lunch. Looking forward to trying Kihachi next spring.

 

03-3478-2200

Selan

Tuesday
Jul312012

Sakana no Daidokoro Oriental, Motosumiyoshi  元住吉

One of two (the other being in Musashikosugi) seafood-centric izakaya, Sakana no Daidokoro Oriental is a superb dining experience – providing you like huge servings of fresh fish and shellfish as extremely low prices.

Located on the Breman shotengai (out of the east exit of the station, on the left just passed ABC Mart), it’s not a place that jumps out at you, being hidden away on the 2nd floor of an inconspicuous building, unseen from the street. My dining partner and I stumbled upon the place having been tempted by the signs for an okonomiyaki restaurant in the same building.

Oriental, plays the blue-collar, days-gone-by card well – simple, lively interior complete with beer and beverage posters, rough wooden tables and counters, crates, paper lanterns and bucket loads of noisy, happy diners.

The menu was wide-ranging, covering sashimi and sushi, through grilled, baked, fried and stewed dishes, salads and sides, and a smattering of classic izakaya fare not of the sea. Portions were extremely impressive, tasted great, and then even better when we received the bill at the end of the night.

Service was efficient, friendly and informed. Each member of staff knew their way around the menu, and was happy to offer recommendations and advice.

The clientele were a mixed bunch, young and old, and seemed each and every to be having a whale of a time. The atmosphere was lively, although most of the action seemed to be in the (much larger) smoking section of establishment.

A good range of shochu and nihonshu were available, along with draft and bottled beer, Hoppy and soft drinks. Best dishes of the night were the immense nokezushi, and the succulent, flesh-laden tuna jaw, not to mention thick slabs of fresh, if rough-hewn, sashimi

Top stuff.

 

Sakana no Daidokoro Oriental

044-430-5530

Monday
Apr302012

Kiyoka, Koenji  きよ香、高円寺

Back in March of last year, I finally got around to visiting one of Koenji’s esteemed Okinawan izakaya, Dachibin. A little over a year later, and I found myself invited to enjoy another evening of Okinawan cuisine at Kiyoka, the honten – now in its sixth decade – of the family-run chain of Okinawan businesses located not far from the station’s north exit.

Huddled down a sidle alley between lurching, half-rotten looking bars and eateries, Kiyoka is much smaller, and thus more intimate, than Dachibin, providing a more peaceful, leisurely dining experience, too. The service was patient and friendly, which always helps.

The menu is pretty much the same – plenty of Okinawan staples, only with less focus on the lower-end of the category, such as spam and scrambled eggs, as is usually encountered at less authentic Okinawan establishments.

We started the meal with some pungent tofuyo, a dense, cheese-like tofu eaten in small amounts as an accompaniment to liquor.

Dumplings followed, and didn’t last long. Would have preferred slightly thicker skins, but they were tasty nonetheless.

The goya-champuru was good, mostly because if contained real pork instead of spam. This dish seemed less bitter-tasting than it ought to, which might have been down to a bad batch of goya or something to do with the season, perhaps.

The sunui (a type of seaweed) tempura was very good, and could have easily been ordered a second time without complaint.

As could the gurukun, deep-fried fish so crunchy you can eat the whole thing.

We finished off the meal with a kind of spicy minced meat dish (the name escapes me), eaten by wrapping the meat in lettuce leaves, and some standard yaki-soba.

Keen to go back for some more. Although not as lively as Dachibin, I preferred what Kiyoka had to offer. 

 

03-3339-5722

Kiyoka

Saturday
Jan212012

Ginsuiso, Izu-inatori  銀水荘、東伊豆町

A stay at a ryokan is a fine thing. Especially if it provides a cozy room, onsen a sea view and an interesting menu.

Ginsuiso, an apparently well-reputed inn in Hagashiizu-cho (nearest station: Izu-Inatori), ticked all these boxes, and managed to heat the rooms so perfectly that one could ponce around in a yukata even in early January without the slightest shiver.

Both the evening meal and breakfast were substantial and nicely presented. The service provided was excellent, truly attentive and willing to explain and describe tirelessly. If there were any complaint with the food, it would be that they over played the seafood card with the breakfast. Sure, this inn is right on the sea, but every dish was some kind of fish, shellfish, unholy jelly-like substance or seaweed of some kind.

As expected, drinks were hugely over priced. Thankfully I managed to “smuggle” a few bottles in, so all was not lost.

Dinner consisted of a variety of dishes, ranging from shellfish to cream soup. 

Awabi odori-yaki – live abalone grilled on tabletop brazier

Shiro-ebi konoko gake – white shrimp served on sea cucumber ovary sauce – with shin-takenoko, ika kinomiae – new bamboo and squid topped with tree buds

Ikura, kinome, uni, yuba bekko an – roe, tree buds and sea urchin resting on tofu skin simmered in broth

Maguro, shiromi, uni sashimi – tuna, white fish and sea urchin sashimi

Kinmedai sugata zukuri to awabi – sashimi of splendid alfonsino and abalone

Kinmedai nitsuke – splendid alfonsino simmered in sweet soy sauce, complimented with daikon radish and aubergine 

Kinmedai sanma sushi, hatsuki kinkan mitsuni, hizu kazunoko matsumaetsuki, kukonomi, aiyu nibitashi shirozu – splendid alfonsino and mackerel sushi, honey-poached kumquat, salmon cartilage with herring roe, Chinese desert-thorn seeds and sweetfish simmered in white vinegar

Chilled Fubuki – the only sake of the evening

Steak with salad

Cream soup

Kani zosui – crab and rice porridge

Breakfast

Pickles

Maguro sashimi, ebi, wasabi zuke – tuna sashimi, shrimp and fermented wasabi

Salad

 

05-5795-0161

Ginsuiso

Sunday
Jul242011

The Buck & Bell, Long Itchington (英国)

Long Itchington, a picturesque Warwickshire village complete with village green and ducks waddling freely about the local pond, boasts not only a genteel calm, an abundance of charmingly appointed timbered buildings and lush foliage, but also three excellent pubs serving decent food.

One of the trios, The Buck & Bell, has welcomed visitors since the mid-17th century. Despite having rung time once and for all in the 1980s, it has since been restored and thrives once more.

A spacious well appointed interior, gleaming wood and polished bar pumps, and neatly dressed attentive staff provide a comfortable dining experience. The food, all sourced from local suppliers, made for a pleasing menu of pub grub classics – each well presented and cooked with care – without resorting to the pretention and over-priced, minuscule servings that so often mar gastro-pub offerings.

The starter of note was the field mushroom topped with smoked bacon and blue cheese rarebit – the bacon and cheese worked perfectly, as might be expected, while managing not to overpower the flavour of the mushroom. The mushroom could have been more substantial, a little more “meaty,” but was delicious all the same.

A double baked soufflé with mature cheddar cheese served with apple and celery salad went down well, too, as did a manly portion of crispy whitebait. The bread accompanying these crispy fish was quite uninspiring – something more rustic, grainier, would have suited the fish better.

The mains were a success, too. I had my eye on one of my dining companions’ wild mushroom risotto for the longest time. She thankfully struggled to finish the dish. The beer battered cod with crushy peas, chunky homemade chips and tartare sauce held it’s ground, yet failed to live up to the standards of cod I’ve come to expect from a certain Warwickshire fish and chip shop. The batter, however, was crisp and flavoursome.  

Perhaps the most enviable of my companions’ meals was the Lighthorne lamb kebabs with feta salad, sunblazed tomatoes and sauté potatoes. This was certainly the most appetizing plate to be served, and appeared to be the most substantial. Should I ever return (I’d happily do so) this is what I’d have.

Finally, for the mains, sea bass fillets with smoked bacon polenta cake, chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables and tomato compot. Good, but the fish was not all it could have been. Certainly something else was needed to fill out the plate.

Only one desert was sampled; a rich chocolate brownie with ice cream and peanuts smothered in caramel, I believe. Excellent, the peanuts in particular.

The Buck & Bell does what it sets out to, well. If only this kind of place would stretch to baskets of fresh bread, butter and olive oil to soak up the beer and fill the corners for male diners.

 

01926 811 177

http://www.buckandbellpub.co.uk/index.htm

Monday
May162011

Wakataka, Ikebukuro  若貴、池袋

Kaitenzushi is so ubiquitous that it tends to be overlooked. I’d hazard that most diners (at least those who like sushi) have a favourite establishment or two in areas they frequent, especially for lunches or short early evening stops. 

I have a thing for two places; one in Nishi Shinjuku – just behind Yodobashi Camera – the other in Nakano on the Sun Mall. They may belong to a small chain, but the quality of the fish is excellent. Fresh, delicious and served in more than ample portions, their sushi simply rocks. Prices are rock bottom, too – hence the queues, at the Nakano store at any rate. 

Wakataka, however, deserves to be ignored.

I’ve known it as long, but frequented it less. Never great, it’s certainly become worse. Cheap, but not that cheap. The sushi itself is poor. I remember the place being packed in the past. No more.

My dining partner and I did a range of “classics,” from salmon to hamachi, none of which inspired. You know you’re in trouble when the mayo-covered options taste best. 

Tuesday
Apr052011

Sakanaya, Ebisu  肴や、恵比寿

A chain, not ubiquitous but settling in for a while by the looks of things, Sakanaya specializes in low prices and above average portions – washed down with super cheap (¥190) icy beer.

The two I’m familiar with (both in Ebisu, not far from the station) have deceptively narrow looking “front rooms” behind hanging vinyl sheets, furnished with plain wooden tables and chairs.

The upkeep of the interiors varies; I watched a ceiling mounted speaker come crashing to the floor, missing a diner’s head by a hair’s breadth on one occasion…

Both have Tardis-like interiors. Should you be beckoned to the inner sanctum (usually by a south east Asian baring a badge purporting a native Japanese name – think HSBC call center staff only with beer) you’ll be confronted with a cavernous space, most likely filled with trestle tables and benches, around which hoards of thirsty, ravenous youths or white shirted salarymen feast.

It can be disconcerting.

Service is pretty hit-and-miss. So is the delivery of all besides the beer.

The food isn’t going to win any awards – it’s not intended too.

Big chunky otoshi of maguro sashimi, bulging seafood nabe and lethal but delicious deep fried gobo are good enough, if unrefined. 

The daikon salad is impressive, you need climbing gear to tackle the beast. Doesn’t taste of much though. 

The rest is just big, and basic. Better than a kombini dinner, worse than you could do yourself, probably.

It’s about the beer. Best visited in the heat of summer, without an appetite. A couple of thousand yen should suffice.

Which is not to say there’s not a place for this kind of izakaya in the pantheon.

 

03-3444-7508

http://r.gnavi.co.jp/a454919/map/