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 @IzakayaDining (39)

Monday
Apr292013

Hogeisen, Asakusa  捕鯨船、浅草

We stumbled upon Hogeisen while looking for somewhere good to eat near Sensō-ji. A Shōwa era relic, this izakaya specializes in whale meat. Although the cramped interior and eclectic theatreland photographs and trinkets provided plenty of nostalgia (Kitano “Beat” Takeshi used to dine here when still trying to make his mark on the comedy circuit), the food failed to generate any smiles. 

Frozen whale meat tends to have the same oddly firm texture as the dairy-milk ice pops I ate as a child, and is practically tasteless, which is hardly a ringing endorsement. Although the whale meat yakisoba sounded interesting it turned out be a pile of bland noodles and sauce, of the kind usually encountered at festival food stalls, with occasional nuggets of whale meat doing little to impress. The beef nikomi wasn’t up to much either…

Counter seating - traditional theatreland dining 

Whale sashimi - not worth the political fallout 

Whale meat yakisoba - risable 

Beef nikomi - average at best, but once favoured by Kitano Takeshi

 

03-3844-9114

Hogeisen

Friday
Apr262013

Kokoroya, Nakameguro  こころ屋、中目黒

I first spotted Kokoroya some time last year, probably en route to Kushiwakamaru or Café Carat, and had been meaning to give it a try ever since. Part of a small chain with a handful of Kyoto establishments this one and only Tokyo outpost with its pleasantly understated Japanesque interior and Kyoto cuisine denoted an enjoyable meal, and a welcome change from usual Nakameguro haunts.

Seated at the long counter dominating the dining space, we soaked up the relaxing atmosphere, the chef’s recommendations and a variety of shōchu, the best of which (at least as far as my aching head could recall the following day) was the Nakanaka – an old acquaintance.  

The food itself was okay, but being a little small left us feeling hungry, and somewhat out of pocket. Not that it was bad, the various dishes just weren’t particularly exciting, and of those that worked there was not enough. If picking favourites, the nanoha with su miso was delicious, and then jidori karaage excellent (I could have eaten a mountain of the stuff). Although in season and thus hard to ignore, the takenoko was a bit of a let down, being less flavoursome than anticipated. And these days, after having being spoiled at izakaya such Monzennakacho’s Uosan, dainty little plates of even daintier morsels of sashimi are just an annoyance…

The service was attentive enough, even being overly so to begin with – food orders were requested before the first drinks and otsumami had been delivered, which, considering the relaxed ambience, was entirely uncalled for. Still, not bad overall, but best suited to a (very) light meal and some drinks, rather than a prolonged evening meal.

Otsumami of assorted vegetables 

The menu - Kyoto cuisine, delicately proportioned... 

Nanoha with su miso - a delicious accompaniment to iced shōchu

Sashimi moriawase (for two) - tasty, but not nearly enough

Open kitchen - great for receiving recommendations of the day

Grilled takenoko - the brazier was a nice touch, if not quite hot enough

Jidori karaage - the best dish of the evening, light batter and delicously moist chicken

 

03-3713-2488

Kokoroya

Monday
Apr222013

Café + Cardiff, Shimo-Meguro  下目黒

A weekend stroll along Meguro Dōri, taking in the various furniture shops for which it is famed, inevitably led to a beer stop. At first glance, the street side menu and steps leading to Café + Cardiff (situated right on the Motogenbajo crossing) didn’t seem to promise much, but once inside we were pleasantly surprised.

Despite the name and some Welsh-themed decoration, (as well as some tempting whiskeys) for the most part the café’s interior had a more Parisian feel to it, somehow reminding me of Minami Aoyama’s Nid Café

The beer (Heineken) took forever to be poured and served, but was (surprisingly) well worth the wait, tasting better than any I’ve yet had here. The menu looked interesting, and the grilled sandwiches were okay, but hardly memorable. Despite a Foursquare recommendation suggesting that the cheesecake was mind-blowing, it turned out to be tasty and quite attractive, but not that special.

Wouldn’t rush back for the food, but settling in for an afternoon drink would be fun.

The bar - Welsh overtones 

Interior decoration - European flavour

Cheesecake - much lauded, but just okay

 

03-6452-4933

Sunday
Apr212013

Es, Ebisu  エス、恵比寿

Es enjoys pretty good, and generally consistent, reviews online, and I have it on good authority that the dining experience on the main floor is enjoyable. On this particular visit we ended up seated outside on the small terrace in front of the restaurant, huddled under a gas heater willing ourselves to be warm. The staff were pleasant, the open kitchen with pizza kiln to the rear of the terrace a nice touch, and the food reasonable in terms of both quality and price. 

The lunch menu provided all the Italian staples, and baskets of bread helped fill the corners. The tuna salad was about as dull as they come, but the corn and potato soup and prosciutto-topped margherita made up for it. Although no longer on the menu, my dining partner mentioned to the staff that she’d once enjoyed a cheese risotto there and had hoped to repeat the experience; the request was speedily accommodated, but the risotto didn’t live up to expectations. 

Obviously better visited once the weather improves if dining al fresco, but I’m curious to try the restaurant proper of an evening.

Tuna salad - dull, limp, uninspired 

Corn and potato soup - smooth and creamy 

Bread and olive oil - a simple pleasure, and replenished if asked for

Cheese risotto - somewhat bland

Margherita topped with prosciutto - moreish

 

03-6277-1612

Es  

Saturday
Apr202013

Shinki Soba, Nakano  真希そば、中野

I used to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out in Nakano, but years have passed since last paying the place much attention. A recent visit, in search of a renowned camera store, revealed a much changed north exit to the station, the development of which, thankfully, has had little or no effect on the narrow streets and alleyways to the east of the Sun Road and Broadway.

In the end the visit to the camera store proved fruitless, but lunch at Shinki Soba (conveniently located among the izakaya, rāmen shops and girly bars that make up the afore mentioned neighbourhood), was pleasant enough. Not purely dedicated to soba, the menu covered a range of more general izakaya standards, and some few of the patrons clearly treat the place as such.

The soba were nice and firm, and the tempura crisp and light. For the price and locale, the set lunches provided good cost performance, but the beer-pouring machine in the kitchen was the star of the show, and the communal pot of coffee brewing on the counter was a homely touch.

Cold Soba and tempura lunch set - perfect now the weather is warming up, and filling and nutritious too

Menus in black and orange - still all the rage for Japanese establishments

Soba and tempura in hot broth - delicious but the tempura batter soon becomes soggy

Soba - firm and slightly texturous 

 

03-3387-1116

Shinki Soba

Wednesday
Apr102013

Aoyama Janoja, Minami Aoyama 青山ジャノジャ, 南青山

Weary, hungry and desperate to get out of the rain, we stumbled upon Aoyama Janoja and, to our regret, entered in.

The dull, barren interior and rubbish food were well complimented by a total lack of atmosphere. If there were one “good point” it would be the embarrassingly apologetic and attentive service from the waiter. His shame was written all over his face.

The food was so bad that we actually rushed to get through it lest the experience linger. The appalling pasta dish aside, the four cheese pizza, consisting of a burnt, crunchy pitta-like base and a tomato-meat sauce (without the meat) topped with three cheeses and honey (not good with the meat flavoured sauce…), was hard to make sense of.

How on earth is this place in business?

Tomato cream sauce and shrimp pasta -- without a hint of tomato

"Four" cheese pizza

Takenoka tempura 

03-3475-6099 

Aoyama Janoja

Thursday
Jan312013

Uncle Tom, Ebisu  ウンクルトム、恵比寿

Tokyo is dotted with these old-style Western/ spaghetti “restaurants” serving up antiquated Japanese takes on Italian staples and domestic creations utilizing all manner of seemingly incompatible ingredients.

Uncle Tom, situated a short jog from Ebisu station’s East exit, is one of the better known and loved of the genre.

Usually busy, especially of a lunchtime, the portions are pretty good, the prices extremely reasonable, and the pints of Yebisu beer very cheap. 

The atmosphere is redolent of a rāman-ya, and the interior rather 1970s/ 80s, complete with a collection of prints by John Lennon. 

The salads, although sizable, aren't prizewinners, but the spaghetti is strangely compelling. The asparagus, bacon and egg pasta was certainly moreish, and I have it on good authority that the cod roe and nattō variety is equally tasty…

 

03 3442 1934

Uncle Tom