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 Japanese (57)

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

Wednesday
Jan092013

Akaoni, Sangenjaya 赤鬼、三軒茶屋  

Akaoni, the lauded Red Devil of Sancha, is said to be one of the best nihonshu focused izakaya in town, famed for its list of 100 or more sakes – with a particular focus on smaller local breweries’ jizake – and quality food, both of which have been enjoyed by loyal patrons over the last three decades.

In my humble opinion, Akaoni enjoys a reputation better than it deserves.

Sure, the sake list is impressive and competitively priced. The food is good, but nothing mind blowing, the portions a little stingy (always leave feeling hungry) and the speed with which it is served at times agonizingly slow. 

My first visit, almost a decade ago, left me feeling that the place was a little unfriendly and lacking in warmth – an impression that remained on subsequent, infrequent visits.

A bonenkai there with Moxie, Woody and Tobi-chan in December of last year confirmed my previous assessment as far as the drink and food goes, although the welcome and service was much friendlier… perhaps too much so, as the lady of the house was in full sales mode, to the point of being overbearing.

Such gripes aside, Akaoni is still a good little izakaya, and worth a visit, as long as your aim is to drink plenty of sake and nibble as an afterthought.

When you do nibble, the sashimi moriawase is a good bet, and can be had at a discount (i.e., an extra fish is added) if you order when making a reservation. 

The towering stewed daikon was another favourite, as was the grilled lotus root.

On the other hand, the salads and nabe were pretty dull. 

If sperm sacks are your thing, then the shirako might please, being particularly soft and creamy of texture.

Don't believe the hype, but don’t neglect to stop by either. For a more thorough appraisal, look here and here.

 

03-3410-9918 

Akaoni

Tuesday
Aug142012

Kyo no Shin, Jiyugaoka 京乃臣、自由が丘 

Situated on a side street just off Jiyugaoka’s Hilo Street – just around the corner from Fermata – Kyo no Shin offers Hiroshima style (packed out with vegetables rather than the familiar pancake-like batter) okonomiyaki and a range of sundry dishes with a Mediterranean flavour, in a surprisingly intimate and contemporary setting.

This small restaurant is on the ground floor of what must have been a home. As such, it’s hardly spacious. A large teppanyaki hotplate dominates the space, around which 10-12 diners can be seated. Off to the right, an alcove complete with table and chairs can accommodate a small group. The kitchen, what there is of it, is behind the hotplate.

The crew of amiable young chefs takes orders and cook their delicious fare right before your eyes – this “show” being half the fun. The other half is eating the food itself.

We started our meal with hiyayakko kakijou (thick slices of flavoursome cold tofu with bonito flakes), followed by the kaisen no kouso bataa yaki, consisting of shrimps and assorted white fish and shellfish, cooked in butter, the flavours and seasoning being redolent of Spanish cuisine.

Moving on to the okonomiyaki, the funwari yamaimo suteki was delicious, although so light as to be somewhat unsatisfying. Craving something more robust, the soba torotoro tamagonose totori daisen tori no sauté provided a gooey pile of sauce-smothered vegies, topped with a fried egg and juicy chicken. 

Excellent overall, Kyo no Shin does a competent job of providing a somewhat more sophisticated okonomiyaki dining experience than is usual. There’s another in Gakugei-Daigaku, too.

 

03-3723-9600

Kyo no Shin

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

Tuesday
Jul172012

Toyoda, Yukigaya-Otsuka  とよだ、雪谷大塚

Another of Tobi-chan’s recommendations, Toyoda is a nice little bare-bones izakaya within spitting distance of Yukigaya-Otsuka station (Ikegami line).

Certainly old-school, and packed to the gills with old-timers busy about their shochu and bottled Kirin beer, the interior is in better condition than the lantern-lit façade might lead one to believe.

The front section of the izakaya is taken up by a long, L-shape counter, the middle by a dining floor with a half-dozen or so tables, and the third, rear section made up of a zashiki area with low laying tables and the aching limbs they induce.

The menu is broad, covering the gamut of typical izakaya fare, the prices extremely reasonable (although the portions are at best average), and the quality of the cooking acceptable given the overall flavour and price point of the establishment.

The oden and chicken karagage were the best dishes of the evening, with the most disappointing being the chijimi.

Happy diners are served by bustling old ladies with beaming grins and croaky voices. The atmosphere is convivial, and at times rather lively.

Around 10pm, a younger - mostly male - crowd swarms in just as the ojisan are bidding their keep-bottles farewell.

Asupara-maki

Tebasaki

Excellent fun, especially for nomikai goers more intent on drink than food. Expect to leave with plenty of yen still in your pocket.

 

03-3720-3338

Toyoda

Monday
May212012

Uminekoya, Nishi-Ogikubo  海猫屋、西荻窪

Not having visited Nishi-Ogikubo for several years, I was delighted when Uminekoya, a small, neat and beautifully executed restaurant a brief stroll from the station's south exit, was suggested as a dining venue.

The shop’s façade and interior were modest; the latter dominated by a long dining counter and open kitchen, and the bustle of activity therein. The proprietors, two gentleman in their late-middle years, ran the whole show, from taking orders, preparing and cooking a host of excellent dishes to serving them all – along with sturdy pints of heartland beer or crisp white wines – with a smile. 

If one complaint could be raised, it would be that this two man show sometimes struggled to keep pace with countless re-orders and requests from a crowd of diners (a pleasant mix of families, smart young ladies and couples) clearly intent on enjoying as much of the varied and interesting menu as their stomachs could handle.

Not only was the menu varied – ranging from South East Asian through Japanese to European dishes – but every dish was also extremely well proportioned, nicely presented and undoubtedly lovingly created with high quality, fresh produce. The prices were very reasonable, with some being criminally cheap considering the volume and quality of cooking. For example, the thick, juicy slabs of roast pork with garlic roast potatoes, or the huge, mouthwatering pile of steamed vegetables that the diners on the neighbouring table ordered after (sadly) my dining partners and I had already eaten more than our fill.

Carpaccio of sole (delicate flavour, melted in the mouth)

Spring herring marinade (perfect combination with oil and black olives)

Thai-style spicy spring noodle salad (surprisingly spicy)

Marburu dofu (even spicier)

Succulent roast pork, with roast potatoes, garlic and herbs (perfection; and a zillion times better than that I recently had at Le Lion)

Margherita

Quattro formaggio (very good, but not a patch on da Isa’s take on this classic pizza)

Cheese plate (the weakest of entire meal, but not unexpected)

Uminekoya is a praiseworthy restaurant, of which the gentlemen in the kitchen can be proud. Not recommended for raucous piss-ups, but perfect for a peaceful (smoke-free), stimulating meal with favourite dining companions. Very much looking forward to visiting again.

 

03-3333-4466

Uminekoya

Thursday
Feb022012

Sakyuu-ya, Ogikubo  砂丘屋、荻窪


Not far from Ogikubo station’s south exit (yet far enough on a bitterly cold evening), Sakyuu-ya is closet-sized izakaya/ koryori-ya specializing in simple, strong tasting dishes designed to compliment sake and other tipples.

The counter seats about eight diners, at a push, and the master of the house has very little kitchen space in which to work but, nevertheless, manages to produce a variety of fish-themed, sake kasu (sake lees) infused dishes.

There’s a menu to choose from, although Woodster and I decided to try one of the omakase plans. Three price grades were available: ¥1,000, ¥2,000 or ¥3,000. We did the latter, which proved to be excellent value in terms of both quantity and quality.

Flame seared, fatty salmon 

Interesting otoshi – the beans marinated in Kahlua were great

Grilled fish and roast vegetables – reminiscent of Mediterranean cooking

Tofu and chicken, in sake kasu soup

Deep fried fish head, stuffed with roe baked in sake kasu

Dashi maki tamago

Sake kasu pizza!

Salmon and daikon in miso soup

 

03-3392-6909

Sakyuu-ya