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 Sashimi (17)

Thursday
Apr262012

Sakura, Jingumae  神宮前

Not far from where Volantaire used to perch, Sakura is a tastefully appointed modern izakaya/ dining bar in Jingumae’s B6 building, more or less opposite the many faceted Audi showroom.

Dark interior, stylish yet simple furnishings and a decking veranda that must be great when it’s not raining (a rare chance of late!) combine with brisk, friendly service, quality cooking and an intimate, quietly convivial atmosphere to create a pleasant dining experience. 

The menu covers the gamut of izakaya staples, with each seemingly prepared from quality ingredients with an equal focus on presentation and volume.

Although my dining companion and I were too absorbed in conversation to delve deeply, those dishes we did enjoy were delicious, although, and as others have noted, the sashimi is okay rather than great, despite looking pretty.

The salad was plentiful, possessed of a delicious sesame-enfused dressing and both soft and crunchy textures. The takenoko, being in season, was very good, too.

The best, or at least most memorable, dish of the evening was the otoshi. Served on elongated platter, at least half a meter in length, it presented us (to our glad surprise) with an array of different flavours, textures and cooking styles, from simmered to deep fried, with pickles and chewy snails in between. 

Good stuff, and deserves further investigation. There’s another Sakura in Shibuya’s Sakuragaoka district, too.

 

03-6427-3335 

Sakura

Wednesday
Mar212012

Heisaku, Mizuhodai  平作、みずほ台

Better known for its soba and udon noodles, Heisaku (about 5 minutes from Mizuhodai station, on the Tobu-Tojo line) is actually a reasonable izakaya providing a distinct Showa era flavour and generous portions.

Spread across two spacious tatami floors, tables are low, and seating in the form of cushions upon the mats – prolonged sessions can result in discomfort.

The décor is hardly noteworthy, but this izakaya isn’t trying to score points for style.

Popular with locals, Heisaku is not only a venue for a casual dinner or drinking session, but seems also to be favoured for company parties, wakes and other formal gatherings.

The broad menu and generally good quality of food, however, do deserve praise.

Aside from the delicious noodles, the sashimi, simmered fish, tempura and yakitori are all satisfying – the yakitori in particular stands out for its size and rich tare sauce.

The tempura, the huge shrimps in particular, is excellent, although the batter is of a heavier, darker, oilier variety than encountered at more refined tempura restaurants, such as Tsunahachi.

Yariika gesso sashi

Tsukemono

Sashimi - maguro, aji, tai

Udon

Soba

Shirauo no karaage

Sashimi moriawase

Tempura moriawase – shrimp, mushrooms, peppers, aubergine

Negima – tare

Negima – shio

Norwegian salmon steamed with mushrooms 

Soba – kimono jiru

Yaki ika

Tofu salad

Ice cream

 

049-252-0110

Heisaku

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

Monday
Dec122011

Sakimura, Ningyocho  咲村、人形町

Bonenkai, much like birthday parties, are often great chances to try somewhere one might otherwise never have heard of.

This particular “forget the year party” saw us head out to Sakimura, an ageing izakaya on a side street off a back street just off the main drag of Ningyocho, about five minutes chilly stroll from the station.

Situated on the second floor of decidedly nondescript building, the interior was bare bones to say the least. The main dining area – spacious though it was – had the look and feel of a canteen, a place for truckers or late night shift workers to get sozzled at before drifting home. More than likely the furnishings had been done in the early eighties, and never bothered with since. Still, it added to the character.

Our party was, thankfully, put out of sight in a large washitsu. Tatami, low tables, cushions, faded beer posters and aching joints.

Some kind of set-menu had been arranged, and so bottled beer flowed uninterrupted, while a couple of old ladies supplied a regular stream of dishes. None of which were mind blowing, mind you, but they did the job in terms of keeping us drinking without embarrassing mishaps.

Aside from the tamago-yaki, daikon and chicken stew, yaki-soba and veggies, the stars of the night where the maguro kama (which yielded a generous quantity of succulent flesh) and the sashimi moriawase. This, despite being a little rough looking, like off-cuts leftover from the previous night, was surprisingly good.

Not bad, all round, as far as old skool izakaya go. One to visit with @izakayasanpo for sure.

 

03-3664-4085 

Sakimura

Tuesday
Sep272011

Hasegawa Kanbutsuten, Shibuya  長谷川乾物点、渋谷

Situated on the decidedly snug 5th floor of the Wako Building, itself located on the street to the right of Shibuya’s Mark City, one block back from Dogenzaka, Hasegawa Kanbutsuten is worth remembering when in need of quick meal en route elsewhere, or when at a loss for something handy near the station. 

Usual wooden counter, basic furnishings and bottle-lined walls. Service provided by a chirpy young lass and a master with the appearance of a fading rocker – a Motley Crue fan of old, most likely… (The mascara gives them away, you know.) 

Cheap beer drew us in, and then kept us a while longer. Not exactly heaving, the small space presented no problems. 

Food ranged from poor – the karaage (small, oily, tough) – to good – the sashimi (way better than we’d have expected) – with the salad proving to be prolific, if unrefined. The fries were nice and big, but so oily.

The spicy sweet and sour ebi filled the last corner but felt somwwhat processed. 

The pickles were a bit crap really. The otoshi of vinegared fish in light batter was tasty though.

Did this post back to front, didn't I.

 

03-5459-3288

 

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/

Thursday
Mar242011

Uosan, Monzen-nakachō  魚三、門前仲町

Uosan has been serving cheap, rough hewn and undeniably voluminous fresh fish since before the LDP was even a glint in Toby’s eye; which is to say since 1954, to be precise. 

The mere mention of this near legendary Monzennaka izakaya, situated not far from Orihara Shōten on Eitai Dōri, makes fish lovers and izakaya aficionados go weak at the knees. Or, perhaps, it’s the hour or so of queuing they endure in order to secure a seat that makes them so. 

There’s nothing fancy about Uosan, and none of the staff - the silver-haired mama-san included - waste time with the usual niceties.

Once the front door slides open the patient line of hungry fans dutifully cross the threshold and (unless they are regulars, ancient or have a way with old ladies) are brusquely told where to sit.

If lucky, a spot on the ground floor squeezed in between the other diners at one of the three counters will be awarded. If not, they are summarily banished to one of the three upper floors, and the perils of tatami mat seating. 

It’s a great business model. Open at 4pm, and have a full house and captive audience by 4:02pm. 

Initially, order taking and delivery of dishes takes time to get into a groove - be patient. There’s bottled Kirin beer, Uosan branded bottles of chilled (instantly forgettable) sake, and plenty of the warm stuff being sloshed about in tall tokuri, too. You’ll need some time to take in the menu, which is posted on the walls. There are 126 individual items listed on the wall above the kitchen hatch alone! 

It’s all about fish, although a few concessions to other categories are made, supplied by generations of Tsukiji fish-mongers; their family/ business names are proudly displayed upon one of the walls (as is the case at Okajōki). For variety’s sake, the plethora of fish on offer comes fried, grilled, stewed, boiled and pickled. It’s also absurdly cheap, very big, mostly fresh and pleasingly unrefined. 

While you’re tucking into plate after heaped plate of sashimi - the kampachi, tai and chūtoro were fantastic - and generous portions of juicy, glistening grilled fillets and steaks it’s hard not to notice the strange atmosphere... 

Hardly “cosy,” and not exactly relaxing either. It’s quiet, but in the way a museum or gallery is quiet. You don’t want to disturb the peace, and everyone around you looks so serious. I’d put half of it down to collective fear of the mama-san and her offspring, the remainder to concentration on the task at hand, which is to say consumption of more and more fish.

Either way, it’s not really the place for a party or, for that matter, a leisurely meal. Best to get your fix and head elsewhere for drinks, or something.   

Uosan does provide some great people watching opportunities. Many of the patrons are regulars, and probably locals to boot. Some read while eating, others eat their fill while listening to iPods. Others still spend more time gazing wistfully at everyone else's meals, and seem to forget to order much for themselves. Conversation with strangers is out. With your dining partners, limited.  

UPDATE: 03/06/12

Yesterday's visit to Uosan, after a little over year, proved to far more enjoyable than the first. Same hour-long wait in the queue of expectant diners, and when the doors opened at 4pm, the place was immediately full.

This time, however, we were ushered to the second floor of this three storey izakaya. Without a doubt, the second floor is much more entertaining than the first. None of the monastic silence and strict rules on seating arrangements being enforced by fearsome matrons. Just a room filled with friendly, talkative and extremely happy patrons intent on consuming vast amounts of high quality, low price fish.

Whether it be raw, fried, grilled or battered every dish is perfection.  

The highlight of meal was the lightly vinegared mackerel sashimi. Perfect on a warm summer day.

Huge (at least a litre or more) flasks of warm sake were being imbibed all around, causing inhibitions to be cast aside and more than a few of the surrounding diners proving to be not only talkative, but full of beans, too. As was this bowl.

If you've yet to visit Uosan, you don't know what you're missing. 

Having eaten our fill, Izakayasanpo (thanks for the invitiation, Tobi-chan) and I headed on over to Ohira Shoten for some serious nihonshu. Seems it's still do a brisk trade, too. 

 

03-3641-8071

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1313/A131303/13003007/