Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Uotei, Monzennakacho

I’m a little unsure what Uotei is supposed to be – izakaya? Sushi? Just a fish specialist? [As the first of many asides that I assume I’ll write soon, I’ve spent most of the last 4 years thinking it was called Sakana Tei, and only just learned from the web page that it’s actually Uotei. Ahhhh, the mysteries of restaurant naming.] I do know that it’s always got a seat at the counter when I go, is always fresh and tasty, and is always just that little bit more expensive than I wanted to pay, all of which lets you know the chef is not only a keen chef but a businessman in the Japanese sense (wait for a market to bear what you charge). Recommended if you have the money handy.

The star of my recent visit (just after leaving the unfortunate Hyakumi) was undoubtedly an unfortunate tailagai, who was relaxing quite peacefully in half his shell, various organs and bits intact, until we ordered him up. At that point a flurry of sharp activity descended on him, and we were shortly presented with tailagai 3 ways – the main meat roughly chopped, some sort of skirty-bits, and yet another set of slices of some other part. My very perceptive description doesn’t do justice to his tastiness, and probably demeans said formerly-living creature a little bit, but who has time to learn the bits of an obscure shellfish? At Y3000, he was the formerly-living embodiment of the cooking / businessing philosophy espoused above.

It’s pretty much always like that – there’s a loverly counter with a very old-fashioned case for the fishes. It’s not refrigerated, so the bottom is lined every night with what seems to be a custom-cut piece of crystal-clear block ice. Very pretty, cold as…well, ice, and another of the subtle hints that they’re thinking things through here. The top of the case features a selection of fresh vegetables available for you. This time we had some asparagus, which was peeled and steamed and chopped and topped with mayo and katsuobushi and delivered to us with the fish still dancing.

Only complaints I have here are the price (just that little bit too high…I resist going too often as a result) and the master – if you’re picking nits, you’d say that his smile and service mentality are impeccable but extremely fake. Depends on what matters to you and what you want to pick on. But this place is worth a go at least once.

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