Monday, December 15, 2008

Sushi Yata, Monzennakacho (すし やた, 牡丹)

This place is closed, and the chef has opened his own place here. But you know, after I went to the place described below a few times, I really soured on the experience because he was a creepy dude and an aggressive biller. Now he's recreated it, at a much higher price point. Anyway, the below review was a nice dinner at least.

やった!No, not that. I still don't understand the provenance of the name or the restaurant. At first I wanted to ask, but after a while I started thinking it would be better to hold back on the questions so I'd have something to talk about the next time I went. Because after only a little while, I was convinced that there needed to be a next time, soon!

Yata showed up on a random neighborhood walk - I think this means it's only been open for a few months. It's over on the bad side of the tracks...or rather river, being on the South Side of Monzennakacho, which everyone knows is the baddest part of town. Still, it looks clean and neat. Subsequent investigation (OK, I just opened the door and asked for a card. Everyone looks at you like you're a nutjob, but how else is a guy supposed to get a good look at a place?) showed the same results, and I planned to visit at earliest convenience. Looking at the web site listed on the card, I got confused, because it appeared to be a fish wholesaler, but then excited, because it appeared to be a fish wholesaler. That's a heck of a business model for a sushi place, right, having a fish wholesaler as your parent company?

The food started off with...namako. If you told me 5 years ago that I'd be eating raw sea slug in vinegar and'd be wrong, because I never enjoy it, and this was not an exception. However it was undeniably fresh, and if you like the crunchy-chewy texture, you'd be in heaven with this guy. Second item, which we actually ordered, was half-cooked octopus (they meant it to be that way, honest). The chef showed a bit of creative flair on this one by giving us two dishes for dipping - pink grapefruit juice and pink salt - and instructing us to do 'em in sequence. Well, creative! And actually pretty good. Also maguro-avocado salad, featuring a rare part of the fish (中落ち).

Around this time the group of 4 middle aged working guys at the other end of the bar ordered up maguro negima (take a bamboo skewer, alternate two big pieces of raw tuna with two cylinders of negi, dip in flour, dip in egg, dip in bread crumbs, shallow fry and serve with barbeque sauce. The chef gave us a little dish of sauce because I pestered him about the secret recipe - it was incredible.) but we didn't indulge, and started in on nigiri. Same reason as above - the other cooked items look great, but we wanted to save something for next time. The nigiri were terrific, some extraordinary, and the maguro selection more than convinced us that there are certain benefits to being owned by a wholesaler.

Projects for next time: Make friends with the chef, eat a lot of cooked food, and generally overindulge in fish. This is in the mid-price range (normal nigiri Y300) but the overall bill was comfortable for a Friday night in the neighborhood when you factored in a beer and two bottles of nihonsh.

Meaner than a junkyard dog.

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