Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fukagawa Tei, Monzennakacho (深川亭)

This little place popped up a while ago, perhaps as much as a year, and it looked like the sort of simple izakaya that would deliver some fresh and tasty food. I put off going for a long time because it doesn't look that exciting, but when I was feeling tired and just needed to study some things for work, I decided it was a good time to hang out there.

I wanted to peek in and take a look, but you can't. In some ways, this is cool, but of course daunting in others. You open the door and see mainly a shoe rack and a short hallway leading to a wall. Once you get your shoes off and get inside, it's just a generic room with white walls, some timber beams, and only 5 tables, all of which are horikotatsu (floor seating with holes in the floor). I think three tables were full when I got there, and they let me install at the smaller of the remaining too.

The menu is kinda limited. Usually I think that's a good sign. It also has a few specialty sections, which is also good, unless one of them is motsu-related, and here it was motsu nabe. In fact, the tables all had induction heating elements built into them. I know there are lots of people that love it, but equally I know I'm not an outlier even in Japanese terms when I say that the idea of eating various intestinal products just doesn't do it for me. For completeness, I've tried motsu a fair number of times (grilled, sure. Stewed, of course. Sumotsu (cooked, then chilled with vinegar), that too.) and always found the flavor OK but the texture somewhat mealy in a way that I don't enjoy. Ah well.

But the other specialty section of the menu was karaage, so I started there! Can't even remember what the choices were, but I didn't have the standard chicken and instead had the other standard, octopus. Damn was it good...they did something to the breading, perhaps the old wet-dry-wet-dry double-coat, that made the breading thick and delicious, and the octopus itself was also very flavorful. As Andy Hayler would say, "It did not escape a slight chewiness", but for god's sake, it's an octopus, and making it un-chewy is something of a violation of its rights as an ingredient (though of course is a valid option too, like that method of boiling octopus where it ends up having a taste and texture kinda like chicken. I like that.).

Other items that passed my somewhat-sick-and-not-overly-discriminating-palate were a store-made satsuma age (big, fluffy, fresher-tasting than I'm used to in the presumably outside-made version), a very nice aspara bacon (meeting my meat and veggie needs all at once) and a disappointing turnip salad that turned out to be...a turnip, with miso on the side. I can do that at home, guys, and the turnips in the supermarket taste better than the one you served me.

Sake and tea were served in little 'buckets' styled after the wood-and-brass buckets that you'd use to wash at a nice bath (but I'm sure there's an actual name for them that I in my ignorance don't know). Service was by one sort of funny guy, and cooking was by another guy in the tiny kitchen. This seems to be two guys (a couple? Could it be?!) doing something they love, and doing a pretty good job of it. Value + flavor!

There really doesn't see to be a good web page for this one.

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