Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nenohi, Otemachi (ねのひ, Oazo 6th)

Someone wiser than myself once said "You get what you pay for". This has been repeated ad naseum but still holds water, as recent Otemachi dining experience has shown. Fortunately there are still gradations within the spectrum of getting what you pay for, and today's lunch was a good example of paying a healthy amount but possibly getting more than paid for.

I've been excited to try the French place on Oazo's dining floors for some time now. Thus I was disappointed when The Zone said that wasn't where we were going (The Zone is a nickname, yes). I was pretty much lost right up until we turned the corner into Nenohi, which is a sort of dark, brooding, stylish washokuya. If you're a big Roppongi Hillz expert, I'd tell you it's a bit like that Roku-roku izakaya on the 5th floor, but better-decorated. We got there a touch before 1, and there were plenty of empty tables spread widely apart in the hushed atmosphere. Nicely, the staff seated us by the window, so we had a view of the terrace outside, a few plants, a slice of sky, and the next building. Can't complain.

For those of you that wants 'em, they've got English menus. The lunch sets are only a few; we went with the Banzai and the Red Chicken (really, おばんざい善と赤鳥善). These came with, ahem, Japanese tapas for the table, which included some asazuke cucumbers, misozuke daikon (I think - the bright orange kind) and nantokazuke turnips. [Aside: have I inflicted on the story of my recent turnip consumption? After eating two pieces of incredible raw Kyoto turnip at Quintessence, I've been thinking about them. Now must be the ideal season, as big white turnips started showing up, stalks still attached, in the vegetable store near the station in Monnaka. I took one home, peeled it, sliced it...and fell in love. They're really good, albeit with an incredibly subtle taste that doesn't take well to anything I've tried except salt (soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil - no.). One or two of these, in small cubes and with the chopped stalks added, is constituting an OK dinner recently. Even simmering in dashi lat night ruined the flavor.]

Right, back to lunch. The Banzai set (Y1360) must really have meant 'long life', because it was reprehensibly healthy - fresh tofu (good, served only with salt), some tamagoyaki, spinach with katsuobushi, a single whole grilled baby fish (maybe three inches; not even smelt-sized), some boiled gobo and konyaku with sesame, rice and soup. The chicken set (Y1575?) featured a few pieces of chicken that The Zone pronounced 'very tasty' as well as a breaded and fried cutlet of some description; I didn't see what was in it, but the dark miso sauce on top was the first clue that this place originates in Nagoya.

The rice and soup deserve special mention. The rice was too soft, but beautifully shiny and delicious. I think you've been in Asia long enough when you start to appreciate good rice, or at least when you're unhappy that the rice is bad. And the soup - special recommendation from the waitress (I know, they were trying to get rid of it...) was the sake lees soup (粕汁), like miso soup but made with the spent rice and yeast from the sake brewing process. For any Australian readers, this is sort of like Vegemite but good, and is used for a couple things - preserving fish and making amazake chief among them. This soup was thus an interesting twist, although not the most delicious one (but the pork, carrots and daikon were all simmered just enough).

Add it all together, stir into a pot, and you have high quality food with attentive service in a relaxing atmosphere, for a reasonable price. I can't figure out why this place isn't crowded. From the 杉玉 outside (the brown balls hung over brewery doors to indicate that the sake is ready (and that you're likely to be getting kasu stirred into everything at restaurants in the area!)), the liquor selection should be pretty serious too.

Ahhh, the mysteries of Japanese life...

Tabelog score is really horrible. Can it be that bad? I feel like Tabelog is biased in favor of foreign food. Snobs.

1 comment:

  1. Missing you...hope you're well...no eating out for 4 days??!?