Friday, February 6, 2009

Yuboku, Marunouchi (遊牧, Shin Maru 5)

My friends, I believe I have uncovered the secret of receiving a good and worthwhile lunch in the Otemachi Metro Area (OMA, not to be confused with 鮪で有名な大間市). It is a simple secret, but one that has been known to man since the beginning of time.

Pay for it. You get what you pay for. I like a bargain as much as the next guy, but they're in short supply around here.

On the other hand, when considered the atmosphere, view and food at Yuboku, you could easily be forgiven for thinking it wasn't substantially more expensive at Y1300-2000 than the Y1000 you paid for a katsu curry in a basement elsewhere. Should you, like certain people I could name, be a big fan of grilled meats, this might even appeal to you for dinner.

Shin Maru's 5th floor has an abundance of Asian Dining options, as well as the previously mentioned Le Remois and the somewhat-attractive-but-not-accomodatingly-priced Igrek. On today's trip we walked half of the floor before the selection team suddenly reached a unanimous conclusion to steer us into a surprise destination. This may well have been influenced by the massive cuts of Yonezawa beef sitting in the window display case, 釜知らない.

Inside, Yuboku goes for the modern Korean/Yakiniku feel, very polished. We were fortunate enough to be seated at a table at the window, screened slightly from other patrons, where we were afforded a clear view of today's brilliant blue sky and the emerging outlines of the Tokyo Station construction project. The food came with disturbing rapidity.

The plates massed at the kitchen counter near the entrance tell part of the story. All lunch sets come with a solid 8 small-bites (which Google confirms are called panchan) including the usual bean sprouts, kim chee radish and kim chee cucumbers but also some pieces of roast pork and kim chee shiitake. Ponkan had a bibinbap, which seemed to sizzle along nicely in its bowl, but she's promised to write her own comment on that. I had the reimen set, which included the titular reimen (metal bowl, cold ginger broth, chewy soba-derived noodles, kim chee, cucumbers, boiled egg) as well as a mini beef bowl. The noodles were fair, but the gyudon was a good sign of what would be in store if you went to this place for a more advanced meal - soft, tasty beef marinated in sweet sauce, combined with strips of bamboo shoot and jiggly bits of konyaku. Pleasantly, there was only the barest hint of rice in the bottom of the bowl. This was a good thing, because all of the above added up to a ton of food - I forgot to mention the plate of salad and the two fried items, chijimi and egg-battered pumpkin.

A yakiniku lunch would set you back Y1880 or more, but looking at that beef in the window (which is set there precisely to lure you into ordering beef, although you won't get that stuff because it's at least Y1500 for 100g at retail) I was tempted. But with sufficient time for the walk down and a leisurely sit-down, this one's a keeper.

The name means 'nomadism', evidently, and I love the image of imported Mongols wandering the wilds of Yamagata, living in yurts and tending cows that will eventually find their way to table in Tokyo.

I'd also like to point that Monzennakacho is such a fantastically ii toko that Yuboku has a branch one stop away, in Tsukishima. Perhaps, good as it is, Yuboku wasn't allowed to locate within the hallowed precincts?

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