Sunday, March 8, 2009

Karaya, Shinbashi (甘楽屋、内幸町)

Ohhhh, when will I learn kanji my friends? Only last night I was still making the beginner's mistake of confusing 'spicy' for 'happy'. Quel embarassment, as they say in France when they're tourists and also can't spell.

One could hopefully be forgiven for not correctly guessing the correct pronunciation of either the name or the neighborhood of Karaya. One could also be forgiven for getting lost on the way there - easy from Uchisaiwaicho, a little weird from Shinbashi. I think everything's weird in Shinbashi though, because it's more or less gridded, but the Yamanote sen cuts through at an angle and messes things up, and the adjacent grid of Ginza is set off at an angle of 15 or 20 degrees to Shinbashi. See, I was a math major. Kanda's the same; I think those downtown people do it to confuse the tourists.

Karaya bills itself as an 'Edo yakiniku'. No clue what this means. The inside is just mildly country-style yakiniku - dark wood, curtains, horikotatsu instead of tables, waitresses in yukata, nice but nothing extraordinary. I understand that the place is owned by a friend of the SOX auditor whose team formed the core of the party.

Food's good! The web site makes it look like the prices are normal but servings are tiny. This appears not to be the case in practice. We got through semi-endless plates of meat that I found to be good quality, covering all the bases from kalbi to halumi to tongue to hormon. [Can someone set me straight on this so I don't have to Google? I think hormon, though it's used generically, is basically intestines, while mino is stomach. Right?] For all you hormon haters out're not wrong. We had one plate of spicy innards, and the taste is nice but the texture leaves a lot to be desired. Actually it doesn't leave anything - it stays in your mouth for 30 minutes because it's so damn chewy. But not awful or nothin'.

Of particular note is the spicy miso 'chige' they serve in place of chili paste. It's a small stone pot that arrives at the table bubbling furiously and containing miso, onions, chili paste and presumably some other secret ingredients that make it taste really really good, because that's what it does. Fry some meat (gas, not charcoal, if that matters to you), grab a leaf or two of green stuff (lettuce or sesame leaf), top with miso and 辛ねぎ、munch. Drink beer. Repeat. Hey, you've mastered yakiniku!

Personally, I like the meat a little burnt, but I know that's supposed to cause cancer...

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