Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hanaya, Tokyo (華屋,八重洲北口)

Not that long ago, Zone and I wandered deep into the wilds of Yaesu for lunch and found buried treasure (if shabby, cheap, retro standing izakaya count as treasure!). This has been on my mind for some time and has been engendering a deep desire to explore further in this 'deep' neighborhood (where we take 'deep' in the Japanese sense, i.e. 'shabby, retro, nostalgic, authentic'). Today it happened, and worked out very well!

The Preacher has been on a wild ride over the last year (as have so many of us) - from financial industry executive to cheese maker to organic farmer to wedding celebrant...and now back to financial industry executive. We got together to celebrate his newfound (refound) employment status, his pending international relocation, and my probable resolution of the +1 problem with a bit of fish, a bit of chicken, and hours of general chatter. Starting out from Daimaru on the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station, we again plunged deep into the wilds of Yaesu, scouting various alleys and backstreets, fending off unwanted advances from marauding members of the Watami tribe, and found ourselves suddenly at...

Hanaya. Not, I suppose, a name to conjure with, but perfectly serviceable. As always, my limited language skills proved a distraction as I initially took the 'hana' to mean it was a Chinese restaurant. Once we established that it wasn't, and also briefly scouted the other izakaya in the same alley, we headed in. It's appropriately 'yellow' inside, with the walls being that sorta nicotine color, the counter and furniture being medium-colored wood, and the salarymen being appropriately gray and yellow. Luck was with us, and we settled at the open table in the back (lucky considering there's only the counter and two tables).

The menu is a bit painful - written by hand in somewhat lovely fashion, which makes it tough to read. We persevered, and started with a sashimi platter to tide us over. Very passable fish, with some offcuts of tuna being the standout. Chicken tataki followed on the heels of that; if you've never had raw chicken, I must insist again that you order it at the next opportunity. My philosophy over the years has become "If you like it cooked, you'll like it more raw", and that extends to quite a few food items (though of course there are textural differences between cooked and raw food, and you never get quite the same charred taste on raw items, do you?).

Moving on, a platter of buri daikon went over well - the daikon cut properly with those rounded edges that allow long cooking with deformation, then stewed to a deep brown. The fish was just some pieces and not the traditional head, but one can't complain too much. A dish of negi nuta (spring onions in sweet-and-sour miso sauce) was slimy and healthful, and a bowl of lotus root in mayonnaise and mentaiko was, well, mayonnaisey. It's a good thing Scott wasn't there; he insists that "most people don't like mayonnaise". Finally, a big bowl of bamboo shoots was warm, soft, fragrant and delicious, topped with seaweed and prickly ash leaves - made me jealous that I haven't yet mastered the technique of boiling these properly. Preacher says you just have to put some rice husks in the water and boil it for a long time. Back to the drawing board.

Throughout, service was pleasant and pleasantly amused by our copious consumption and kanji questions. Considering that everyone else was over 50 and gray, I'd like to think we were a nice change of pace for them. You, too, could be that nice change of pace - give it a try!

She's a rainbow.
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