Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ikada, Monzen Nakacho (いかだ)

After the minor debacle of the grumpy grandma, I felt a little burned, but also a little hungry. Ever the glutton for punishment (see prior comments about needing to search to find those hidden diamonds), another sign piqued my interest.

Ikada was equally a bit scary - a very normal izakaya on a very small street (more of an alley, and not very well-paved; really kind of a broken-up sidewalk between buildings). A normal counter and a few tatami tables. Average bad lighting. A run-of-the-mill old master and younger waitress. No customers. Hmmm....well, they had some banzai on the counter that looked nice and healthy, so a good dinner prospect.

You know what? I'd classify this as a hidden gem. Friendly master, simple food with exceedingly good taste, low prices. Perfectly happy to serve water!

Out of the banzai selection, I tried a bit of the unohana (really deep, delicious flavor, somewhat like he used chicken stock. If you like unohana, or okala, at all, you couldn't help but love this.), gobo (really nice, boiled soft but still a little firm, mixed with gray strands of konyaku), hijiki (not quite as good as that place in Kurobei Yokocho, but good; more beans than usual) and some chamame (like edamame but not quite; often more brown, and a bit smaller this time). For fish, a pickled mackerel was quite good, but the fresh sardines were exemplary. Who knew they could be so soft and fresh, not at all strong-tasting? The wasabi and ginger were grated fresh, and all was right with the world.

Oh, they have oden also. The soup was decent, the daikon were looooong-simmered, the tofu came as a whole block, and the other items were tasty too. There's a big menu outside these things, with some oddities (okala korokke?).

The master says his brother runs a similar place near the temple. This might be the really dirty-looking place near Ninotori that always has some jokey sign outside; it looks thematically similar. He also says he started out making yoshoku, so he's very flexible (still making omelettes and things). He says he likes interacting with the customer and making what they want, and in fact if you call ahead he's happy to make whatever you want! In short, a happy accident and a friendly place to go for a cheap, tasty dinner.

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