Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tobu Sakana, Shimo Kitazawa

Wow, the main course. This is close to the station, and one of the first places we saw when we started walking around. Stayed on my mind all day, and I wanted to go back. This being Japan, the good-looking places get packed, as was this one when we got back (at 6:30). Fortunately the place across the street, which had also looked very nice, turned out to be a branch of the same place, and had exactly two tight-packed seats at the counter. Bonza.

You can't really see it in the pictures, but this is a 'market fish' kinda place, with cases of ice filled with fish. The white things by the door in the middle picture are actually iced cases of crabs, which were empty by 6:30. Prices were pretty good for fish this fresh.

Beginners need not apply, clearly. The menu is this long piece of clothy paper that gets folded up, crumpled up, abused, and passed from person to person. It's actually about 3 feet wide, which makes for fun reading. (Their style of handwriting also makes for fun reading, but that's more a problem to me than the rest of the customers.) The action shots above show the counter (brick shields you from the heat of the grill pit) and the charming pottery they use to serve sake.

Just a parade of small items here...the market theme carries over to vegetables as well, where they had this beautiful display of produce. The himetake (姫竹, 'princess bamboo', there must be a story for that...) was delicious once charred, peeled and eaten; the asparagus a little less so.

The first two were actually otooshi - surplus bits of stewed snapper head for you to pick at, and some mushrooms in mild vinegar. The Kyoto specialty mangan tougarashi, like big, big shishitou, was grilled into softness, but these are always good - green peppers, but a little spicy. I love shishitou, so these are more of a good thing.

They ran out of ankimo right before I ordered it, but as a consolation prize they gave us the end of the roll for free! The fish was super-fresh. Not top-top quality, not immaculate knifework, but super-fresh. Those tiny white shrimp in the middle of the plate (below the dark red bonito) were a highlight, but everything was excellent. The octopus suckers were still a little lively...

Feeling the need for greens...this is mizuna salad (also known as 'the weedy thing' in New Jersey) with more octopus. And a delicious piece of miso-marinated grilled salmon.

Yeah, there's probably a reason why this place gets crowded and stays that way - cheap, fresh delicious?! If only it were around the corner.

I'm not sayin' Monnaka's not ii, I'm just sayin'. 03-3414-6611

[December 2010] In other news, I went back in winter and had a whole taraba crab, split and grilled and easy to eat and delicious.

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