Thursday, July 23, 2009

Edokko, Monzennakacho (江戸娘)

Sometimes you just have a hankerin' fer meat. And when that feelin' comes on yuh, it's mighty powerful. That's when the sheep start lookin' nervous, if yuh take mah meanin'. If your meat craving is for chickenz, and you're in Monzennakacho, yer place of choice should be Edoko. It's homey, authentic, and tasty.

It actually looks pretty promising from outside; I don't know why I've walked by it for so many years without going in. The walls are brown and kinda dirty, there's a big red yakitori lantern, and the windows are mostly either frosted or otherwise clouded up with grease from the chickinz. The inside is the same - the counter and tables are surrounded by low benches with dirty striped cushions, the display case looks like it's seen better days, and the grill men are friendly but grizzled in that way that only old guys in t-shirts and headbands can be. When you push out that much chicken, it takes a toll on a man.

They have a 'starter set' - one drink, one snack, three sticks o' bird for Y1000. Why not? The snack turned out to be a bowl of roughly cut tuna pieces that were, what the heck, I'll just say it, awful good considering their provenance. The three sticks were a negima (chicken chunks alternating with cylinders of green onion), a regular chicken (chicken chunks impaled next to each other on a stick), and a hattsu. Hattsu, of course, meaning "chicken hearts". Their chicken has a deep, birdy flavor without needing to be fussy or noisy about what color the bird is and what prefecture it came from. And they have a heavy hand on the grill, which is something I particularly like (you call it caramelized, I call it carbonized).

Their specialities are twofold (in addition to a healthy specials board that features an awful lot of of fish products - buri sashi, tuna steak, squid bits). First is the Edokko (you might translate this as 'Edo gal', where Edo is 'old Tokyo', and Edokko in another spelling means "Tokyo native"). For some reason, Edo gals are all about alternating their white-meat chicken with folded up squares of chicken skin, brutalizing them with a stick, and then grilling the lot. Again, a heavy hand on the grill produces the desired results, because I don't like skin that much unless it's grilled up. Their other specialty is a tsukune or meatball, which is oddly neither meat nor a ball! No, I kid, I kid, it's all meat (because they included blessed little cartilege) but is puck-shaped. I mentioned to the oldest master that I thought the samples sitting on the counter were grilled rice balls because of their toasty brown color; he laughed and said "Everyone thinks that!" Good tsukune, meaty but not too dense, and their tare dipping sauce is also excellent.

One more specialty is the waitress. She may be the Edo gal in question, as she has her blond hair cut into a fascinating bob that forms a rigid, round window about her forehead and face. You can't complain about the effort that she puts in, running around between customers, chatting and serving, but you might complain, or at least listen on in continued wonderment, at her high voice and affected mannerisms. Anyway, mix in the chicken, the smoke, the other noisy customers, and it's all atmosphere!

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