Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tsunezushi, Asakusa (常寿司)

There are few things better than getting buried in an old neighborhood and popping randomly in to a nice place to eat. No? In Tokyo there are whole magazines devoted to this peculiar pastime, but all you really need is a train pass and a good nose for restaurants. I love trying to interpret the sign, menu and appearance as proxies for how good the food will be.

Well, the food here was pretty good, but the environment really made it. This is slightly western Asakusa, on the way if you're walking from Asakusa station or Sensoji back to Kappabashi (big Kappabashi post coming up!). It's not a short walk, but it sure is fun. People always tell me Monnaka is Shitamachi, or 'downtown' Tokyo, and I always reply that Asakusa is really Shitamachi, and Monnaka is only 50%.

Downtown neighborhoods are full of downtown places to eat. Lots of soba, lots of sushi, some tonkatsu...wasn't easy to decide. In the end it came down to a famous tonkatsu place that I tried to go to once in the past (just walking by) when it was full or a sushi place on the same alley. And the sushi won. Seems like it was a pretty good choice. Inside was cool and dark, either a pleasant respite from the day or a cover for graying fish! No, I kid, I kid. The lovely flower arrangement and hagoita display helped to make it pleasant.

The master made everything fresh (duh) along with his assistant. Prices are a touch on the high side, as befits a shitamachi restaurant; they always charge a premium for their experience!

I really blend in with the locals, don't you think?

Here's what the food looks like:

As 'Edomae' sushi, you shouldn't need to put any soy sauce on this. The Edomae (I think) originally referred to the fact that it was all local fish that you could catch in Tokyo Bay. This is of course not the case any longer, as schools of tuna are rarely spotted off the coast of Chiba City. Now Edomae means for the most part that the master will apply his recommended sauce to each piece before giving it to you. If you're concerned about pissing off your chef, just check to see if there's already brown sauce on top. If there is, eat it as given and don't complain. Foreigners always put on too much soy sauce anyway (me included) so it's a good opportunity to cut down.

Good quality overall. The unagi was the absolute winner; I'm not sure why, but it was very soft, yet with a little texture, and supported the sauce excellently. Further standout items were the kohada (the silver thing, unless that was a sardine and I'm confused), the aji (half-silver, where the master scraped off the silvery skin) and, oddly enough, the pickle roll in the back. The tuna was completely flavorless, so maybe it was in fact caught around the back of Odaiba!

Very pleasant. Please let me know of other questing finds in the neighborhood!

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