Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kakoiya, Otemachi (かこいや)

It's great to see things through other people's eyes - today's lunch featured some overseas guests, and the most normal things on the plate were suddenly strange and bizarre. And fishy. I got the sense that their overriding sense was a sense of fishiness. They were right, all those things did have fish in them. I just don't notice any more.

Kakoiya is the kind of place that I used to think was really cool but now like to think I've outgrown - it's trying to be cool on purpose. All the seating is in small private rooms that are accessed by very low arched doorways, the lighting is kinda dim and spotlight-y, and things are dark wood or black in a faux country way. They even have a traditional country hearth up by the door. I guess it's cool, it's just that it's pretty overdone and feels too artificial to me now. Gonpachi was cool the first time you went, right?

The food gets some props for trying - lots of variety, in interesting ways. At lunch you can only choose from among 4 or 5 sets, some with picturesque names like 'The Princess's Carriage'. They include a hitsumabushi (the eel-three-ways specialty from Nagoya), various pork-and-rice bowls, sashimi bowl, etc. It's the side dishes that really distinguish the place though.

In addition to a seaweed-heavy clear soup and a usual bowl of rice and a few pickles, most of the lunches came with several side dishes. (Actually the Princess Lunch had even more, but was sold out by the time we got there at 1:10. And come to think of it, they were very aggressive about kicking us out at 2 PM.) There was a cold chawan mushi - you may think a cold steamed egg custard is boring, but if it's your first one I guess not! The texture is evidently weird, the fishiness (the custard is made from eggs and fish stock) is unexpected, and each morsel of meat (exactly one each - pork, shrimp, fish cake) is a little treasure. There was also a plate of mixed nuggets including some horribly greasy deep-fried gobo, a neat slice of terrine-ish meat in the shape of a hyotan gourd, and a third thing that I can't remember.

Pretty good food, decent atmosphere despite the complaints. Just make sure to get out by 2. You might want to go back at night for the strolling magicians who do tricks at your table also...

12 stores in Tokyo, lots more nationwide.

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