Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Marushou, Kanda (築地丸正)

I just called to tell you that I need you, baby
I just called to tell you how I ee~~~~~~~l
- Wiffen

Many genres within a particular field of study seem hopelessly limited until one plunges into them deeply enough. Submersion brings familiarity, and with familiarity comes not contempt, but a regard for the small details that individuals use to express themselves within the traditional forms and constructs. As it is for music (ever try bluegrass?), as it is for Kaiseki, so it is for eel.

I'm not sure what I would have thought of Marushou on Monday. Maybe that it was pretty good? I felt bad for Ding, who liked it OK - I think he only liked it because he missed the last two days. Marushou is an interesting place for breaking some cartel-like aspects of the eel restaurant industry, but ultimately not a recommended destination. Ooooh, I'm suffering for my art.

This is clearly a value place. First, it's on a major street on the east side of Kanda. Second, the decor eschews tradition; the front of the two-story building is decorated with big yellow strips and a huge うなぎ legend. Inside is at once more modern and more basic than this week's prior establishments, with the second floor feeling bare and a little worn as opposed to shabbily elegant or tastefully sparse. The overhead speakers segued from, I kid you not, Foreigner's Dirty White Boy straight into Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love. The phallic implications of the cuisine would be lost on neither band, I'm sure.

Third (is this fourth?), the menu destroys all traditional naming conventions for the various sizes of set. Their levels are called Eel Box (Y1500), Marushou (Y1900, the name of the restaurant; the amount of eel in this was 50% bigger than that received on the last two days for similar prices), Tsukiji (Y2400, the full name of the market includes this), and Hamana (Y3000, the Ponkan research team here thinks this refers to a famous lake. It's either that or a high school or a used piano store.). Practially subversive, I tell you. Another point of distinction is that they feature southern-style Hitsumabushi, the previously-mentioned three-part eel eating method.

Probably the weirdest thing, though, is the soup. Over several days and a few more web sites, I've become inured to the idea that I'm not getting any eel soup with my eel (it comes with the highest-level sets, usually). The weird thing is, I shouldn't be bothered. Eel soup is a clear, lightly-flavored broth with an eel liver floating in it, and said liver is a rubbery, fishy little morsel if ever there was one. But it's 'good for you', so all the best restaurants do it. And Marushou. Yum. Eel liver. Damn if I'm not extra energetic now, so watch out.

The eel itself was lackluster. A little bony, a little muddy, weak saucing and squishy texture. I get the feeling that these guys are not strict specialists like some other places - they had turtle on the dinner menu, and they had a bucket of baby eels by the door (seriously! They were writhing like all get-out when we walked in, and on the way out they were quiet until I tapped the bucket again!) which could get stewed or fried or what have you. But the lunches represent good value as far as quantity and accompaniments go, so it's just another data point.

I feel like some old engine / Lost my driving eel


  1. Interesting comparison, bluegrass music and eel. Upon reflection it does make sense but you have to take the music back to its roots. Bluegrass came from the Appalacian Mountains and the Scotch/Irish immigrants there. If you go back to the original music of Ireland you will find lots of eel songs such as Ms McClouds Eel, St. Annes Eel, Swallowtail Eel, Gaspe Eel (Oops, thats French Canadian)etc.

  2. Anonymous, thanks for your comments. I thought about mentioning rap or modern R&B too, but that's a genre that I've never penetrated beyond the stage where it all sounds like crap. I'm sure there's value and enjoyment lurking in there somewhere.

    In fact, you don't even have to go as far back as the Old Country to see the parallels: Bill Monroe made standards out of songs like "Eel the Good Times Are Passed and Gone" and "Eely and Tenbrooks", while Flatt and Scruggs followed close behind with "Little Cabin Home on the Eel" and the gospel favorite "Working on a Beelding".

    Eel is all around us.