Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yuasa, Mita (湯浅,芝)

This post innaugurates an exciting new chapter in 'places I've never been before but will have to explore' - Mita. If you're like me, you may well have thought of Mita as a boring subway stop consisting mainly of office towers and huge apartment blocks. If you were like me, you would have been wrong, so hopefully you're a little smarter than all that. West of Mita, north of Tamachi, east of the sun, west of the moon, there's a little square of streets that caters to the grayish men who work in those towers (I assume they don't also live there).

The main components of this area's dining scene are as follows: grilled meat (Korean abounds; guts specialists are also common), grilled chicken, 'picture' izakayas (so called because they have menus out front with copious pictures - to me this is a bad sign for an izakaya because it means they can't change the menu much), sushi (a Japanese delicacy wherein a slice of raw fish is placed atop warm, vinegared rice) and nice izakayas. We went to one of the nice izakayas.

Yuasa is at the end of one of the intersecting brick-paved alleys that make up the heart of the area. Charmingly, it shares a dead end with another place (Manmaya, I think), and the cobbled paving of that particular segment of alley plus the wooden, aged exteriors of the two places give you an instant sense of entering another world. Inside is strinctly shoes-off, busy, smoky, crowded izakaya. The walls are covered with menu items, with individual sheets of paper for different 'themes' - want deep-fried lotus root? The page there has 4 different ways they'll make it for you. Tubular fish cake? Another 4.

It being a casual weeknight, we didn't order more than...wait, I think we ordered a lot. Naturally there was fish to start - good pickled mackerel, excellent errrr...shima-aji (another kind of mackerel, but totally different). Lightly pickled 'water eggplants' are a favorite of mine - they're wetter and more crisp than regular eggplant, so they're nice to eat with a day of pickling in them. As a grilled course (this sounds very official, but really it was all a jumble), we had cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon and stuck on bamboo skewers - hard to go wrong with grilled bacon. I could tell that this wasn't the best bacon ever, and I didn't care. Grilled bacon basically ranges in quality from 'great' to 'awesome' - hard to go wrong.

One fried thing was the aforementioned 'tubular fish cake' (you may know it as chikuwa or even 竹輪 if you're weird) stuffed with spicy cod roe before being tempura-battered and fried - a cool idea, very tasty in practice. You could get away with serving this at a much more elegant place. Another fried thing was baby octopus, fried chicken style (don't knock this until you try it - I actually think a well-stewed octopus tastes a bit like chicken, so the taste also really lends itself to frying). Again, you might call this いい蛸の唐揚, if you were trying to remember more useless party-trick kanji.

Service was bustling and friendly, dispensing mugs of icy domestic brew to wash it all down (not really, but I wanted to include at least one food blogger moment here). The total was pleasantly reasonable, and a return visit would be worthwhile. It might also be a good idea, in weather like this, to sit at one of the two picnic tables outside so you could play with the cat between bites. Remember - the pleasure of a good izakaya isn't in being blown away by every bite - it's more about enjoying your relax time with friends and snacks, and occasionally hitting on something that makes you go mmmmm. 

I'ma kick Yuasa, you don' shut up.
03-5445-1351

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