Monday, November 23, 2009

Sanri, Sendagi (三里、千駄木)

Have you been to Sendagi? I have. Now I've been twice. I'm not sure if I'll be back, but that's only because it's one of Tokyo's cute, quiet, interesting little neighborhoods - and there are lots more to see. But it would be a pretty livable place - residing in the valley between Tokyo University and the huge Yanaka cemetery, lots of little shops and restaurants and cafes and galleries, a reasonable commute to work...

One of the 'attractions' of Sendagi is 'Snake Street', so named because it turns a lot. Really, that's all it does. And along its 5-minutes-walk length, there are perhaps 4 or 5 businesses (one of which does nothing but sell a few home-made bagels). The most notable of these, and the one I mentally bookmarked on my first visit, is Sanri - like many other attractive restaurants in the area, a soba specialist.

With only 10 seats around a counter, there really isn't room for more than one person to work. Even that is sometimes difficult; the master apologized for his (nonexistent) fatness when he squeezed behind me to serve other customers. It's open at night too, when this selection of liquor and the broader menu can be put to better use.

Cows, on the other hand, are in good taste year-round (at least this year)!

The end of the counter widens out into an odd sort of table, but that means there's room for some decorations, like this tortured little bonsai on a floating island in a ceramic boat. Nice!

Some of the best-cooked soba I can remember. So firm, yet so pliant...the barest flecks of dark color let you know that there really is soba in them.

There are a bunch of menu options, but you can't go wrong with a plain soba. In this case, it's with sesame sauce, which is a (very mild) departure from orthodoxy. And a tasty one.

Other than just dipping them in sauce and eating them cold, the other great way to eat soba (according to me) is kamo seiro, meaning you get cold noodles (I just think hot soba are a waste; save it for udon or ramen or whatever) and a bowl of hot soup derived from duck meat and soy sauce. Sanri's master is generous with his duck - I think I counted 3 slices of duck breast and 4 meatballs, which is something like twice as much duck as I've ever seen in one of these. You'll notice some roasted spring onions floating in there too; they're said to go very well with duck. The shimmer on the surface of the liquid is, of course, duck fat, and that means it tasted, of course, delicious.

There are various ways to walk back to the station afterward, but one pleasant thing is to detour through the cemetery. With apologies to the Kawano family, the light was just too good this afternoon to resist taking an arty shot. Ahhh, the impermanence of life...the autumnal glow, beckoning us into the afterlife. Or something.
Pickin' 'em up, puttin' 'em down.

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