Thursday, December 17, 2009

Koyu, Nezu (呼友)

This being part two of my Nezu Night-time Tour with Woodie, we wandered only a block or two from Jinpachi before seeing this place. He recognized it as appearing in one of his vast library of Tokyo drinking spot-related books (seriously), and I thought it looked very promising, if a bit modern. It seems they've been in business 10 years, but did a little refresh and renewal open (as they say) in April this year.

It shows. The inside is very much in the mold of clean, modern, warm izakaya. I shouldn't be so surprised to find something like this in Nezu, but I was, I was. If you were into the grungy, down-home atmosphere, you could certainly accuse this place of being a touch sterile (the big-screen TV, which I think is positioned so the master can watch TV while prepping in the afternoon, doesn't help matters). That would be shortsighted, because the food and drinks, frankly, kick ass.

The waitress and I had a bit of conversation over how 'spring' items like nanohana and strawberries seem to appear in stores earlier every year. They've already been in for a couple weeks, actually, which is silly and destroys the enjoyment of seasonality. But like Christmas now starting before Halloween, it's unavoidable. What IS avoidable is preparing nanohana in a tasty fashion. I know this because I've eaten (and made) poor versions many times. This was not one of them. I said (I did) as soon as I ate this 'This place is great. I would come back here based only on the quality of his nanohana boiling and his dashi.' Boom.

Being the second place of the night, we didn't want to go for too much. This is slices of snapper that's been wrapped in fresh konbu and preserved for a while. I don't think I ever understood this method before, but as soon as I ate this I thought 'Hmmm, maybe this is what kobujime is supposed to be like?' In addition to having the mild konbu taste, it seemed like the seaweed had sucked the moisture out of the fish, firming it up and concentrating the flavors delightfully. Great.

Fugu karaage, the best way to eat fugu. I thought the breading was a bit odd here - sort of sandy, almost - but the cooking was top-notch, with the grease-absorbent paper being largely irrelevant due to the cleanness of the preparation.

Woodie wanted some rice, and got this crab-shiso fried rice. I should stop saying how great everything was, but this was great. Lots and lots of crab meat and shiso, all fresh and delicious.

Winter spinach, mushrooms and sliced pork belly in soup. Which sounds kinda weak, but the chef recommended it, and I have to concur that it was delicious.

Oysters and Shimonita leeks, cooked and in 'Chinese-style' sauce. I don't love cooked oysters, but I loved these. And when these leeks are in season, you should eat them since they're so sweet - like the Vidalia onions of Japan!

Since I'm in danger of rhapsodizing too much, I'll cut it off there. This izakaya is very much in the mold of 'normal things done perfectly', and as such is a worthy addition to any list of places to check out.

Re-upping my junior membership in the izakaya hunters club...

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