Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Miharukoma, Ikebukuro (三春駒)

I made some early New Year's resolutions for 2010, and they were as follows:
1. Drink more sake, especially in izakayas that specialize in it
2. Drink more champagne, especially RM or 'grower' champagne (grape to bottle by one firm, as opposed to the NM model adhered to by all the famous names)
3. Drink less and diet more.`

And thus, on the last work day of the year, I went off to Ikebukuro to make good on the first resolution as well as checking out yet another live country music / jam session venue. Miharukoma was a place that I sourced from John Gauntner's list of places to drink sake in Tokyo. It certainly lived up to the billing - plenty of interesting sake, at high prices. Food - meh. I've jumped precipitously to the conclusion that JG's list is indeed focused on places to drink, and the food may or may not match.

Despite a good understanding of the area and a solid map, I walked right by Miharukoma the first time. The sign's a bit out of the way, and the staircase leading up to the door is set back too. Look for the Gyukaku branch, or if you're coming from the West side (unlikely since this is pretty far to the west of Ikebukuro station, almost into the college area) you'll see a big poster showing where their favorite sake comes from. I'd love to show you the picture that I took of that poster, but my camera is still at the place that I visited after MHK.

The inside is strictly country izakaya, by which I mean not an izakaya trying to look rustic/historic/country (greets, Gonpachi), but one that actually is. It's a little dark since so much of the trimming is black-painted wood, the ceiling is a touch low, the non-counter seating is all cushions on black floorboards, and there's a dim air. One high spot for me was the display along the inside wall of various 'treasure' objects like big plates and carvings. Again, I'd love to show you a picture but...

There's just one menu, and it's pretty thick, and sake takes up most of it. It's organized by quality level, which is pleasant, and there are two pages of dai ginjo plus one each of junmai ginjo, junmai, etc. I think something like 60 varieties in total. Feeling extravagant, I stuck with daiginjo (and this is definitely extravagant, as their normal selections are in the Y900 range but the daiginjo is often upwards of Y2000 per go). There were some names I knew (Shimeharitsuru, Uragasumi) and lots more that was fun to try to read and choose. I liked what I drank, and took pictures of the labels, if I could just find that damn camera...

Food is a few pages in the back plus a blackboard of specials (which are not, in fact, all that special. Many of them are on the regular menu, and some of the others were things like 'sashimi' and 'nanohana'.). The food is OK, but is letting down the team when compared to the sake. The top recommendation is actually the basashi, "fresh from Kumamoto", which the waitress highly recommended over the sashimi plate. The restaurant name sounds a little sinister when you think about it, no? But actually a Miharukoma is a toy horse from the town of Miharu in Fukushima. Anyway, the meat was certainly fresh, and they included a few slices of the snowy-white mane fat, which has a disturbing texture but a really delicious taste. My dining capacity was a bit limited, but I had some nanohana (meh), some pickled junsai (OK), and a plate of deep-fried squid legs (OK; greasy but good).

Certainly I think you could check this out one time if you were really into sake and didn't mind the prices, but I'll be trying other venues now that I've made my visit. Coincidentally, there's another place from Gauntner's list on the same block, and several tiny live houses in the basement of this building!

Live and learn.
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