Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nezu no Jinpachi, Nezu (根津のじん八)

Nezu is a veritable wonderland for the intrepid izakaya explorer (a class in which I would like to count myself a junior member; guys like this are longstanding pros). It's not packed with options, but plenty of nice things are spread sparsely over the alleys east of Shinobazu Dori, stretching up into Sendagi and over to Yanaka. The mix is weird too - there are lots of foreign places, which isn't what you'd expect. Or at least what I'd expect. In fact, I didn't really know what to expect, since my two visits to the area have been during weekend daylight hours. On each of those visits, I was left with a sense that I was missing the best part,

and thus when my new friend and recent Japan-returnee Woodie proposed Nezu no Jinpachi as an atmospheric destination, I jumped right on it. From outside, the restaurant boldly proclaims...well, nothing, really. It's a one-story building about which you could be forgiven for wondering why it hasn't been knocked down to make room for a two or three-story concrete-clad modern house. The lantern proclaims that it's still being put to good use...

How's this for atmosphere? Jinpachi is a small counter plus the inner tatami room; the kitchen is just a walled-off piece of that room. There was a big party of realtors forgetting the troubles of the year in that room, which was lots of fun to watch.

Should you be squeamish, I don't recommend vinegared blowfish skin as a starting point for your meal. This was a decent example of the species, actually, being not too tough. They did sort of give us the option of not receiving this, but I'm not sure what else they would have given us...

because they were out of half the menu items! The focus is nabe, which I wanted to avoid as it's a bit big and filling, and sitting at the counter with my back inches from the door was cold, not a way I wanted to spend hours. That left sashimi (they listed whale and octopus 'parts', but were out of the octopus) and half a dozen small items. We received this marinated turnip salad when we tried to order the smoked mackerel, which was out.

We also received two full masu of shochu when we tried to order sake, but that's a longer story. They were nice about it and let us try a couple of different sake before we settled. I'm trying to remember a few more sake brands these days, so I want to make a note of saying that I enjoyed the Ginban (銀盤)、but can't figure out from their web site which one I was drinking!

Fortunately they were not out of the grilled whole dried squid stuffed with its liver. You might not regard it as a problem even if they were out, but I have a predilection for dried squid. Who woulda thunkit?

After fighting to be heard over the crowd in the other room and ordering these salmon belly strips, we were pretty bummed with the quality. This reinforced our desire to get gone, which we did in short order. The older, regular-looking guy who came in after us actually didn't finish his first drink and didn't order any food, so I think we were actually fairly tenacious about it.

Well, according to the guidelines of the site I linked to above, I'd give this place a full 5 points for atmosphere, a decent liquor score, pretty good service, and not a lotta points for food. But it's pretty well worth stopping by for a brief visit as part of a larger Nezu tour just to soak up the atmosphere for a while!

Soak it in, boys...

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