Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kappore, Kamata (加帆礼,蒲田)

When Blondie was starting to get big, the band had a press campaing under the heading "Blondie is a group!" This was meant to combat the no-doubt common perception that Debbie Harry was named Blondie, and that the guys in the band were just there to back her up. I mention this only because I went to Kamata last night. Kamata is a place! Before, I thought it was...well, I didn't think anything. There are all sorts of places I've never heard of. Ahhhh, Tokyo. Is there a better city?

The occasion here was to meet Woody, and with that in mind I set out to find a sake pub. May I just say here - I kicked ASS on this one. No, really, all modesty aside, this place RULES and my skills in picking dining establishments DOMINATE. U can't touch this.

Kappore is a little old, with some caked-on dust to let you know it's authentic. By the time we arrived I had emailed them, then called three times, all with no response, so I was really thinking they might have closed down. But here they were.

Let's just pause together and check this out for a second. Bottles everywhere. I found this place - it's not in any of Woody's izakaya guides. O frabjous day.

Come into my parlor. It's cool how they have country-style walls, kinda like the inside of a farmhouse roof. The waitress knew we were the party with the reservation, so I guess the web-mail system works after all, and she swore that they do have a phone and even answer it from time to time. Just not yesterday (incidentally, Hasegawa san the master emailed me after we left to say thanks for the visit and sorry about not answering the phone, so he's cool with me).

You know what else is cool? 70 varieties of sake. At least in the book. The master kinda hinted later that there are other things lurking about, like aged sakes. And this is just the sake book. The shochu and other drinks are in another book to themselves. Calooh!

Despite my new year's resolution to learn a bit more about sake, I remain a steadfast food guy. That's why I was pleasantly surprised with the pleasantly-tasty food here. Too many places that focus on sake don't do much for food. Not so here! Left, some little shellfish (whelk?), middle some kinda slimy thing on top of another slimy thing (maybe shiokala on mushrooms), right, deep-fried whole shrimp and fish (which were fresh-fried, unusually, and excellent).

Really - Woody and I commented simultaneously that it's rare for a place to do this up fresh rather than having these sitting around. You do have to be up for popping a whole shrimp in your mouth, but I'm sure you're down with that.

The lighting's not so good, so pardon the yellowness, OK? Rather than get the mixed-sashimi set (we asked; it's chef's choice, and the waitress was a little coy but eventually admitted that he was going to sneak in all the things we didn't like), we got uni and buri. The lighting was really unflattering to the fish (like, you know in the supermarket or at Ameyoko how they have bright lights that make the fish look brilliantly-colored and delicious? Yeah, here they had the opposite.), but the fish was flattering to the tongue. I don't know that I've seen a grayer, less genki uni, but it was completely fresh and very very good. The buri was a total fatty. The little nori-wrapped bits at bottom left are actually slices of buri wrapped around uni. Callay!

Did I mention that there's a big-ass sake menu? Did I mention that I picked this place and I KICK ASS!!!? We started with the nigori on the right and the ginjo on the left of this page (both fresh-squeezed, which is the current recommendation. Fresh-squeezed sake has not gone through the bottle-aging that most sake gets by springtime, and is a bit more acidic than aged ones. People often say it feels like it's mildly carbonated in the mouth.).

Sake comes in flasks, on ice, which change every time you order another round. You can get half-size too, but the waitress brought us lots of glasses sand we poured fastidiously.

Spring vegetable tampura. It's not spring yet, which could explain why these were meh, but more to the point, the fryer just wasn't hot enough.

Stewed beef shin with onions. Yum. I wish I had a pressure cooker so I could make stuff like this. Wait - I do! Thanks!

Grilled eggplant (hidden) topped with dried, rehydrated yuba sheets, mushroom slices and fu. It's funny how most of the food was quite rustic, but when we ordered this it showed up in a very Kyoto style. This is probably a good time to mention that food service is pretty slow - there's just the master and the waitress, so even with only 6 or 8 customers, it took a while. Not a big issue.

They sure do change every can see on the left how they put a little tag in the ice to remind you which is which. Out of this round, I preferred the Kusuryu (9 headed dragon! Goodness!) from the Kokuryu brewery (black dragon! Goodness!) in Fukui. That's a nice web site, by the way. I feel a little weird now that I see this particularly sake is expressly intended for heating, but I still liked it a lot.

Fish neck. Never an unwelcome guest.

Grilled rice balls with meat-miso sauce. Just because we needed something ricey to finish. Incidentally, look at the cute little hyotan-shaped things in the back right. They were pickles, one normal and one plum. I asked the waitress what those hyotan-shaped pickles were, thinking from the smoothness and roundity that they were an industrially-manufactured product.

Which confused her, because they're not just hyotan-shaped, they're pickled baby hyotans. That's cool!

Without wishing to appear excessively modest, I thought this place was a pretty good find. 22 minutes from Tokyo on the Keihin Tohoku (light blue) line, exactly equidistant from Yokohama and Tokyo.

Yep, sure did like this one.

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