Saturday, January 9, 2010

Yasube, Takasaki (安兵衛)

Some of my favorite restaurants ever have been recommendations from local people (I'm thinking in particular of Hida Takayama's Sakana, which was recommended by the owner of a pottery store). I wanted to hit as many places as possible in Takasaki, so I left the first establishment after 1 drink and 2 dishes. This oden place was the waitresses enthusiastic recommendation. "The mama is really genki! Even more than me!" I'm skeptical of oden (cheap, filling, OK but never exciting), but I walked around a little more and thought "What the hey?" Their lantern is bigger than me.

And their signboard presents the cheery but distressing calculus on which they operate.

The front door has (faux?) vintage glass. I like it.

And the inside has a BIG heater full of oden, steaming away. The mama was indeed very genki, but it was crowded and she was way too busy to talk. On the bright side, I learned a lot about oden by watching her, and the food was very good. On the down side, oden sure are bulky, and this hampered the rest of my night.

The names of some oden will probably elude me forever unless I start eating them all the time. At least I know the ones I like. Well, some of them. Here we have a cheese-filled 'chikuwa' on the left (cheez-wiz, actually), in the front something I think they called an 'egg' (it was actually 'yolk-filled'), and on the right one of those 'tofu bags filled with mochi that I love but whose name I forget'. This particular bag was a very good example of the species, with long, delicate plumage and an intoxicating scent like winds blowing down from high African peaks.

All that steam has to go somewhere. I never thought about it before I saw this huge hood over the oden bath.

Which had a huge dragonfly on it. I was just snappin' pitchers, y'know?

My downfall was to get greedy on a second plate of oden. The left side is of course shirataki, which is konnyaku or 'miracle noodles'. Middle back, a meat dumpling. Back right, a gyoza wrapped in dough and oden'ed (really!). Front, ganmodoki, which I love enough to remember the name. Seriously, these were good oden, if a bit stodgy. Although what's a good oden if not stodgy?


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