Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hana Modern, Kagurazaka (華もだん)

Japanese people, damn your language. I was moping around the counter at this place, thinking how crappy it was that I couldn't understand what 'modan' meant. Written in hiragana, I assumed it was a regional word or something. Then I noticed it was written 'modern' on their business card, and I said "damn your language". The waitress didn't speak any English though, so it went largely unnoticed.

Yes, after leaving Tamanegiya, I still needed to get some actual food. I poked around for a while but didn't see anything I was that eager to go into. Actually I dissemble, because I tried to go into a place up a flight of stairs from the main street, Teshigotoya, and left after being ignored at the entrance for 30 seconds. There were people waiting anyway. But that place looks nice - good atmosphere, big sake selection, must remember. I kept walking. You'll remember, no doubt, that when I went to La Scene back in November I mentioned a cool-looking place across the street. I thought of that when I got to the Ushigome intersection, and headed north, around the bend, to check it out. It's great!

Since I just went mental on the Tamanegiya post, I'll keep this a little shorter. Hana Modern has the ambience to go with its name - the quiet, moodily lit, sparesely-decorated wa-style. Employees are limited to the young master and a waitress, but I'm told by reliable sources that there's a kami-san in kimono most nights.

The focus is definitely on sake, in a nice hand-crafted sort of way. With about 16 things on the list, you probably won't find rarities. But judging from the four that I drank (sampler size! sampler size! take it easy.), everything's good. The master said he prefers fruity junmai ginjo sake, which is exactly what I always say. There was a book on the counter 'Popular sake for 2009-10', and the list was like a little slice right out of that book - the most common names being things like Juuyondai, Denshu and Isojiman. I had the following (only the first was the 'full' 120ml, take it easy):
- Kudokijouzu junmaiginjo
- Nabeshima (excellent)
- Kachikoma (good)
- Minami (not so much)
- Denshu junmaiginjo, Denshu's semi-luxury level, with Yamada Nishiki rice (excellent)

Fortunately all were smallish servings, which helped the next morning, and I'm pleased to have added some reliable names to my list for future ordering. This sake thing is brutal - thousands of brewers, and they all make various quality levels? Ugh.

Food was nice too - out of the medium-sized menu and good sashi selection I had a piece of grilled chicken (from Daisen 大仙 in Akita) that was seriously soft and juicy. Breed and provenance make a difference to the bird; it's just another area that I don't have the capacity to explore. After that, grilled rice cakes to 'fill in the cracks', two per order and topped with your choice of 5 flavored misos. The garlic miso was terrriffic - the garlic roasted and mixed with butter before being straddling the rice.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and recommend this place even though there are lots of nice, modern izakaya out there (but never enough!). What put me over the line was that, when I ordered the sake sampler, the master clearly stood back for a minute and surveyed the fridge, thinking what I had ordered and said, and picked three things based on that. And gave me a little taste of something else after. Consider this a biased review for which I was compensated with 30 ml of daiginjo.

Did I sell out too cheap?
03-5228-0567

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