Saturday, February 20, 2010

Yukari, Kamiyamada (ゆかり)

What's that you say? More pictures of wacky Showa stuff? Here's one of a shooting gallery at night. Folks, this is fer ril. They really do want you to pay money to shoot corks from toy rifles and try to win tiny prizes. Nifty.

The specialty at Yukari is evidently yakitori, but everyone there was eating nabe. (That reminds me obscurely of the Cadillacs, 'They often call me Speedo, but my real name is Mr. Earl', or maybe Billy Lee Riley, "The bar room it was crowded, everybody there was high.".) I did neither of those things. I just knocked off some more extravagant sake from The Book.

You can see from the outside why I'd want to go here, right? It's interestingly and attractively disordered. Almost like it's competing with Santensan, which is literally across the street. And if you look closely at the sake empties in the cabinet left of the door, you'll see famous names lurking in there.

As expected, the inside is also pleasantly warm and disorderly in a very country way. I liked that they had a bunch of reading material on the counter for me to look at, like "Popular Soba Restaurant Designs" and "Mushrooms of Japan".

One day of bathing wasn't enough to soak the cold out of my bones, and I was shivering convulsively while walking outside. This heater under the counter was my friend. I actually moved so I could sit right in front of him.

Menus, retro posters, and random stuff everywhere on the walls, barely enough room to walk to the bathroom, a nice elevated tatami area facing the counter and kitchen. I thought you'd enjoy seeing a decent picture of what it's like to eat at one of these places.

I also thought you'd like to see this bottle of bees. Wait, bottle of bees? The usage escapes me. Another izakaya that I didn't go to (because their ichioshi was motsu nabe) was advertizing that they had bee larvae, but I'm not sure who'd want to eat this. Now that I look again, they're actually some kind of wasps, aren't they.

The starters were numerous and varied, and not that interesting...raw squid in its guts (which I didn't even feel compelled to sample; I've worked out my issues on that score), an average kinpira,

and some fried chicken skin (a present, they said; not a regular starter) that would have been better if it was hot and fresh instead of fried earlier and left around. Still, not greasy or bad.

What came over me at this point, I can't say, but like a force of nature I was drawn once again to order...

You guessed it! Nothing fancy this time like pickling or tongue or obscure fatty deposits, just good ol' unadulterated horse meat. 'Fortunately' the kitchen thought I deserved a super-size portion instead of the medium I ordered, and that means I didn't eat anything else while I was here. This, too, was very good horse. I didn't get an adequate explanation for why the garlic was green, but I'll tell you, it was strong as a ... horse. Incidentally, the people sitting right behind me were complaining about their nabe - too big! I think there were three of them, and they were saying that they ordered a 2-person size, not 4. American-size portions seems to be the order of the house.

So, no more food pictures. What nihonshu did I drink? Well, I got some good financial news earlier in the day courtesy of Volleyball and wasn't in the mood to fool around. I went straight for the Shizuku from Kokuryu (yes, #1 daiginjo in The Book). I would like to flatter myself and think that I could tell it's not a junmai, but a regular daiginjo, from the slight alcohol roughness. [Aside: I can't really see why adding alcohol should make the sake taste rough. Presumably jouzou alcohol is distilled rice liquor or something? Maybe the 'roughness' that I associate with added alcohol is really there because the rice grains aren't polished as much.] It was certainly light, and medium-sweet, and I remember thinking 'maybe not my favorite thing, but I can see why this would be many people's favorite thing'.  For people who think sake is cheap - this stuff is Y5250 for a 720ml bottle.

After that, I stayed at the top end with the Manju from Kubota, the #2 junmai daiginjo. This was smoother, still with no floral topnotes - almost meaty, and with food, almost vanilla. Not at all what I thought I liked, but one of my favorite sakes ever.
Markups on sake are weird. A lot of people are fooled into thinking that sake is cheaper than wine because...well, I guess it IS cheaper than wine. But I finally got my act together, learned the size of things, and figured out the markup. These were marked up 100% and 125% over the retail 720ml bottle prices, and of course more for the 1.8l bottles that they were actually poured from. I suppose that's better than glass wine, now that I think of it, since the pour is usually smaller. It does confirm for me, though, that the markups at Miharukoma are absolutely nutty. Sake should never be over Y2000 per go. There are only a few in Japan (like these) that can justify being even at that level if you can accept a 100% markup. [Another aside: I finally understand why bottles in Japan come in those sizes. 1 go, the standard unit of volume for sake (or rice) is 180 ml, so the bottles are 4- or 10-go. Why it's not 5 is probably going to remain a mystery to me. My working hypothesis is that the 10-go bottle was normal, but European influence created demand for a smaller size, and 4-go was closest to the European 750ml. Though who knows when that was standardized. And why would 1/5 of a gallon have been the standard size in the US (until 1979, when the 750 became standard)?]

Well, I didn't really get into the food here since I was so full already and they gave me so damn much horse.  My main purpose was to try some of those sakes, which I heartily accomplished. This definitely seems like more a cheerful and cheap place; had I not gotten the drinks I did, it would have been quite reasonable. Still, it would be my third choice out of the places I dined.


1 comment:

  1. You are right. They are wasps or possibly hornets. Bees are fatter, stubbier and fuzzy.