Monday, March 8, 2010

Toritoku, Kayabacho (鳥徳)

It's feasting season again...when the winds of change rise up, Putin rears his head and comes out of Russia into Alaska's airspace, and the company randomly reassigns people to different teams with no apparent motivation or prior notice. Strange humors dwelleth in the heartseth of men, and the only solution is to get drunk and slaughter a lot of chickens. This and more dideth we doeth on Monday night, which was a bummer since it was going to be my night to go to sleep early. Every night is a missed opportunity to go to sleep early these days though, so no biggie.

On various expeditions to Kayabacho with McNoonan, I've certainly seen Toritoku. It's big and sorta inviting from the outside, and it shows off its best feature straightaway - it's in a reasonably well-preserved machiya. On the web site it describes how old it is, and the provenance of the house, and shows some pikstures from the old days. Why didn't we try it, chicken-oriented as those dinners tended to be? Frankly, it looks run down, and in a less salubrious way that I obviously don't think merits the use of phrases like 'attractively dissheveled' or 'cheerfully cluttered' that I've been abusing lately. The first floor is especially like that - a bit too open, a bit too bright, a bit too...utilitarian. And utilitarian + bright lights + salarymen = sad.

The second floor, where we had a private room, was a bit better. Nothing special, except perhaps for the old original window panes; as the guy who had to sit on the tatami next to those windows for 3 hours, I'm here to tell you they're originally drafty. My nuggets were nippy. My colleague who recommended the place swears that they have rooms with tables too, and if you go, you'd best be sourcing one of those.

Interestingly, they have chicken and eel, and we had both in the course. Starting with toriwasa was very welcome (in this case I'd guess that it was chicken tenderloins, barely dipped in boiling water before being chopped into rough cubes, molded into a ball, and sauced with pre-mixed soy and wasabi), and that was probably the high point of the food menu for me. There were a few skewers of yakitori, which were frankly mediocre but I'm not in much position to judge the quality of gizzards. I ate one piece to make sure I still don't like them though.

The main item was chicken sukiyaki; big platters covered with chicken breast strips, mince for meatballs, liver bits, onions, shirataki miracle noodles, and some green leafy thing, which we cooked at the table. One platter and one burner per four people, with the staff setting up the initial serving and then leaving us on our own (as they did with most everything else, which meant the table was rapidly cluttered with empties and half-eatens). The chicken meat here was really, really good. After that we had options in how to eat our eel - standard barbeque over rice, 'white grilled' with no rice, or take-home. Yes, I had the unaju. There goes the diet. It was pretty good!

Drinks-wise, I muscled things around so we focused on sake. First was a bottle of Hououbiden, which I'm pretty sure from looking at the web site was the Wakamizumai (I'm guessing here; it's 若水米, which has something to do with the first water drawn from a well after the new year if the dictionary can be believed). This was a little too clean, and quite sweet, for my tastes, but very much in the line of something I like, being a fresh junmai ginjo. The other thing, which my boss latched onto and kept ordering bottles of, was Joukigen (上喜元). This was Ponkan's recommendation and was very light and clean. I didn't like it much after the heavy chicken sukiyaki and Hououbiden, but by the 4th or 5th (half) bottle, the lightness was a blessing and we all enjoyed it tremendously.

Let me leave it at that; this place had some good points, and I'd like to think that I enjoyed them appropriately. The party was certainly a good time, but on most dimensions, I'd recommend you other establishments.

Yours, in resignation,

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