Friday, March 19, 2010

Uogokoro, Kasai (魚ごころ、葛西)

So, you know, a stressful week at work...made me want to do something quiet and contemplative, by myself. So I looked up some likely sake places in...

and headed along after work.

Let's not beat about the bushes, Kasai is pretty dull. I went out this way once before (it's farther east than my place, so all you West Coast haterz can gitcho hate on) while looking for the purported (and nonexistent) 'Little Bangkok' in Gyotoku. The keen observer will spot pachinko and Watami in this picture and conclude "Meh."

But Uogokoro ("Fish heart"?) was on a list provided by a sake distributor, and the web site looked good enough, so here we are. This is a few blocks from the station, and it's darker. Possibly more atmospheric.

Inside was quite nice, actually. Just a counter and some horikotatsu, but very warm-feeling. Possibly because of the heaters.

This kind of counter. Getting this far out in the suburbs (I think it's 5 stops past Monnaka) almost guarantees a lack of pretense and a living-room feel. In this case, the mail is still on the counter.

I put this bottle first to remind myself that the young waiter wouldn't let me take off my coat and sit down without ordering first. Seriously. We had a little fight where I kept saying "Wait!" and he was saying "Whaddya want?" Eventually he took my coat and I looked at the sake list, which included about a dozen things, mostly unusual (to me). This is Gangi (雁木), as any fool can plainly read. I didn't like it at all - tasted nothing like you'd expect a junmaiginjo to taste, and not the pleasant, light start to the night that I typically prefer.

Oh, I should also comment that he master noticed all of that and apologized. Plus his food was pretty good and he was patient with my dumb questions, so all in I liked him a lot.

As I've said recently, it's Spring, so expect to see these little guys popping up everywhere (though not usually in pictures that make them look so huge and vicious). Supposedly they're called firefly squid because they fluoresce (while in water and still alive). I think it was around Kanazawa or something; I'd love to make that trip.

There was this neat set of playing cards on the counter with artful depictions of Edomae sushi varieties, all done up using illustrations from fabric like this.

And some double-sized bottles of shochu that had been sent to the shop as gifts.

It's Spring, so after confirming that there were decent things in the list, I got a plate of spring vegetable tempura. They were decent, and smelled great while frying, but were a touch on the soft-and-greasy side. Perhaps a problem with the oil temperature, and perhaps a problem with the batter (dare I say it...the bunny batter).

Taranome, one of the bitter tree bud things that usually gets included in spring veggie tempura sets.

And an art shot of a fukinotou, another of the bitter buds. This is the same thing that I picked up a couple months ago and used to make fuki miso at home, which is lasting quite nicely.

Tenmei, again a jungin, medium bodied and a bit spicy (I can't believe I wrote that down. Somebody slap me.)

Since this place wasn't captivating enough to keep me, I didn't order any more food or drinks except this aji tataki, which was excellent. It gave me second thoughts about staying (the chef spiced it up with a bit of miso), but cooler heads prevailed and I wondered out to look for the other place. OK, that's a lie. I walked by the other place on my way to Uogokoro.

On the street, things were weird. I guess this is what they do in Kasai to make a buck?

Home on the range...

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