Friday, March 5, 2010

Wajin, Meguro (和神)

Now, when I was heading out to Meguro this evening, one of my colleagues thought that was a very exciting place to go. She said there are lots of old-fashioned places to eat. Before I started looking around, I had been excited too, but I found it pretty difficult to find anything that looked especially interesting. As it was, Wajin (fully, Washoku Dining Wajin) wasn't a bad choice, but it also wasn't especially interesting. It reminds me of another pet theory of mine: Any place with 'Dining' in the name is bound to be mediocre.
Fusion food. When I was 20, I thought fusion food was the coolest thing ever. That was definitely at the height of the Asian fusion boom, although I'm not sure that boom ever died out in America. As long as you can get wasabi-infused sashimi-grade tuna... Now I think fusion food has to be done carefully if it:s not going to be stupid. And I've become a real purist about Japanese food; as I've written too many times, the guidelines are there for a reason, and you operate outside them at your peril. The excitement of a great Japanese restaurant comes in how they work within the guidelines to surprise and, dare I say it, DEATH PANELS...phew, I went all Palin for a sec. No, I was going to say 'titillate', but there wasn't any point. Can I move on?

You know I always want to start with sashimi. Here, there was kanburi that was very good - almost white with fat. The hirame was very good, a little chewy, a little tasty. The shimesaba wasn't memorable. A special item on the menu were the 'spoons'; I know these have a lot of currency in various dining circles, and I can't help thinking that putting together wagyu tataki, sea urchin and salmon roe for a 1-bite extravaganza is a bit of overkill. It's not exactly fusion, but somehow the intent seemed misguided in a fusion-y way.

Fried shrimp with some salad, covered with a grid of mayonnaise, on a black plate. This is when I knew that I was in the presence of a chef trying to be hip, and I got ready to leave. There were also 'rolls' made by wrapping cucumber strips and some sauce with cooked eel. Enough about the food - capable, but a little lackluster in that way that places trying to be modern often are. Curiously, I thought the service was a bit wacky too; just spacy and uncomfortable.

Drinks! Pretty good, actually. I drank three things. First, Shimeharitsuru's Jun, which is pretty widely available and pretty reliable; not overly distinguished, but quite a good junmaiginjo. After that, Kokuryu's normal daiginjo, which I thought was excellent; balanced everything. After that, Michisakari (三千盛, darn it), which was interesting, but not necessarily in a way that I liked. It was quite sour, and had what I like to think of as a characteristic taste of rice mold.

This could be something that other people like, and in fact it:s made me worry a bit that in the quest for light, clean, floral, high-fragrance nihonshu, I could be searching for a sort of lowest-common-denominator of accepted good taste. I'd hate to do that; the whole point for me is to try interesting things, and flavors with odd angles that don't fit accepted profiles are always interesting even if they're not conventionally 'good'.

Speaking of 'not conventionally good', I've forgotten to post something from my last weekend trip - I visited the Okazaki brewery right in the heart of Ueda city, trading under the brand name Kirei (亀齢). Their sake had an interesting taste, kind of like what I was saying about Michisakari above, but more to the point I got to hang out briefly with the brewer (Midori; how many female brewers are there in Japan?) and sample the fresh daiginjo that she was bottling directly from a mini-tank. She made me climb some ladders and look at the in-progress sake too; I didn't want to appear ungrateful by not doing that. Anyway, I should post those pictures.

Never bother with the usual thing.
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