Friday, April 9, 2010

Wakamatsu, Morishita (魚所若松)

These solitary Friday night excursions are getting to be a habit. It's just nice to decompress from all the stress of the week with a glass of sake, a plate of fish, and a new copy of Nuts magazine. Hey, what are you laughing at?

Wakamatsu languishes in the middle of the square described by Morishita, Kikukawa and Kiyosumi Shirakawa stations - none of them popular or interesting - and it's not close to any of them. It's a few blocks past the proper end of the Takabashi / Morishita Sanchome shopping street (home of Bella Napoli, which I still need to go to sometime), which is in turn kind of across Kiyosumi Dori from that Tokiwa sentou. OK? This makes it sound like it's somewhere. It's not. It's a tiny place on a dark street, but the lights look brighter when you overexpose the picture.

Inside, they've got various nooks set up with art objects, dishes...and a little collection of fighting fish, which stay eerily still in their tiny bowls. The master and waitress seemed pretty nervous about the issue of communicating with me until, harking back to a Michael Moore documentary, I asked 'Are these your hobby, or food?'. So droll.

Anyhoo, this is a nice place. They've been here for 4 years, and live upstairs (which must help a lot with that whole 'staying in business' thing, considering that I was the only customer on Friday night). The master is the son of a fish shop a few blocks away, which helps explain why the fish is so good (as, in fact, you would guess from the name - it's really called 'Fish Place Wakamatsu). The style is sort of modern-yet-warm, and they only have 7 seats at the front counter plus three small tables in the back.

It's really true that you can sense the changing seasons in Japan through the food. There's this other theory I also like, which is that the seasons here change at a good rate - just when you get really sick of the cold weather, it gets warm. After several weeks of them, I have unfortunately reached the point where I am ready for firefly squid, nanohana and vinegar miso to go back where they came from. It's no longer amusing that every starter features them in some combination. This one, however was a very good version, which set the tone for all the other food.

This dark and mysterious glass is brimming with sake, unsurprisingly. They had two things on special, a daiginjo from Dassai (the waitress said it's 'womens sake' or something, and indeed it was very soft feeling; a real lack of acidity) and another from Hidakami (日高見) that was more acidic but less interesting.

Here I became convinced about the quality of their ingredients. One of the special fishes of the day was isaki ('grunt', I think), which the master carefully seared, sliced and served with sudachi. Same with the scallops, another of my favorite sashimi items. This plate is great, isn't it?

'Seki Isaski'. The fish that I ate was caught on a single line and individually numbered to reflect the specialness of its provenance. And it tasted great.

So great that I ordered another plate of fish...good tuna, great akagai. A great akagai is a great thing; the texture is really different from less-fresh or less-great examples.

After the quality of the fish, I didn:t need a lot of encouragement to plunge into some more this roasted pork belly (not actual size). You know when pork belly has been roasted so the interstitial fat has softened almost to liquid, forming a sweet, jelly-like lubricant, then each piece has been seared crisp on the outside, and the whole thing makes you glad there are pigs? I don't think you do, because you weren't eating this. Suckazzz!

Roasted nagaimo with bonito salt. Healthy, interesting, could maybe make it at home. (This and the pork both made me wish, again, that I had a Salamander at home.)

And just because I wanted to cover all the food groups, I asked for one fried thing and got some more of my numbered isaki (sure he was trying to get rid of the fanciest fish he had. So what.). He recommended it as nanbanzuke, i.e., battered, fried, and in a vinegar sauce. Terrific.

This curtain from behind the counter kinda sums it up - something like 'Yup, seasonal is best!'. While it's really out of the way, this has joined my list of really good food izakayas. The last one I liked as much was Koyu in Nezu, almost as far-removed from the mainstream.

As if a girls magazine called 'Nuts' wasn't funny enough, I see that it's actually called 'Happy Nuts'.
Can't find a link for the restaurant though! It's just east of the Morishita 4-chome intersection, and the building is actually labeled 魚所若松 in Google Maps even though a search won't find it.

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