Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Good One, Kanda

Good one indeed. Woody and I were set to re-visit Hanakago (yeah, it's that good, especially if you reserve so you can get sashimi from the shop next door). I had reserved for 7 but it turned out we could both get there earlier, and that left us standing outside with 30 minutes of freedom (except that Mama was outside walking her dog, so we were kinda busted). Being intrepid explorers, we explored. Intrepidly. And in a little alley between a small street and a big street, we hit pay dirt.

Like so many others, Yamanaka san has pasted old sake labels on the outside of his shop. Like so many others, they're famous labels, including the elusive Juyondai - at most places, licking those labels is the closest you're going to get to a taste of that sake. It's too rare.

Unlike many others, Yamanaka san had a solid 10 varieties of Juyondai in evidence (they brew so many varieties, I think, because they're trying to 'express the nature of different rice species' or words to that effect). I asked for the Dewasansan. No problem. Also loads of other rice varieties, all kept in plastic in the fridge with the light off and vacuum tops to help with the freshness. Also loads of other famous sakes, all served up at low prices in stackable cafeteria-style glasses.

Like only a few others, Yamanaka san is a super-nice guy. He tried to speak a little English to us, and I suppose was happy to have some foreign guys wander in for a drink. Happy enough that he kept pouring samples for us, which was an ugly way to start the evening, but impressive in that he could pull out 3 bottles from different brewers all made with Dewasansan rice. The other standout was the Sugata he recommended for Woody, I think it was the junmai ginjo; many people call their sake 'fruity', but this really was, and pretty heavy as well.

Should it be your thing, he also has a lot of shochu that he likes to show off - especially rice-based shochu from famous sake brewers.  And should it be your thing, there are of course also small food items, as well as Yamanaka san's own curry at lunchtime - Y500 for a big mound of rice and curry. It's cheap, right? When he said it was Y500, I had to confirm that rice was included in that price. It is. That's how I know it's a big mound, his hand gesture.

If I were a gambling man, I'd bet that we found Tokyo's best standing bar last night. It's even better because he has a few stools, so you don't really have to stand. Any time you want to drink Japan's best sake for reasonable prices and no cover charge, you should just go to this place.

Good one indeed.
The number I've got is Yamanaka san's mobile, so I feel a little bad about posting it. Email me if you need it.

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