Thursday, May 27, 2010

Koyu II, Nezu (呼友)

Waiting on the subway platform for McNoonan to show up after work, I thought to myself "There's nothing like a little goth-loli-spotting to get the evening started right."

Nor is there anything like a Black Punch to get this partee started, but where we were going, there's no black punch.

Just deserted streets where it feels like time stopped, and Tokyo's best izakaya.

I don't say that lightly. From the first bite to the last, I had no evidence that this place is not really the best there is. It's creative, fresh, and really really well prepared. I've wanted to go back here since the first time (the night that Woody and I first met, actually), and wanted to go someplace special with McNoonan since things are working out so well for him, and since he was staying in Nippori this was the perfect choice.

Plus they have 14 varieties of excellent sake. If you squint, you'll see everyone's old favorite Kaiun (at least a favorite of every New Zealander who spent 3 years living in Shizuoka), plus a bunch of familiar high-end names. For the record, we drank some Azumamine and also the picturesquely-named Kamosibitokuheiji, both of which were decent but without any really notable points.

A little bit of buri-daikon for starters. Honestly, this was sooooo greeeeat. I wish everyone could have it, and I wish buri daikon could always be this good. Even though it's not winter any more, so we're out of the best season for buri, it was perfectly cooked, as was the daikon, which was deeply flavored without being too soft - a hard trick to get right.

A little crab salad, again terrific. McNoonan doesn't eat mayonnaise; he used to maintain that Americans don't really like mayonnaise, but I think he's now seen the untenability of that position. He was concerned that there would be mayonnaise in this, but the waitress said it was mixed only with miso, which he was cool with. Had he know that the 'miso' was really 'crab miso', otherwise known as 'assorted organs and squishy bits, squished up, he might have felt otherwise.

Strangely, the standout: tuna 'nuta'-style, which means it's coated with a sauce, and in this case with sumiso, the yellow, vinegarry miso that you get on some things in spring, and on a few other dishes year-round. With lightly-cooked leek segments and sticks of udo, this was hard to quantify but delicious.

Another oddity, rounds of long potato drilled (the underside was charred) and sprinkled with black pepper - closely related to a dish from the other izakaya I recently thought was among the best in Tokyo, Wakamatsu (are they related?).

Long potato and its relatives Mountain Potato and Japanese Spirit Potato (haterz, correct my translationz if you want. I mean 長芋と山芋と大和芋.) are something I've just come to appreciate in the last couple years and even make at home sometimes, going through the whole wash-hands-quickly-because-the-potato-makes-your-hands-itch procedure. I can pinpoint what changed my mind on this vegetable - soy-pickled long potato pieces at Onodera.

Wagyu, grilled, sliced, oroshi-ponzu'ed. The pink pepper was egregious, sadly, but the beef was excellent.

It's stuff like this that really convinced me how great this place is. I kid you not, sauteed cabbage with canned tuna ... deeeelicious. I can't explain it, and I know how silly that sounds. Why doesn't it taste like this at home?

Likewise, deep-fried new potatoes. Simple, humble, perfectly-cooked.

And chicken, of unknown provenance but of the 'chewy and tasty' species. Look at the skin. Look at the pinkness left in the middle. Marvel at how well this guy can source produce and cook it.

Go visit.


  1. nezu - what a coincidence. i'm planning a cultural tiki-tour of yanaka, nezu and sendagi, with plenty of refreshment stops along the way. i'll definitely keep koyu in mind.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I'm staying in Yanaka this week so this is within walking distance. I just went there, and
    both the food and the nihonshu (I picked the ones from Akita and Aomori) were amazingly good. I'm only staying in Tokyo until Saturday, but I'm thinking of going back here on Friday evening. I can't think of a better way to finish a week in Tokyo.

    Thanks again.