Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shutoan, Yotsuya (酒徒庵)

Oysters are a powerful aphrodisiac. Seeing Sarah Jessica Parker, larger than life on a billboard in a Tokyo train station, is not. I've never been a fan of S&tC (in fact I've never seen an episode, let alone the movie), but even I can pick up the style clues that are supposed to drive the ladies wild here - the carefree attitude, the glamorous dress, the outlandish footwear, the reflection of New York in the glasses...the only thing I can't understand is the sand dune background,

unless that's meant to tie in with the generally cadaverous, perhaps mummified, face she's sporting in this illustration.

The goal on the day was to visit Shutoan, in the company of various food luminaries and friends (the Woodsman, Journey, Jimmy Dean, Poshand and Boo Boo, and JD brought his daughter), and to drink a bunch of sake. The goal was dispatched with aplomb, and then we just had fun. This is close to the station in Yotsuya, and I guess worth a visit, as long as you're excited about oysters and sake.

The toshi wasn't that promising, but they often aren't. Anyway, it was cooked aoyagi and wakame; I'm not a wakame lover at the best of times, and the yagi were gritty in their livers.

I should mention around this point that the atmosphere was OK in a minimalist izakaya sort of way, and much better than the 70's-kissaten appearance we were expecting from the web site. Service was eh, but we were a disorganized table and couldn't have been much fun to deal with, what with the randomness and the funny accents.

Cheerful chaos prevailed, more or less as intended - I hate those group dinners where there's a set course. Somebody ordered up two plates of katsuo immediately, and it was OK.(My pictures for the whole night are pretty horrible, so some of these are from Dave. Thanks!)

But we wanted to get stuck into the sake, and here we go. This must be only the specials - the web site lists easily 100 varieties.

Of course, as I always rant, that may not be a good thing. I tried to protest that the Shuho they served me was the last swallow of the bottle, and tasted as such, but they had little sympathy and opened a new bottle for others at the table. It was much better.

One thing that's really cool is the small serving sizes - just enough to get a good solid taste, and only 3-400 yen per. Here you can witness their glasses in action with the Yanma T4 Oriori Rock unfiltered sake, which was pleasantly bubbly and acidic on the tongue.

Shutoan describes themselves as 'sake, oysters and dried stuff', and they had a good 20 types of yucky live sea creatures on the menu. The Golden Week special price reductions made me a little nervous - what, you're trying to run down your inventory? - but there was nothing wrong with the oysters we got. Unless you count the fact that most of us ordered them grilled, which I think is a total waste. I would go back to STA to eat more oysters, but the various varieties are something like Y400+ on normal days, so it's not a cheap proposition.

The 'dried things' on the menu are all dried in volcanic ash, which I suppose is a great thing. In practice, this fish was just a fish. A dried, grilled fish.

Raw vegetables with various dips - sesame oil, moromi miso, kimchee mayonnaise. Preferable to the insipid bagna cauda that clogs so many Italian menus these days, like Iberico pork (on the other hand, I avoid Italian restaurants for these very reasons!).

Karasumi with daikon slices. I know this is a luxury product, but the quantity and taste were both disappointing for the price.

A little better was the heshiko, which if I remembered and tasted correctly is mackerel preserved in rice bran. I'd like to say I had it in Kanazawa, but I may have just observed from afar - dead fish pickled in mud hasn't always been my idea of a good time.

Well, add this to the list of quirky sake specialists. If my writing seems stunted or disinterested, it's because we were having too much fun to concentrate on the food and drink. You can tell from the picture - a festive pepper, a lost tooth, and magic sparkles in the air. (Gimp has some odd features.)

Go for the sake, stay for the oysters.


  1. "Journey"? Ok, can I have a clue? Don't want to take as long as Poshand trying to decipher it.
    Still, honoured to have been named. I think...

  2. You guys are having too much fun. I am here in Pittsburgh for some reason for the next two days. On the airplane, I somehow imagined I could find a nice sushi bar in Pitts. I do not know why I thought that. Instead I found a small "bistro" near my hotel which is located, not even close to the downtown, in Shadyside (literally). After I sat down I found that this was a BYOB place. What?! No wine? Where is the nearest wine store? I ended up walking 10 minutes each way and got a bottle of Ramey Cab 05 and went back to the bistro. This is too much work.

  3. "Journey"? Is there any connection to TARDIS???

  4. The Woodsman thinks Journey comes from Steve Perry, vocalist of the rock band Journey.
    Of course, I'm way too young to have a clue what they are talking about...

  5. Holy cow, does he think that?! Strong effort. Makes me feel like I explained it while drunk on Sunday, because I thought it was too esoteric for anyone to get.

  6. Obviously The Woodsman is a closet rocker. Can't picture him with a mullet? (Sorry Woodsman...)

  7. Ha ha, very droll Journey...Actually it was "she who must be obeyed" who came up the Journey/Steve Perry connection over lunch today, but had this guess been correct of course I would have taken full credit! No Journey LP's in our house mate, strictly off-limits.

  8. 'jimmy dean'? haha! the epiphet i've given him is 'the flying-doitsu-man'. thanks for your quick upload, jon - a stellar review as always. ちょう楽しい!

  9. Hello. Stopping through. What do you mean by this "Yanma T4 Oriori Rock " on the sake?