Saturday, May 22, 2010

Usataro, Monzennakacho (うさたろう)

Usataro is quite close to Monnaka crossing, on one of the southside streets. It has an appealing facade with big windows, lots of bottles, and red paint on most of the exposed surfaces. Looks like the kind of place that could be good even if it's a bit formulaic. Why did it take me almost 6 years to try it? It's usually full on weekday nights by the time I wander along. Now that I've been, how long will it take me to go back? Ohhh, probably 6 years.

The counter is really nice, and they're done well to get that soft, moody lighting of a modern izakaya. There are also a bunch of booths, and flagstones and pebbles on the way to the bathroom, and other quaint touches. The biggest downer was definitely the service; they just looked irritated to be working on a Saturday night. Since there were no customers, I'd understand if they were bummed about not receiving much in the way of tips. This being Japan though, they just seemed grumpy.

I had a bit of daiginjo from Toyama's Ginban, which wasn't worth writing more about.
While you can tell from the bamboo receptacles on the counter that the focus food-wise is things-grilled-on-sticks, there's a complete menu. No purism here, just modern izakaya, but with the chicken focus and the Saturday night, we thought fish wasn't a great idea.  The pickles were very attractive; the takuan was too sweet.

And hey, the chicken was good. The sasami (tenderloin) on the left was appealingly seared, that is, raw in the middle (medium rare chicken. Only in Japan.), the normal items like breast with leek and thigh were well-cooked, and the oddities like the butts (bonjiri) and cartilege seemed to be good-quality.

I don't like cooked tomatoes. Tomato sauce, love it. But stewed or roasted tomatoes, not so much (yes, that includes the tomatoes in a 'proper English fry-up' or 'full breakfast' or whatever you like to call it, even if they have herby breadcrumbs on top). So this picture is just here because it came out well and I wanted to say 'We left pretty quickly'.

Shochu and chicken, they say. Well, live and learn.

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