Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Manaita, Kanda (まないた)

My colleague Waddap was in town from London, and since I've still never been to London this is the only chance we get to socialize. Here we are leaving the office. I like to call this 'Still Life With Waddap' except that he's walking.

I was keen to get back to Manaita after the lovely lunch that Koala and I had there on Friday (sorry about the double-post). It turns out that the dinner menu is course-only, and this paper is it! You can a decent idea what you're going to eat by looking at it, but in short it's a lot of lightly-grilled seafood. Too lightly for some sensitive stomachs, but Waddap was a trooper and maybe even enjoyed it. While his main comment was "Definitely the slipperiest food I've ever had," I'm here to tell you that it's high quality, and a good value at Y4k.

Hard to know how to 'score' a place like this, if that sort of thing matters to you. It's very idiosyncratic. Kida san redid the exterior in a sort of gray stucco when he took it over recently (if you look on Google Maps, you'll see a weird and crappy building that looks very different to now). The counter is light sanded wood, of course, and there's one table on a tatami koagari, and a few plants, and that's about it for atmosphere. The sake is limited to Chiyogiku, but as junmai ginjos go, it was very good. I guess the best way to put it is that Kida san knows what he wants to do, and if your tastes align, this will be a place you'll like a lot. If not, you'll probably be able to tell from the pictures...

So here they are. Not really in sequence as a result of 'shuffling' in the photo editor. Going left to right and then down...
  • Dry-grilled aoyagi, and by 'dry' I mean 'skewered and hung above the counter in the morning, then taken down and grilled for dinner'. We saw these hanging up when we were in for lunch last week. Very good clams (and he showed us the shells too; never saw them with shells on, but they look like normal clams).
  • Squid sashimi. Super high-quality squid. Waddap had real freshly-grated wasabi for the first time here, and like everyone else was struck by how much greater it is than the tubed crap.
  • Beef, grilled and onioned. Excellent beef, but the grilling over a gas burner was a bit too enthusiastic and left things tasting gassy. Not horribly so, but a little too 'backyard barbeque'.
  • Grilled octopus. Not my favorite; not grilled all the way through, so a bit confronting to bite and chew. Good taste though, of course.
  • Kuruma ebi. Kida san (when asked) said "Eat whatever you want, but you can sure eat the shell." It was thin, tasty, and very edible. You could pay, let's say, Y700 for a shrimp like this elsewhere, so a Y4k course...yeah, it's good.
  • Grilled clams (hamaguri). This type of clam is always a bit slimy for my tastes, even after grilling. Too mucus-y.
  • Salmon chazuke. I was surprised that Kida san didn't serve us the salmon pieces that were drying outside on a rack; they must have been for lunch or dinner the next day. This is his specialty, and it's a great piece of fish. The dashi that he used was strangely flavorless - plenty of taste, but no salt and thus a weird perceived lack of flavor.
  • Crab legs. High quality, and no issues about eating them cleanly. He didn't just crack them, he cut a thin slice off the back sides, meaning the meat was all exposed to your eager chopsticks.
  • Flounder grilled with miso. A nice little fish, very tasty.
  • I forgot to take pictures of: the yu-dofu, served on top of simmered konbu and with a side dipping bowl filled with lots of sliced negi, an egg yolk, and soy sauce (if Waddap wasn't confronted by the fish, the raw egg yolk certainly did it!); cabbage-chicken-potato soup, sweet and simple.

That's a lot of seafood, right? And no vegetables. Like I said, Kida san knows what he wants to do, and he gets great fish, cooks it minimally, and serves it at very reasonable prices. If you can get excited about the various pictures of simply-prepared ingredients on white plates, this is your place. The other customers and the frequent-visitor wild cats loved it.

I'd go back, of course. Maybe take a bottle of sake - I bet you can drink it if you share with him.


  1. I crave these dishes after making crepe manicotti.

  2. What happened, didn't you get asparagus and corn? This place definitely "align" with my taste.