Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hachimaki, Jinbocho (はちまき)

AaaaaaaI dunno, I just ended up wandering around a lot today. I tried to have an impromptu lunch with Peacock, who was busy ('crunching' is the term of art for 'being busy', incidentally. It has a sort of bones-and-flesh ring to it, don't you think?). In his absence I still walked all the way up to his neighborhood, having picked a place to go from tabelog. It was fully booked, woudja believe, and the pleasant place down the street had already run out of food at 12:45. After that, I was sorta paralyzed by being in an unfamiliar neighborhood and having so many options.

But eventually I ran across Hachimaki, which has been proudly operating on the cobbled 'old book street' of Jinbocho since Showa 6 (1931). As they tell you on their card, and every wall in the place. OK place, decent tempura.

I ate at the counter, which is pretty normal except for the historical pictures backing it. This is a real tempura place, meaning you can watch the chef make up a fresh batch of lumpy batter and then fry your stuff in a little pot right in front of you.

But a big part of the attraction must be the private rooms, which are in the back and set off this corridor.

They're more like koagari, just raised tatami areas with tables. With the additional historical pictures (actually some of these are the same throughout, so I guess they have only a limited supply) and furniture, it's a nice atmosphere. Close the screens and you could be in someone's Shitamachi living room, circa 1935.

With almost 40 minutes of walking under my belt by the time I got there, I figured I was justified in getting the higher-quality ten-don. The main difference here is that the joutendon comes with anago, sea eel, and is a bit bigger. The three shrimp here were really really fresh, though the anago was pretty strong-tasting. The kisu was disappointing (because I love kisu), as were the vegetables, especially the lotus root but not including the asaparagus (I also love asparagus). The thing that didn't excite me in the main was the fry, which was a bit thick and doughy; I'm not saying it was to be thin to get my seal of approval (I remember Mikawa's being very thick), I'm just saying it was to be crisp. Even allowing for being on rice and having sauce poured on, this was too soft for me.

If you wanted to get into a conversation with the chef, I'm sure there's plenty of history to get into here. Outside they had another set of pictures, including one of the founder marching in the Kanda festival. I wish I could go back 70 years and see what it was like, because visiting today isn't much of a substitute.

 Tabelog, incidentally, gives this place a comically low score. It reinforces my perception that the scores there weight negatively for old-fashioned ambiance. Not that this place is fantastic, but it deserves better.

Meee for him.


  1. hey i came across your blog while googling for where to eat in tokyo! do you have any 'must-try' recommendations?! there are way too many places to eat, and only 1 stomache, so one must choose wisely..haha ;)

  2. Sure, lots of recommendations! I have very fond memories of l'Unico in Balmain, but I think that may be closed now. On the other hand, I always used to love coffee and cake at Sweet Lily's, in the Italian Forum in Leichhardt (just on the right at the bottom of the stairs). I see you've already been to Sushi Tengoku, or I would have mentioned it; quite authentic, considering.

    For higher-end restaurants, Marque was always my favorite; been there lots of times, from back when it was probably much better value than today. I loved both Claude's and Guillaume for the ambience and the food, although they're very different and of course the chef has changed at the former (I was there a few times in the Tim Pak Poy days). My single favorite 'ethnic' restaurant, as we say in Japan, was probably Sailor's Thai.

    Hope that helps! If you need recommendations in Tokyo, you can try the 'Izakaya' or 'French' static pages (look at the link bar right at the top), or there's a 'recommended' category in the tags, or there are 'recommended' marks on The Map, which also lets you search visually by area and genre.