Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Osakaya, Monzennakacho (大阪屋)

Ahhhhh, Osakaya. When people say 'Monzennakacho', they're always thinking of bargain fish specialist Uosan or else they're thinking of Osakaya. This is probably because it features in various guide books (including the Gauntner sake book, which is in English). It's not what it used to be, which doesn't mean it's not nice. Just...different.
The centerpiece here is the stewpot. Look at the crust around the edges. Can you guess where this is going? If you guessed "That pot has been bubbling away for three generations without being washed," you're right. Above the counter is a picture of a wizened old fellow in wife beater and wispy Chinese painter beard, cigarette dangling precipitously over the pot (some say that was his 'special seasoning'). He started the boiling, passing it down to his kids, and now to his grandkids who run the place. Mama Motoko is none too young herself, but I'm heartened that her daughter called when I was there, so there's hope for someone else to take the place over.
Now, 50-odd years of boiling makes for a tasty stew. But it depends very much on what you put in it. In this case, it's a special combination of ingredients that all fall under the heading of 'motsu', which is to say 'bits of cow that aren't even good enough to be called offal'. This is the kind of thing that I avoid resolutely, but I knew what I was getting into when I wandered in here, and was ready to hit it. I have no idea what these three were, and they did taste pretty good, as long as you got them hot. As expected, there was a certain...oddity to the textures, like the one closest to camera, which seemed like some kind of intestine lined with gelatinous fat. I feel queasy just writing about it. There are three varieties, and you're more than welcome to dig into the pot yourself to have a look around. Mama will total up the number of sticks you ate at the end.
So it's in a book as a recommended place to drink sake. That book must be older than I thought, because what they serve now is one type of room-temperature sake with a speed pourer in the top. I grant you, the type of sake I like to drink is thought not to match with the gutsy (haha), bold flavors of curry-stewed beef intestine, but it's a stark change. There's also bottled beer and shochu.
Highlights? The staff and customers, of course. Motoko san is sweet as can be, dishing up her homemade rakyou (the little white pickled onions that you get with curry in Japan - a lot like shallots) and nukazuke (rice bran pickles, pictured at left). The two customers were divided between Michiko san, who lives in the building next to mine (naturally) and an older guy who seemed normal at first but turned out to be drunk and a tiny bit belligerent. Nothing too bad, but he wanted to be right, and kept disagreeing with the rest of us. I didn't mind that much, but when he knocked over his plate and tried to pay while some of the skewers were still on the floor, I had to help him by picking them up...
Look, I feel like I've done the hard work so you don't have to. There's no reason at all to go here except the novelty value of a stew that's been cooking for 50 years, or the pleasant feeling of sitting under bare light bulbs talking about not very much to old folks from the block. You can make your own determination from that, but I might go back some day. It was something about the way Motoko san took my hand and said "Please come again."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jon, think we'll pass it right by. I applaud your dedication and sacrifice.