Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sanshuya, Kanda ( 大衆割烹 三州屋)

Things are so hot in Tokyo at the moment that whole sections of street keep spontaneously combusting, forcing the fire department to work overtime racing to conflagrations for liquid refreshment.

But it's always cool as an uri up in Kanda, where this branch of the Sanshuya chain is dishing out tasty dishes. Hard to say how big the chain is; the original store is in Kamata, and that might give you some idea right there about how delicate and refined it is.

Not at all, is what that means. Inside is a lot of thick, bare wooden counters, plus a big communal horikotatsu, and slips on the wall for the menu, and salarymen drinking beer with their lunch and generally being quiet.

As soon as you sit down, even before you order, they'll bring you a setup like this (I had to send back the first cup of tea because there was a little guy in it, as you can see). That's because for lunch, you can order your main but you're going to get all these sides. Actually, it seems like dinner is the same. This is a hardcore place, set up specifically to feed hungry guys. Not a lot of frills, very homey food. Very old atmosphere, and it's funny because the other branches (including Ginza and Yaesu) look exactly the same.

The main here is a mutsu, done 'arani', which means it's boiled in heavily-sweetened soy-based liquid. It's tough to figure what a 'golden mutsu' is in English, and not that interesting either. Low-technique cooking here - just hacked up the fish, leaving all the bones and a bunch of connective tissue on. Fortunately these guys are really fatty, so they stew up super-soft and tasty, absorbing lots of the cooking liquid.

See? Huh? Do ya?

If you're weird, you could easily come around to the idea of pouring the remaining liquid on your rice. It's delicious. And gets you branded as an alien in Japan for some reason. Thou shalt not put anything on rice, unless the kitchen puts it there for you (cf donburi, or perhaps sushi). Some really odd foreigners eat tonkatsu and put sauce on their rice. Scorn them.

The other thing you can pick is your soup, actually. Tofu is the basic thing and the cheapest, but the other options (slimy nameko mushrooms, tiny asari clams) aren't much more. The tofu must be the best choice though - it's been sitting in the soup for so long that it's actually absorbed the flavor of the soup, and the flavor of the soup was outstanding for a budget teishoku place.

Up in Kanda, even Jack & Betty got game. For real.


  1. I wonder how this palace would be at night but I am glad you went there. Your comment about pouring sauce of any kind on rice is very interesting. Trust me, many Japanese want to sauce the rice too but restrain themselves to avoid being ostracized. It is one of the advantages of being a Gaijin, I think,--enjoying rice to the upmost in public. One of the food columns (in Japanese) had 4 installments on this subject.

  2. We used to pour miso soup over rice all the time at home. Would never do that in public though.

  3. I delight in knowing how things are supposed to be done and then emphasizing to Japanese people that I'm going to do what I want (at least as far as rice, or crossing the street against the light).

    I imagine pouring soup on rice as more of a country-style thing, popular back when Musashi Koyama was mostly suiden...

  4. Interesting comments. I assume both responders are Japanese but not living in Japan now. The question is: Do you pour your soup over the rice in public when not in Japan and then revert back to not pouring when in Japan?