Friday, July 23, 2010

Yamato, Morishita (山登)

Sometimes people ask how I find all these places. Much like Eddy Merckx describing his approach in training to be the world's best cyclist as 'Ride lots,' I spend an inordinate amount of time looking. Seek and ye shall find. I actually find the looking almost as enjoyable as the finding and eating, because it's so pleasant to ride your bike around quiet Tokyo neighborhoods at night. Here, check it out on YouTubez.

So that's kinda how you get to Yamato, but I actually found it a few nights earlier when I took a longer way home from work and started getting all silly with back streets. I don't know how they've managed to stay in business for 25 years.
But the recently redid the place, and now it's very modern with an almost Chinese accent. I was reminded of Zenshutoku. It's definitely a neighborhood izakaya, but quite a grand one, and they've taken the big step of forgoing a TV in the corner. I would have preferred it, actually.
As with so many places I've been to this year, the deal here is sake - but in this case 'all pure rice'. The wooden paddles outside show some of the brands that they've got bottle in-house from, and I guess they change them as needed. 
One thing I really like is that they have multiple bottles from one brewer, sometimes 3, 4 or 5 types. If you were keen to taste across someone's range, this is a good place to do it. Another thing I loved was that I knew almost none of the sakes on the list, and it was substantial. This takes some real effort (as does thinking through each sake to recommend whether you should drink it cold, cool, warm or on ice. Seriously, on ice.), and it's really cool to find.  
The general serving style is a glass, on some greenery, on a saucer. They don't overpour, but the prices are pretty good considering the rarity of the selections.
The starter was just some clams with vinegar miso sauce. Pretty good considering the humbleness and neighborhoodness of the place.

Then I got into asking the master about the menu, and he strongly recommended that I eat the 'oden style' tomato. I hate stewed tomatoes. Why did I order this? I can understand how it's a good thing, and the dashi and the cooking and the tomato were all lovely, but it's not for me. I ate it all, of course.

His other selection was much more interesting - sort of cold jellied chicken. That doesn't sound like much, and in fact you might find it bad. It was like a soft nikogori (the jelly thing you always get at the beginning of a fugu course, with the skin mixed into jelly). Another master told me a few weeks ago that softer jelly is better for summer, and here it was very soft, with the chicken sort of mixed through. It was really interesting and good.

I've become a horrible bore about wanting to try the whole menu, and the 'special mince' sounded good. It's a chicken patty mixed with a ton of herbs, mainly shiso, then crumbed and fried. It was pretty dense as far as these things go, but a nice idea. For some reason it's rare to get menchi with herbs.

And likewise to the fry, one must try the grill. This was a simple piece of pork marinated in miso and sake lees, which gave it a heck of a weird flavor. And one that I immediately wanted to replicate at home.

There you have it folks. A perfect neighborhood spot, vying for world-class izakaya status. Actually there's no vying. On my scale, this is as good as an izakaya gets...with some personal differences baked in, courtesy of an individualistic master, god bless 'im.

Every one.


  1. Is this Izakaya Sampo on bicycle? It is very nice that you could cycle to this place and we can see it in a movie. Hope you rode safely home after drinking. (You must have since you posted this).

  2. Sure wish the cook in your childhood years knew about your seemingly intense dislike for stewed tomatoes!! Wonder if it was because she included them so much in the food you were served?!? It's now been modified to more freshly cooked tomatoes!!

  3. Looks lovely, the bike riding at night. Almost as much fun as my bike ride this morning at the good food at the end though. You lucky.

  4. Uncle N, I spend a lot of time on the bike (which is currently a $100 powder blue mama-chari with basket, bell and rack). It features in many of the posts from my neighborhood, or Otemachi, or Kanda, although usually as a silent companion. Once you start cycling Tokyo, you realize that you can get to places about as fast as taking the train, but you get to see a lot more scenery on the way there and don't have to do all that tiresome walking once you get there.
    As for drink-and-ride, two glasses don't make for any danger.

  5. I was introduced to your site by John. I made a note to myself to check out this place next time. Thanks!