Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ippou, Ebisu (一歩)

Boy do the hits keep on coming. Coming a little too fast, but we have to soldier on in the name of fun, sociability, and education. 

Ippou is in a small street on the east side of Ebisu; depending on your proclivities, you may know it as the street also containing Aotea Rangi, the New Zealand wine-and-mussels restaurant. Alternately, you may find it easier to 'pass Zest and take a left'. Either way, the frontage will be easy to spot now that you've seen this picture. Without the help, you could be troubled - and note especially that it's the door to the left of the sign (with the sugidama hanging overhead). The one to the right is another place altogether, and they're not amused by the confusion.

Inside is a little funny. I would have to say that this is one of the down-homiest, least-reconstructed, shabbiest sake specialist bars I've been to (let's ignore Asashichi because frankly, despite being in my neighborhood and featuring on various lists of 'great places to drink sake', frankly, my friends, honestly, that place sucks). It was smoky and worn, but the young, friendly staff was cool, especially the one guy who I thought looked like Christian Slater (and I'd say a young Jack Nicholson, but if you watch something earlier in his career, I think you'll find he looks less like the classic Jack Nicholson face that you think of. Since we only watch Westerns around here, why not try the nihilistic, revisionist set piece Ride In the Whirlwind?)

CNN would have you believe Ippou is a 'sushi and sake' specialist, which is just not correct. Did I miss the 'sushi' section of the very normal izakaya menu? At least the 'sake' part is correct, with a big list and a lot of interesting items thrown in. Many more of them would have been unknown to me, had they not also featured on the menu the night before; these places seem to share the same sake sensibility (and pricing, which is much less justified for Ippou).

Let the record show that they were, unsurprisingly, out of the Juyondai jungin that featured on the menu, and boo on that. But yay for featuring one of my favorites, Amabuki, also in a jungin mode, and for leaving the bottle with me to finish since there was only half a glass left. Pouring yourself a glass out of an isshobin is always fun, especially when the other staff members, not privy to the deal, look at you like 'errrrrrr?'

In keeping with the atmoshpere, the fish was a bit rough and ready (seriously. We can go back to the Shinbashi place any time you want.) The standout was the lightly-grilled...hmmm, I've forgotten if it was flying fish or scabbard fish. Probably the latter. Either way, the searing makes it taste more complex, and it was chewy in a good way.

Typically I'm not one to order boiled flounder (or fluke, whatever) - the skin is disturbing to me. This was pretty good, and you can't go wrong with copious ginger.

Aaaaand, you know it's becoming autumn because sanma is all over menus as of about 2 weeks ago. It seems extra good this year, or maybe I just forgot what it was like. That's what seasonal eating is all about - when you don't eat something for 9 months, it's exciting to get back to it (I know, you can get sanma in the supermarket any day of the year, but restrain yourself, OK?). One tip - eat carefully. These guys aren't gutted before cooking, and if you dig into the brown stuff through an inadvertent chopstick thrust, I think you'll regret it. Otherwise, you should be happy.

Satsuma age is a specialty here too - described on the menu as 'fluffy', it lived up to that billing and more. Always nice to see a place describe something as their specialty and then find it to be worthy of the praise. Much like the fish - looking back, they did have a nice selection and decent cooking.

There you go. If I lived on the west side, and especially if I was lucky enough to live in Ebisu, I could see this becoming a regular stop. It's the kind of place where patience would be rewarded with occasional brilliance.

1 comment:

  1. Sanma! We can get it here frozen or I can order it at Tako Grill but obviously it is not as good as I remember it when I tasted it in season and in Japan.