Friday, August 6, 2010

Nekoya, Tsukiji (ねこ屋)

How would you come up with this concept? "Stylish, private basement izakaya with homey food served by a youngish female master in kimono, with an outstanding sake selection. And everything cat-themed."


Well, it's a good place, and the Woodsman deserves all credit for coming up with it when the rough plan was an evening around Tsukiji. Neko-san here is the master. We think she has a background in the entertainment industry, meaning she can keep a conversation going, alternately coddle a customer or put him in his place, and charge fees at the higher end of what you might expect. Not unwarranted, not out of line, but a touch toppy.

We were flustered from the heat, and it took us a while to order anything beyond the lightly sesame-dressed salad of mixed vegetables that came as starter. While sitting and chatting, we were encouraged to get both the mixed appetizer sets and mixed sashimi plates, 2 plates for each of us.

The food seems to be made in large part by an assistant who left around 7 PM (Neko san is dressed up, after all), and that could explain why the eel in this steamed custard was still a bit bony. A nice dish, but the first time I can remember someone using the August luxury ingredient hamo and not slicing the bones properly.

The sake menu is a single page with 20 choices, plenty of variety, plenty of interest. While the pretty, cut glasses are poured right to the top, Y800 is still per glass, and that's not cheap. However the storage seemed good, and everything we drank was noticeably fresh - so worth it for serious drinkers.  Seeing something like the stylish black and gold Gassan label, or the artistically-unreadable Wakakoma, is bound to get those people excited.

Mainly for nostalgia, we also sampled the cream cheese preserved in sake lees. This is always a good thing, but even more in this case because the lees were from Kaiun, which always reminds us of all our fond memories of living in Shizuoka...oh, that's not us. This was really good though.

The sashimi plate wasvery nice - slices of a fat, firm pen shell, then fillets of horse mackerel and saury (are those the right names? They were tailagai, aji and sanma). The saury in particular deserves mention - despite thinking it's pointless to tell someone how good a slice of raw fish tasted, I want you to know that this was so flavorful it was almost fruity. Hopefully you have such luck next time you have this fish; it's getting into season again already.

Here's the rest of the mixed starter set - going from left to right it's more-or-less a warm potato salad with bacon and fresh corn, a cold cooked-vegetable plate with a little liver from the pen shell above, tuna and shrimp with gooey grated potatoe, and a sardine grilled kabayaki-style, which is something typically reserved for eel.Good and homey. I wonder how much it was.

And one can't go wrong with the bigger, meatier plate of grilled salmon belly. A decent way to finish things off for the time being and fortify ourselves for the stroll to find another shop.

In summary, the bill was a tiny bit toppy, but the decor, service and drinks are a cut above almost every other place you could try. You also gain the ability to laugh along with guys you run into on the street as you're leaving who make rude jokes about the master.

She's getting the last laugh though.

No comments:

Post a Comment