Saturday, August 21, 2010

Za Sakana, Kitami (座酒菜,喜多見)

The night was young and so were we...well, at least one of us. But after not getting much food to speak of at Hanya, another destination was clearly indicated for all and sundry. For a small station, Kitami has a goodly number of likely spots - maybe something about the clean country air inspires good cooking? The jokily-named Zasakana ('za' standing in for 'the', 'sakana' being unclear - 魚 or 肴 reference?) is nearer the station, and while not especially welcoming in appearance, the open door framed the master, who looked out and yelled 'Come on in!' Can't resist an order like that.
It's quite possible that the best thing about this place is the staff. That's not to say the food was weak, or the drinks weren't plentiful, but the master here is an artist in social matters, as is his wife to a quieter degree. When's the last time you went to an izakaya that felt more like a party in someone's living room? Where the master was your host, keeping the party going with a steady stream of jokes, introductions between patrons, and outrageously funny lies? Maybe this happens all the time in Kansai or Kyushu, but we Tokyo people are more reserved. Come to think of it, Kitami is so far west that it might be nearly Kansai.
There's certainly nothing wrong with the drinks here; with the atmosphere you'd maybe want to just drink beer or mixers. There were a few selections of sake, mostly at the lower end, but one nice jungin. And the serving style is really pleasant - just seeing the blue-green glass was a little cooling.
Nothing wrong with the food either - starters of coleslaw, beans and clams are homey. Smokey iburi gakko pickles with cream cheese. Raw horse with copious quantities of garlic. Unforgettable seared mackerel with green onions. Frozen fried chicken wings (not bad, a little weird, but not bad). Super-sweet corn - since it wasn't from New Jersey, I suspect sugar was added to the butter. A plate of soba to finish, and the silly shirt of the guy next to me (didn't eat that).
Nothing wrong with the master encouraging one guest to pull out his guitar either, so that I and another guitar player could have a look at it. Unfortunately no amp, or we would've started a real rock 'n' roll party.

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