Saturday, September 11, 2010

Zukunashi, Tachikawa (ずくなし)

After spending some time reading, trying to nap, and swatting ants in the big Showa Kinen Park, I started walking around when I thought shops would be opening. Sometimes my approach lets me down. Much as I love picking an unfamiliar area and just rolling around, freestyling, looking for good stuff, the whole woody-exterior, bottles-outside theme doesn't always work. This was one of those times. But the oysters were decent, and by depending on the kindness of strangers, things worked out well later. Anyway, what was I thinking, trekking out to Tachikawa just to look around?

Well, Zukunashi is a friendly little place. The master is animated and fun, with a wacky headscarf, stylin' glasses, facial hair, and a good line of jokey conversation that I couldn't get more than half of. The two waitresses (count em! One would be enough for a place this small, but they seemed friendly enough to be family, even if the ages didn't look right) were also engaging and talkative, and the older one had lived in Baltimore. They said they get a fair number of foreign visitors, but none of them speak Japanese. There's a professor from Temple that lives in the area, for example.

The bottles outside were the same as the ones inside - nothing unexpected or off-menu. Despite the attractive serving style, I was a little horrified by this sake. I think it was low-end Kokuryu, actually, which is yet another reminder that I'm not drinking anything from them again (although your mileage may vary - it's certainly famous and popular).

Snack-wise, I had to try the oysters since they specialize in them. One kind of rock oyster, one kind of regular oyster, both a little...I think you can tell it's early in the season, let me put it that way. Not that they weren't fresh, but they weren't bursting with vitality either.

My mind was made up to leave quickly when the master took out a supermarket tray of inada and cut off some slices for me - this after I was asking if it wasn't too early in the year for inada to be good, and him insisting it was really good. Now, however, I'm grateful, because in thinking about that, I just found this really cool page that lists all the regional and size-based variations on the name of the fish that I would usually call buri, and you might call hamachi or yellowtail or Japanese amberjack. I was particularly interested to learn that inada is the Tokyo name for the 30-40 cm size, just like hamachi is the Kansai name for the same thing. Those Kansai people are crazy, aren't they?!?! Well, maybe a trip to Kochi is in order for the winter, to eat Ooio - buri of more than 80 cm. Fierce! And fatty.

As I said, the kindness of strangers. The Baltimore waitress could tell I was a bit let down, and as I was leaving she walked outside with me to say "You really wanted to drink sake, right?" When I allowed as how one might reasonable take that conclusion and bank on it, she said "Well, should I show you a good place?" and then proceeded to walk me the 5 minutes down the street, across the intersection, and all the way into Omi.

Best way to find stuff.