Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chinju, Marunouchi (大志満 椿壽)

Just got back from another business lunch at an area hotspot. I say that to be clever and ironic, because one doesn't have business lunches in hotspots. And Japan's definition of hotspot is maybe a little different. A little cooler. And less spotty. Spotless even. Compared to last week's business lunch, this was cheaper, fresher, more interesting, and altogether better. We didn't have a private room, that was the major benefit to last week, but they're available.

Hotel dining isn't your friend in Tokyo. There are a few high-end places that are in hotels (I'm thinking Troisgros), but mostly they're second-rate and overpriced. Chinju, with a ridiculously difficult name (both the Oshima and the Chinju aren't really readable, are they?), is that rare exception. They claim to specialize in Kaga food (that being the little region of the west coast of Japan between Kanazawa and Fukui, or thereabouts). Let me get it out of the way that we had the cheapest option, a bento set, and it was still a touch over Y4k. Thanks, Work!

Quips about 'just got back' aside, I've left this for several days. That means I'm going to have to work hard and meditate with my eyes closed to remember the stuff we ate - especially considering that there must have been 20 single-bite-sized things in the box. Before the bento itself, there was a tiny toshi of spinach and crab in excellent dashi, and also some very good sashimi (quality red tuna, snapper and a single big raw shrimp). The rice was noticeably well-cooked when it was fresh and hot, and the clear soup came with a nice shrimp meatball as well.

In the bento, wait, there was a little spray of flowers arranged on top of the bento, and they had also spritzed the lid with water. That stuff is corny, but it's also cool. In the bento itself, here's what I can remember: (this is like a memory-building exercise)
  • Slices of rectangular white kamaboko that had been made with green and red herbs or vegetables
  • Grilled fish, maybe mackerel, interestingly raw in the middle
  • Even more interesting, barely-poached fillets of a small fish that was silver with red flecks. I wish I knew what it was, but I know it was mixed with vinegar miso and was maybe a little confronting, but cool.
  • Much more confronting, a dish of something none of us could identify (Bird and I were hosting a UK / Ozzie colleague who turns out to have a half-Japanese wife and is pretty up on stuff) - seemed like spicy fish eggs mashed with maybe tiny mushrooms (shimeji) or thin-cut squid. The color was like squid guts, so I was off-kilter from the start.
  • A tiny piece of boiled pumpkin carved into maple-leaf shape
  • Marinated, grilled scallop
  • Egg. Nuts, is this all I can remember? I'm going to cheat and look at their web site.
  • Nimono. Now I really can't remember anything else. The pictures on the web and tabelog are actually much less good than what we got.
They're a hotel restaurant, so you can even go here for breakfast if you wanted your salmon, tofu, natto, rice and soup in a luxury format. I plan to get future businessy lunches scheduled in here.

Again, pretty good for what it was!

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