Friday, December 3, 2010

Sakanatei, Shibuya (酒菜亭)

Hey hey, it's the first year-end party of the year-end. I would have just called it a party, but Journey was in the holiday spirit already, and we all have plenty to forget, so it was billed as a year-ender (which is traditionally and literally 'forget-the-year-meeting'). With Jimmy Dean, Carter of Mars and Woodrow also in attendance, Poshand present in spirit, and some welcome new faces in the mix, eating, drinking and photography were bound to happen.

The only weak point was, frankly, the destination. I suggested it, so boo on me. The atmosphere is about right - look at the woody counters, pajama-clad staff, signboards of available sakes, and big cooker of oden (to say nothing of the convenient location on the north face of Dogen Slope). We sat at the rounded end of this long table extending from the counter. The younger waitress was nice and I thought we'd all have a good time, but it turned out she mostly prepared food, leaving the aged mama to do the walking and grumbling.

Does anyone else remember the TV commercials with a song that went ""? Or was it a kid's show? It was a long time ago, back when competitive eating was really popular. I'm really happy to see that Giant Shirota is still making a go of it. There was this one time where he went to Spain and ate vine-fired paella up in the hills, against two Spanish guys at once. They were laughing at him for trying to out-eat the two of them, then they were crying at their full bellies, then they were cursing him for a freak. Or the time he went to a Thai street market and out-ate the local champion, then let another guy take over in his place, and beat him too, eating things like live grasshoppers in spicy sauce? Those were the glory days. Galsone is a lightweight by comparison. She's still cool though.

The theme here is 'sake and shizuoka oden'. I didn't get a picture of the oden; they came and were eaten with fearsome rapidity. They may have been the only thing that came with fearsome rapidity. I can't remember the last time I visited an establishment that was so un-eager to bring food and drink to a table. The food orders mainly disappeared into a black hole; several times we ordered more food just because the prior orders hadn't come. Mama was nonplussed about this; when we called for service, she just said "Yeah, yeah..." and kept walking. I mean, she said something polite in Japanese, but it was clear she would get to us at her own pace.

I didn't mention the sake at all despite the pouring picture. They do several sets, a 3x60ml junmai and a similar daiginjo set. Considering the selection, and the taste of what I drank, that's all I feel like saying.

Herewith, a few cold snacks. The starter of boiled chives (I think), fried chicken (of some type) and sweet yellow paste (we were all puzzled, but I think Journey pointed out correctly that there was apple in it) was a bit promising. The ankimo, meh. The thinly sliced long potato did what it said on the tin, while the creative long potato option, bottom right, was cool - raw sticks with spicy fish eggs, wrapped in seaweed and sliced.

Not pictured: sashimi. Boo on the sashimi. It's early December, they specialize in sake, one of our Japanese members reserved a week ahead for 8 people...they should have been stocked to serve us good fish.  After much back-and-forth, and a long wait, we got a limited selection that was poorly cut, let me just stop. We had a lot of fun, so it's only now that I'm really getting worked up.

Ahem, did someone really order this suji? Mama claimed we did, and pointed to someone, but someone wasn't very excited about beef tendon as a concept, and so I doubt it. It went partially uneaten, although we tried to pick out the meatier bits. It was good as far as suji goes, but where it goes is mainly into gelatin and fat, and most people don't want to go there a lot.

So I can finish on a positive note, the kakuni was decent. Especially after we endured the 45-minute waiting period to get it. That wasn't a very positive comment, was it? Well, you win some and you lose some. I'm disappointed to have lost on this one since there were so many of us, but the company made the evening where the venue let us down.

New year party, folks. We have a shot at redemption. A photo opportunity.