Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mountain, Asakusa (マウンテン)

Here we are in Asakusa on January 2nd. It's mobbed around Thunder Gate, and the street is closed to cars. Fortunately there are also plenty of stores if you need to stop in for a snack after waiting in line or just after walking from Monnaka up to here Phew! Not as long as it sounds - Google estimates 6.5 km the way we walked, which was a little longer than necessary since it went through Asakusabashi. Tokyo, especially the old parts, is a lot more compact than you realize when you take the train everywhere.

Two words for you: jun (pure) and shibui (bitter). Mountain describes themselves as a 'pure tea shop', by which I think they really mean 'bitter' tea shop, and 'bitter' means 'old fashioned in an austere way'. Because otherwise there's really nothing pure about it, and it's more coffee than tea. It's so impure that the second floor is full of fry-tables, and you can have okonomiyaki up there.

Unless 'pure' means 'dark and smoky' as I've always suspected for these places. In this case they were even going in for a bit of the Showa, or even Taisho, atmosphere (though their web says they're 50 years old, which was Showa). Sort of like Tsubakiya, but not at all modern or classy. And with grumpy service. And high prices. Ahhhh, it was funny! As I like to say, "A once in a lifetime experience!" If you see my meaning.

'Pure' also means coffees and Japanese-style desserts. This is...hell, what's it called when you put some squishy rice balls into your sweetened bean soup? Shiratama Zenzai, I think. Comes with tea. Coffee comes in really cute mug-and-saucer sets that anyone would be pleased to have at home.

Didn't realize I was ordering an extravaganza. Under the ice cream were mainly cubes of kanten, which is probably seaweed-derived and definitely like a very firm Jello. There were also a few lonely canned apricot and pineapple slices, a solitary rice ball, and a few red beans. The brown stuff is brown sugar syrup. If you've acquired a taste for this stuff, it's palatable (when is ice cream not palatable?), and if you haven't, the sweetness is higher in this than most Japanese desserts, so it could get you by.

If I could only remember what it was called.

1 comment:

  1. yup you're right, it's called shiratama zenzai.