Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sato, Tama Plaza (佐藤)

Part 2 of what we should expect to be a long series of posts on the greater Kawasaki area's greater dining options, also known as Eating Outside Tokyo With Someone (whaddya think of that, Little Lord Pottleroy?). Sato looked like the best thing on Tabelog, and I stand by the idea that it's probably the best in the cool/old little neighborhood north of the station, but these places also looked worthwhile, and there were more streets. Just as an aside before we talk about the food, I love how one of those little izakaya is called 呑蔵 and a quick google turns up 3 places with the same name that call themselves Mikura (the Tama Plaza one), Dongura, and Nomuzou (which has the added benefit of sounding like "Let's drink!").

Outside is quieter and older than some places in the area; not a bad thing. It's also back in the corner of this alley, and partially recessed at that. Not the first place you'd pick if you were walking around, which is too bad.

There is certainly some food going on. The starter was sort of buri daikon - very stewed daikon, very bony fish (I'm sure you were supposed to benefit from the calcium in the bones). Iburigakko with cream cheese - the sign of a serious drinking establishment is that they serve quirky things like this or nuka-cured mackerel that go extra-well with drinks. Bottom right is the service miso soup with shrimp heads that they gave us, and bottom left is the service of...not really sure, actually. We thought it was kazunoko (fish eggs) mixed with mozuku (extra-slimy seaweed), and definitely something the chef brought back from his holiday trip to Hokkaido.

Fish was excellent here - the snapper (madai) on the left was dipped in hot water to seal it - see how the edges of each slices are just barely white? and then the two versions had dramatically different texture and flavor. The buri on the right, again separate servings of back and belly, was outstanding.

You can see that the furnishing is a bit old, and the funny thing about that is the contrast to the young and energetic Sato san. He must have taken over from someone else, and he seems like a lock to keep it going strong for another generation.

The customers were outstanding too. Everyone knew EVERYONE - any time another customer came in, they said hello all around. There was a decent mix too - two old couples and one young couple at the counter, a table where two young salarymen were joined by two somewhat skanky women that they didn't know - it's just a friendly enough place that the waiter/sous-chef asked if it was cool if they sat together, and they did. Our neighbors at the counter were the usual - standoffish at first even though we smiled and made eye contact, but once they got drunker and we broke the ice, they wouldn't shut up. Cute, hard to understand, part of the fun.
In no small part due to his fish sourcing, his knife work, and his obvious training. Must have worked somewhere else as a strict sushi chef before, because he had a beautiful knife that he wielded beautifully - many of the individual pieces are not just cut but scored in the middle or further sliced to enhance eatability. I was struck by one particular moment when he picked up his knife, cut a single slice of snapper, wiped the blade, and put it down practically in one motion. The sushi is good too, by the way, and even for dinner he'll do you 7 pieces plus half a roll (negi toro OK), egg and soup for $17. Especially for fish this good, that's hard to find even as a lunch special. Highlight for me was actually the peony shrimp, which was outstanding in its class, but the tuna and aji were also very solid. Slow though; with 14 or 16 customers, they were struggling to keep up, and Sato san doesn't adhere to any ethos about getting your sushi order in front of you right away. He may have been spacing out the above deliberately though, rather than making it all as a set like most guys would at lunch.

Sake is at just the right level for a place like this - there were about 8 choices, but good mainstream jizake stuff (Shimeharitsuru, Bakuren, Sawaya Matsumoto). I wanted to drink the Gunma Izumi yamahai as atsukan, but they were out. This flask thus contains a Denshu tokujun (if you look carefully). Of course there's plenty of whatever else you want outside sake, but no extreme specialization in any direction. This is a fish place (bless them for it).

And just to round things out, we did our duty to mankind and the earth by destroying an evil bara-barraCUda (maybe it's a pike, actually). This was dried overnight before grilling, which makes it firmer and stronger-tasting.

I guess you can tell I liked this place; it's just solid and friendly, with good food and a talented master, at a price that felt pretty reasonable at the end of the night. [Aside: My colleague You lives at the next station, and he was happy to hear that we went to Sato; said it was a good choice.]

What a coincidence! So do I!

Oh, I saw one other blogger who visited commenting that it was smoky, and that's true. I didn't notice so much at night, but when I put on my coat the next morning I thought "Ewwwwww." Well, it's almost time for the cleaner's annual winter sale.

1 comment:

  1. The Kazunoko dish you had is called "Matsumame zuke". It has thin strips of kelp (which becomes slimy) and dried squid. The one you had looks like a deluxe version with lots of herring roe.