Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tarafuku, Sendai (いろり酒場 たら福)

Leaving our date with tongue, we were forcibly reminded of our dietary wants.

Where would one get soba that was not a traditional noodle of Japan?

And in any case, we ignored that crap and headed right back to a warm and welcoming place that we saw when on recon patrol before dinner.

We should perhaps have realized it, but Tarafuku is part of a group. Sanwa Restaurants have 11 places around Sendai including two called "Welcome to the Moon", some Kirin beer-themed outlets, some 'Date'-themed outlets (like the lord of Sendai, not guyz-n-dollz), and two irori shops. I still wrestle with my feelings on this (and write about it with tiresome frequency), but should we really care if a corporation has figured out how to get fresh food, cook it well, and serve it with excellent wine at reasonable prices? Should we not be thankful? It's like that ridiculous locavore trend - it's just not possible for the world's population to be locavores or scavengers, so we may as well make the most of what we can get. They've got it figured here, and your only real clues that it's corporate are the cleanliness of the shop and the excellence of the execution. It's like a slightly less charming, just as warm, and much more affordable version of Okajoki.

The guys in Nagano don't have fish hanging all over the shop though. I was pretty proud of myself for recognizing that the ones in the front were kawahagi, and the only reason I thought that is from seeing them in the fresh markets in Sydney so many times, under their leatherjacket nameway. You wouldn't believe the specials here - you remember how at Okajouki they were offering fun stuff like kinki at Y3500 per fish? I ordered a little snapper hanging from the rafters - it was on the daily special list at Y380. I know there's a reason those kinki bastards are so spendy, but it's still just a fish.

Initially the sake list was disappointing compared to the promise implied by a lot of empties out front. Actually, I had this problem everywhere we went in Miyagi. There were stores advertizing "Jizake!!!", I'd get all excited, we'd go in, and their selection would be heavy with the famous brands of Miyagi. Know what those are? Uragasumi. Ichinokura. If you've ever looked at a sake list in Tokyo, you've seen them (and Hakkaisan from Niigata), and they're pretty average. I can't get excited, even for their better brands. The third big local brand is Hidakami, which for some reason I believe I don't like.

I can get excited about Yamawa (left of photo), which I loved when we drank it at Kudan (thanks Poshand!), and Hakurakusei, and Kenkonichi, and Hagi no Tsuru. Actually it looks like they have a partnership with the Hagino brewery, because they had several options and also more under the related Hiwata label (and the same for Hakurakusei). And I can get even more excited when a brewer is sensible enough to use the most normal onyomi, like the guys on the right. One of my little jokes is just to blurt out whatever I think the name should be, which is invariably wrong; they do love their complex readings, brewers do. But when I cheerfully exclaimed "Kurikomayama!" the waitress just said "Ok, Kurikomayama." Maybe she didn't know the real name either. Incidentally, is Hakurakusei really sponsoring a ballet competition?

All this yakkin' and still no food?! We were sitting right in front of the fahr pit, as we call it  back in Alabam, and there was no time to lose.

It's all grilled, so let me just throw these in as a collage (reminds me of Ushitora, where it's all fried, even the shrink-wrapped apple cake. They probably take off the wrapping first.). Going around the horn, we have bacon (presented small only because you know what bacon is, not because it wasn't good. I was also pleased that they didn't try to serve me the accidentally-grilled bacon that had been sitting in the pit for an hour), toshi of boiled radish and raw veg, fried tofu (reheated on the fire and sauced), cheese hanpen (this ground-fish-filled-with-Velveeta product is normally boiled as oden, but it's great on the grill too; as great as Velveeta can be), the above-mentioned kodai (not kinki at all, if we were being honest), the pit in action, a whole grilled avocado (weird, not really necessary), and quail eggs (nice anecdote where one of our eggs fell off the stick during cooking, we pointed it out to the chef, he tried the Japanese-style response "They always do that. That's why we put extra ones on just in case," then thought better of it and gave us 3 more. Always good to have more cholesterol.). Decent food, much like what you'd hope for if you had a campfire going. Not that I camp or nothin'.

Yeah, anyone suggesting Hot Work at this point would have been underestimating the cold in Sendai and the amount we had drunk. We skipped any further exploration and were alseep in no time.

No BS.

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