Friday, February 25, 2011

Orihara Shoten, Monzen Nakacho (折原商店)

The 'renewal' of stores in Monnaka continues. You'd swear this was economic vitality, but I still insist it's the opposite - economic vitality means existing stores stay in business. The number of new shops opening in the last year is more than the sum of the preceding 5 years.

Orihara Shoten, run by Ikebukuro's Orihara Liquors (a wholesaler) is a welcome newcomer. (Any newcomer should be welcome - shutting down means no one liked your product, right?) This space was occupied by an izakaya in the hinter-years (2005) and may even have been empty for a while. Now it offers a mix of cheap candy, traditional toys, expensive drinking gear, salty snacks, and great, great sake in a standing or bottle format. Who could say no that?

Especially when it's opening night! Did I mention that You and I went on opening night? This is only the second time I've been to an opening party in Monnaka, and it's always hilarious. In this case there was a healthy mix of company executives, reps from brewers, store staff, spouses, family, More than one person nudged their neighbor and pointed at me - a foreigner! - and You and I explained to every last one of 'em who was the local.

You get a good idea of the serving style from that picture; you're just going to stand around tables, eat snacks, and drink. The drinks are chosen from their fridges, so the selection can't turn over too much, but it's great - about 15 cold and 6 hot on the menu. For the opening night festivities, they were letting us pull any bottle from the fridge and pay a per-glass fee to drink it, while regular prices are Y350-700 per (110ml-ish) glass, concentrated around Y450, which is totally good.

The food is like this. There literally 5 different types of dried squid; top left here is the deep-red vinegar dried squid, strangely addictive. Then duck pastrami, potato salad, and dried squid legs. Also various pickles, a bit of raw fish (well, tako butsu), omelette, oden...Everything is decent, and most importantly very very cheap (like Y100-250 depending on quantity, which is generally shown in grams on the chalkboard menu over the counter).

Here, You and I are hanging out with what may have been the wife and daughter of what may have been the owner (who's standing to the right of the shot). You is clutching a festive bag full of sparkling Dassai that he bought to take home to the wife after falling in love with the special bottling at the sake-specialist-that-shall-not-be-named-in-Ikejiri. They have normal Dassai but also the 39 and 23. They have a bunch of varieties of Yuki no Bousha. Let me get back to you on what else they have; they've only been open for a few days, and I've only been twice. Suffice to say it's all good-looking, it doesn't overlap hardly none with my preferred local, and there's a higher proportion of daiginjo in the mix.

In short, it's a terrific concept, executed competently, and the staff seems genuinely nice. Great addition to the neighborhood, and I'll be back.

Not too frequently, I hope.

Singapore residents / visitors - try the original branch on Robertson Quay.


  1. Wish someplace like this opens up in my neighborhood! BTW, I am still waiting for Buri head.

  2. Hey Jon, Just like your friend who gets paid to be a foreigner at Japanese weddings, maybe you could get paid to be the foreigner at store openings