Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Konakara, Otsuka (こなから)

Well well, we check another off the list of 'Tokyo's greatest sake pubs'. This was decent, just uninspiring and a bit expensive. Having been to a good sampling now, I can safely say that the 'Gauntner list' was written around 10 years ago, and that the 10 recommended drinking outlets on there no longer apply in any way. I'd be happy to update the list, but the izakayas page has everything I'd say...Let's get into the package.

This was Tuesday night after the long weekend, pissing rain, still aftershocks, nucular scarez...not the time most people would pick to go out. So the atmosphere was a bit empty and quiet. But it didn't help that the master and waitress didn't want to talk to us. That left us to focus on drinks and food, but it threw an oppressive blanket over the proceedings.

In a daring move, the starter was actually hot - a dish of boiled chicken and vegetables. Well done, even if I get confused by hot starters. So dogmatic I am...

The confusion went away with a selection of cold snacks. Back is scallops 'iso-zuke', which I bet is an original creation and was excellent - good scallops, and the combination of fresh seaweed and sesame oil was delicious. This would be worth making at home if you could get good scallops. Left is shrimp in a sauce made of guts (presumably shrimp), while right is my favorite it's-spring thing, wasabi stalks and leaves.

And no izakaya visit is complete with sashimi, for me. This is one of the real problems with Konakara; the sashimi is almost $20 per variety, and I suspect this mixed plate for 1 was more like $40. You never see an itemized bill, after all. The snapper on the left was good, one of the two varieties of sea urchin roe was reference class (although if you asked me and Woodbine, you'd get a different view on which one that was), and the pen shell was as it's supposed to be. The price though...nope.

Well, you're here to drink after all...or at least I hope you are. It's a funny list - I could almost characterize it as 'ticking boxes' of famous sake that's supposed to be on lists. But you can see on the left the first thing I got, and it's not just normal Kudokijozu, it's a 33% Dewasansan jundai. That's pretty special. The next thing is Toyobijin, a 50% Omachi jungin, and I maintain that any menu with Toyobijin is special. [Actually the menu has the famous '3 beautiful women' on it - Toyo-, Nambu-, and Yuki-Bijin, and the master laughed when I asked if he liked women. He's heard that one before. And I made up the thing about the 3 together being famous.] You'll recognize Isojiman next; had to try this because it was the honjozo, which you don't see often (actually you don't see Isojiman often period; I think it's just too popular). The pretty yellow label is actually a Tedorigawa junmai, but a nifty lightly-cloudy, semi-sparkling one that was delicious. Finally, ordered on the strength of its Yamagata source, Kiraboshi no Gotoku. The menu will blow up ril big if you click 'er, so why not decide for yourself about the rest? We'll get some more food while we wait.

Fish nanban...I cannot tell a lie, it's been a while and I can't remember what kind of fish this was. Might even have been sea eel, which would be a nice touch. It's good cooking; the gobo was a bit firm for my tastes (and yes, I remember that).

Grilled salted salmon was a fine way to end things here. Very good quality fish, plenty of crispy skin. You should get one of these if you go. Should you go? That's a tough one.

All that's separating this place from greatness is the prices and the atmosphere.

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