Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kanemasu, Kachidoki (かねます)

There's nothing like an expensive and deeply disappointing French lunch to put you in the mood for an expensive and pretty gratifying...standing izakaya?!

Yes, this is the place Big Bird and I failed to enter previously because we arrived on a random closure day ("We will humbly take and honorable holiday on this day.") Fortunately we had had a late lunch, and thus after a short walk and brief train ride were able to arrive right before the 4 PM opening.

Along with half a dozen of our friends. Really, it was half-full by 4:15. I'll say this though - the atmosphere and prices are such that people are always coming and going, so if you stand outside for a bit, you'll get in.

Once you're in though, you'll be faced with the menu. I was feeling really dim-witted about my inability to read this, and had to keep asking the nice couple next to us for pointers. I kept asking if they could really read it, and they said yes, yes...until they admitted they were regulars and had at some point had to ask the staff what the heck the menu said. It doesn't change too much, so now they sound like pros. They like to say this is written in 'Kanemasu font', and you can't read it if you don't have it installed.

Well, let's eat. I do like junsai, and hadn't had any this year. These were excellent, really plump and slimy (er...), and of course I loved how they were kept in a coffee jar in the fridge. (Also pleased to see it was Koumibaisen, which is really good for instant coffee.)

The menu remained confusing...I didn't order hamo sashimi, which I love, because I was puzzled that it would be raw eel. Turns out you're supposed to know 'sashimi' means 'boiled' in this case. Now you can act like a regular too. This is hamo skin and cucumbers, tasty.

And this is what people come in for. I think everyone orders these, and I dunno why I couldn't take a good picture. This is some very fatty beef, I presume of high rank (I've only seen this 'fat, lightly marbled with beef' a few times), stuffed with excellent sea urchin. In fact the uni was from the same Hokkaido island that gave up our dinner uni in Ginza several nights before. Bird and I agreed, this is a little much - it's just uni wrapped in fat, and it's not clear the fat adds a lot. It's not beefy.

Here's the crazed genius behind Kanemasu. With his nonresponsive attitude, poor hearing, and general lack of interest in work, I wondered whether it was just a bad day. Our neighbors pointed out that he's about 83, so I think I can forgive him. Anyway, his son is working too, and will seemingly be in charge soon (if he's not already).

Dad was trained in Kyoto,which explains why this fish is called 'guji' on the menu. Nice try, but that wasn't enough to fool me, and it was cured in seaweed to firm it up, because amadai is gummy in its natural state.

After 30 minutes, the place seemed full. Fortunately, their policy is tantamount to 'no one turned away', so if there's half a space at the counter, a regular will wedge into it without so much as a 'seeemasen'. There's also the area at the back where they convert the kitchen door into a counter, and people just cram into that area. I can't see that it's much fun, but they keep doing it.

Another thing that seems popular is the kohada; pickled, butterflied and filled with a slice of cucumber, it's a nice idea.

Meanwhile, there's no such thing as a bad idea with tuna of this quality. I've seen other writers describe this as Oma tuna, the kinda that are caught on fishing lines, one by one, and sent fresh from the top of Aomori down to Tokyo. I have no evidence except my own tongue, and this was astounding (as it perhaps should be, for a Y1.8k hand roll).

The only hot thing we endeavored to assay was this Kyoto classic - duck meatball wrapped with a dumpling of lily root powder. While not as transcendent as the best versions of this classic (I mean all that - it can be transcendent, and I feel like I've had it enough times to know), the hidden nugget of sea urchin roe inside the duck was a neat touch.

Still a mystery to me how this place came to be. Did dad start with this purity of concept, "I shall craft a standing bar from the best ingredients," or did he set out to take over the kappo world and gradually downscale his ambitions to a standing format? Still, with the extraordinarily low overhead and high prices, this place must an absolute mint.

But we'll have to keep wondering, on all counts.


  1. just found this blog. im going to tokyo for 5 days and want to find the weirdest restaurants, but damn... over 1000 posts?? i'll just click on some categories at random.

  2. Try the links just under the title banner. They have summaries of some categories. Or there's a 'Recommended' tag in the list on the right. Good luck!