Friday, July 29, 2011

Narita sushi, Monzen Nakacho (すし 成田)

A couple years ago, this place Sushi Yata popped up south of the river in Monnaka. I went there and got really excited, because I thought it was reasonably-priced, sorta creative, and really delicious. Over time, I came to feel like the master was weird, uncomfortably so, and that he had a solid habit of feeding me things I hadn't asked for, and charging for them.

Well, when we went in to Narita tonight, we had a creative starter of okra in crab brain sauce...

and there was Narita san, the chef from Yata. We eyed each other for a couple seconds like "What the..." until I said "What are you doing working here?" and he said "It's my place." Then his kimono-clad wife and (?) mother-in-law intervened to smooth things out and get conversation going. It's a very upscale place, too nice for Monnaka, but the set prices on the menu outside suggest that the pricing will be reasonable. Only a suggestion, mind you.

And he really does have a way with fish; akagai, torched mackerel, squid.

but then he started cutting up a plate of vegetables for each of us. "Did we order those?" "Oh, everyone orders vegetables here."

Mmm hmmm.

Well, certainly everyone orders sushi. Some of the quality here was outstanding, with the highlight for me easily being the seaweed-cured whiting, top right. It was almost like it set into a waxy texture, which I mean in a good way, somehow, instead of the softness and lack of structure of raw whiting.

This is the type of crowd they're looking for here - businessmen on expenses who are happy to order a bottle of Narita-branded shochu and have a kimono pour it for them. Sadly, I have never been on an expense account, and was uneasy by this time. The way they kept trying to force drinks on us didn't help.

So perhaps to quell my unease, they gave each of us a dobin mushi, which is expensive pine mushrooms cooked in soup in a teapot. It's delicious, and they said it was 'service', meaning free. So I guess I should have disclosed the free treatment we got right up front.

Except that when we got the bill, there wasn't much question that we paid for every last drop.

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