Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Uoshin, Akasaka (赤坂とゝや 魚新)

It's a task, folks, picking restaurants all the time. When someone visits from out of town as has time for lunch, it's not such a burden. Chewy lives in Singapore and was staying in Aoyama, so Japanese in that area was required, and Tabelog came up trumps as usual. Uoshin is a quite expensive kappo at night, but does (relatively) reasonable lunch sets that show off the quality of their ingredients and cooking. It's part of a small group with divergent styles, but no relation to the other Uoshin chain you may be thinking of - higher-class.

It's a very adult place, a little dim, a tiny bit musty, a few spots on the walls; nothing that should turn you off, just the comfortable feel of an older, well-used restaurant (at dinner I'd be more put off by this). Getting there at 11:30 we were first, and we were also youngest. The staff seemed pleasantly puzzled by us. By the way, it's fun to have an assistant, because I can appear in my own pictures, sticking my ears out like this.

They also claim to specialize in sake, but it's not quite true. Of the famous brands they claim to carry, they had one bottle of each, and less-exciting selections at that. Just because I can, I tried this super-dry from Toyo Bijin, one of my favorite brewers.

Is this guy just the lunch master? It's possible, but he was awfully competent and well-informed. This is the kind of place that encourages food geekery, what with their laborious preparations and unusual ingredients.

Aaaaaand I've completely forgotten what kind of fish these eggs came from. You're thinking it's bream, I know, but it wasn't. As a starter for whatever course you get, this is cool.

But this is cooler, holy cow. Everything cold, everything pale and pretty. This looks so natural to me, with the lack of reds or oranges or anything.

In the back, the rice is their own chilimen jako, with lots of sansho. The cucumbers are pickled there. The togan was delicious. The potato left of the togan was a Koishikawa potato, from an island whose name I've forgotten. The dark blue-green eggplant down the front was bizarrely colored, and the real surprise was the flavor - cooked in a broth made of cherry-blossom shrimp. Wow. The beans are called 'Sengoku beans' (千石豆, nothing to do with Japanese domestic upheaval). Just left of the beans is, I kid you not, smoked eggplant in jelly (?). Below that, potato shoots and cooked sardines. The balls to the left, squid and shrimp. The beans with black sesame were something like snake beans, a long type. The omelet was hyotan-shaped, the grilled snapper was incredible, and the special addition of snapper liver in the square box in the back was a little gross.

Fortunately I heard the descriptions of everything twice since our neighbor got the same set. Otherwise who could remember all that?!

While we ate, the master made dessert. He already had a big sheet of kanten, a thick jelly made from Tengusa (skyweed?), a bushy, red seaweed. The got out a ruler and cut it into precise strips. The precision was because he was going to feed it into his old-fashioned extruder and make tokoroten, the jelly noodles you see at left. These are then covered with a sauce of brown sugar and garnished with a rehydrated apricot. It is extraordinarily like eating seaweed, but in chewy, slimy form, with brown sugar. No.

Chewy, meanwhile, got a special dessert of tomato stewed in sweetened wine (too stewy for me) with champagne jelly that she made me eat 'cause she's allergic. That's what colleagues do, they help each other.

Good luck in the new job!

Toto? Ya.
03-3585-4701

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