Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kawaji, Hamacho (大衆料理 川治)

When you say 'simple' or 'humble', this is what I would think of. Not in a hundred years would it have occurred to me to go to this place if I passed it on a random walk, but through a complex chain of events, here we are. Actually the name implies "cookin' for reggler folks", so they know how humble they are.

Koala moved back from Hong Kong, and after a few years of living away from the motherland, she wanted something down-home. So she settled in Ningyocho, and has gotten used to a couple places - the leader of which was full tonight, so she called Kawaji. The master gave her a long lecture about how impertinent it was even to ask about a reservation since they're full for the rest of 2014...but they had a cancellation for two tonight.

OK, we'll bite. What kind of place stays full every night like that? It means one of two things - classy, amazing places, or ridiculous value places. You can already tell what this place is.

There were only 4 groups on the night, all corporate parties except us, all stuffed into this little room. It is not clean or organized. Thankfully, no one was smoking much, but it could get ugly if they were. I think the chef is the master, because the older guy serving defers to him. Certainly that guy is not serving in a way that implies he has an equity interest in the place, if you see what I mean. He seemed unnerved to see a foreigner, and at one point poured soy sauce on my suit leg because he was distracted by another table.

A couple points here: one, the master works up some serious flames in the process of charring the steaks. You'll see them below. Two, for such a little, dirty place, they have very serious sake. I'm almost sure they buy it at Echizenya, which is right across the river from this place. It's the newspaper wrapping with the brand and style and year written on it that got me. The server was pissy about all that though - I asked to see three different bottles to decide which one to drink, and he pulled two of them out of the fridge, waved them at me for a second, and drifted off to do something else without remembering the third. But hey, 2 go (the minimum order size) for Y1300? You'll never see that price elsewhere. It's weird that everyone else was drinking shochu with hot water, or Alps Wine, and getting sloppy and abusing their junior / female colleagues. If they were paying attention, they could have been drinking Zaku or Kagiya or Mutsu Hassen or Kakurei. I was interested that the bottle of Azakura was BY24 according to the newspaper, and the server responded to my comment on that with roughly "What the hell's that? I don't think it means anything." Anyway, that's why I had him unwrap and open it. If no one else is interested and I get a fresh bottle as a result, I'll take it.

Aha, here's what gets them coming in. All the food below cost, get ready for it, steel yourself, are you ready, are you ready...Y7000 for two people. Everything was pretty good quality. Let me just run left to right across the three rows: 'Ocean grapes' and some kinda fish in ginger soy sauce. Two types of boiled sea snails, one edible, the other too disgusting to contemplate. Little grilled fish. Deep fried skate chunks, lots of cartilege. Huge pile of boiled firefly squid. Blowfish. Grilled clams. Grilled oysters. Grilled cod semen. Sashimi. Charred whale steak. Grilled sawara. Crab. Soup. Accidental inclusion of first picture again thanks to collage software. You can do the value math - oysters this big could be Y800 or Y1000 at classier places.

They definitely want everyone to be there at the same time, because the server gets stuff out of the bottom of the dirty fridge that also houses the sake and passes it to the chef, who whips it up and sends it out to all the tables at once. This is why there were four things on our table when I arrived, seemingly 30 minutes later than the other tables, and about 8 things by the time Koala got there later. Maybe it's just kinda whatever they can get cheap on the day? It's pretty good quality ingredients and cooking, which adds up to deep, deep value at that price.

Enough to make your head spin.

1 comment:

  1. This does not sound too good. Food also seems quite basic.