Friday, May 2, 2014

Bistro Isomaru, Machida (ビストロ isomaru)

It's perhaps intentional that SFP Dining, the group that runs Bistro Isomaru, describes their various store formats as 'blands'. I'm not familiar with them - the Isomaru Suisan chain, a fried chicken wing place, and Kizuna Sushi seem to be the biggest ones. 'Bland' joking aside, it would be nice if there were more of this in America, because even as I complain that Isomaru is undifferentiated and dull, it's still pretty exciting compared to American sports bar formats. And I say this not as a person who hates his country and thinks other places are inherently more fascinating, I just say it as a realist.

Because this is pretty cool looking, innit? I mean, you can see why we would wander in here to kill time while waiting for the counter to open up at Ibuki, at least. 'Isomaru' sounds like a boat name, and the main Isomaru format looks indeed like a 'fresh off the boat, rough 'n' ready' kinda place. This is trying to be more refined - 'bistro' - but that also means the menu diverges from seafood and seemingly into 'Spain bar' territory.

We were the oldest guys by a fair few years. I would describe this as 'student' oriented, but I have a feeling I really mean it's mid-20's oriented, and I would never find myself in a student-oriented place even by accident. We drank some beers, and the seating charge just comes with a glass of grissini. They seem to have a thing about Heineken, which I have a thing against.

In the interests of keeping space open for Ibuki, we didn't eat much. The olives were poor, except the black ones, which were horrible. I guess including caper berries is a bit of a redeeming feature. The sardines had crushed garlic in the olive oil, and were reasonably OK as a result. What can you really ask for?

We were here for about 30 minutes before getting a call that our seats were ready, so I'd have to say 'Mission Accomplished'.

Bistro Agathe, Monzen Nakacho (ビストロ アギャット)

Great idea! Take a place with an awesome exterior but a terrible manager and business model, re-purpose it into a casual bistro - something Monnaka always needs but doesn't always have. I see where the place a block south of Exit 2 that went through several iterations of declining-quality French places is now a low-quality Italian place. Although I did hear recently that changing your theme from French to Italian can double your business overnight.

This is most of the interior, which has gotta make it hard to stay in business. The ghost to the left was a local and didn't mind sitting next to a baby. There's a private room with a 4-top, not pictured. There's a wine fridge.

And there's a set lunch for Y1000 (plus tax. Everyone wants to add the tax these days). I got the larger bowl of this pork-and-veg soup because "men get more soup, women get dessert" is their motto. Bread was OK and slightly refillable.
Your choice of main dish - pork with balsamic sauce or salmon with shiso pesto. Both really good, actually. A few vegetables on top, a salad on the side, you can't ask for a much better lunch than this. Especially for $10, right? Where is this culture in America?
Dessert for women turned out to be this - strawberry ice cream, a blueberry, and half a strawberry.

Actual size.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Butcher Brothers, Kanda (ブッチャーブラザーズ)

I wandered over to UrbaneNet, that most civilized of buildings, after finishing my meetings in Yaesu today. Down in the lobby I met the Preacher, who I guess never goes out for lunch, because he's a shadow of his former self and had no idea how to walk the 5 minutes up to East-side Kanda. We freestyled a bit - there are a bunch of new places since I was last there - before settling back at Butcher Brothers. I see I'm not doing any service to world vis a vis discovering this place - every other foreign food writer and blogger has been in since it opened to say how meaty, friendly, winey and cheap it is. I have nothing to add to that.
Where are those naughty brothers? There they are! We chuckled on the way out when we saw staff downstairs trimming a large cut of meat on a table that was going to be someone's dining table later. I guess space is limited. Reminds me of the terrible izakaya downstairs from my old apartment where they used to wash and cook a huge pot of rice in the street every morning.

This kinda atmosphere. Wine bottle on the walls must be the menu. It's all cheap. Sure, that's a good concept - lots of cheap meat and wine, convivial atmosphere.

and LIBERAL lashings of salt. Good heavens. This was pretty tasty as a little soup starter considering it looked like dirty water with green beans in it.
Boom, a big salty steak with some decent fries and a roasted? fried? chicken drumstick and salad. You put that all together and offer coffee and charge Y900 for it and people are bound to come back for more.
We didn't avail ourselves of the Y50 curry adder - they'll put it next to the otherwise-useless rice, so it's worthwhile - nor the free takeout coffee (I've been caffeine and alcohol free for health reasons for several months.)

The latter half of which has gone right out the window.