Friday, February 27, 2015

Seikaiha, Tamagawagakuenmae (青海波, 玉川学園前)

The finest dining establishment in all of Tamagawagakuenmae. It's a bold claim considering it's the only place I've been to, but this is a pretty sweet izakaya, and TGGEM is a smallish, sleepy station. It's nearly as good as Ibuki, which is at the next station, the relatively enormous Machida. So if you're in TGGEM, this is the place to go. If you're at another of the little local stops along Odakyu, this is also a decent idea. If you're in the city, there are a few other places I could recommend.
How did I get to be here? The Woodsman has a theory that non-smoking izakayas are the place to go, being indicative of a certain focus on the part of the owner on food and his health rather than keeping their target market open to people that smoke. So if you look for nihonshu-focused, non-smoking izakayas, you won't go far wrong. I have not yet known this theory to be incorrect. Seikaiha announces their non-smokingness about 5 steps up from the street.
10 seats at the counter, one low table, and a row of bottles announcing, nay commemorating, those who have come and gone. It comes to me as I write that the row of bottles is also a metaphoric fence between the master and his customers. He's not a talkative fellow. In fact I didn't exchange a word with him all night, and only heard him talk at the tail end of my stay when a regular asked him a direct question. His wife does all the order taking and serving and interacting, though still not in as warm a style as you might like. All of which is funny when I know from their blog that they got back the previous day from a week in Okinawa, and one of the regulars told me the master is also a ukulele enthusiast.

He keeps his instrument well out of sight. Mostly he just stays behind the fence of bottles and cuts fish, under his hand-written banner announcing the day's fish and their provenance. Interesting in this list is the trout, you never see that.
Keeping things simple, the sake list is also on the wall. There are the 9 here and one 'monthly', although I would think that the posters change whenever a bottle is empty. The list leans relatively heavy, and to try to counter that I had the Kujiranami, Sharaku, and Kinko (warm) to finish.
Before we can finish, we have to start. The master seemed to announce how serious he is about the food by topping a good bowl of greens and nameko mushrooms in dashi with chrysanthemum leaves, and plating those leaves with the special super-sharp metal chopsticks that chefs sometimes use for fine plating.

Oh, and the bowl. Is this Arita pottery? It looks like some plates I got at Dengama.
The sake serving style is cute too. Smallish glass, on a saucer with the traditional blue and white rings for color evaluation. And the glass is overpoured, and the saucer filled, and it's about two glasses total.
This is also about two things in total, and they're both traditional drinking snaxxx. You recognize cream cheese that's been preserved in sake lees (but not for long enough in this case) and you may not recognize heshiko, mackerel preserved in salt and rice bran and salt. And also salt. First time I've had heshiko in slices with the skin and bones, which is a pain in the tush. Usually they pick the meet for you.
The meat's fully picked on this plate. The highlights were the trout in the middle and the painfully small pile of white shrimp at bottom right. I love all the little spring shrimps.
Just like I love nuta, which is always some combination of greens and seafood mixed with vinegar miso. This might have been firefly squid; it certainly looks like it. Or I may be getting confused with other nutas I ate this week.
I'm not getting confused with other wagyu tatakis topped with wasabi greens that I ate this week. Delicious bowl right here.
My neighbor to the left (not pictured, peeing) was talkative. He works in Otemachi, as a manager in the ambulance department of the fire department, and was a cool guy. This guy also seems to be a regular, and he sums up the contemplative mood of the place. Not a lot of talking, just quiet consideration of delicious food and sake. My ambulance-chasing friend told me the master not only hates smoking, he'll refuse entry to people who seem drunk.
Which seems like a shame, because they could use some fried food to soak up their drunkenness. This was some kind of seafood satsumaage, whose provenance I've otherwise forgotten.
And these seaweed-wrapped, tempura-fried long potatoes were reasonable, if not as good as the ones at Ibuki. But as my neighbor pointed out, that's not a real fair comparison when Ibuki puts sea urchin in his and charges a bunch more.
In retrospect, the master is pretty well into pottery too. This is the serving style for atsukan.

In retrospect, I bet the master wouldn't be very happy to know that I was publishing a bunch of pictures and encouraging people to visit him. He's got a lot of work to do and is perfectly content to be turning out great stuff in his home town.

Which is noble, and I think him for it, and I'm going back to Tokyo now.
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