The izakaya where I had dinner was a great find, from the street I could see a few red lanterns hanging in the 2nd story window, giving away little about the space behind them. I felt pretty lucky to get a pair of bar side seats, not only because of the top notch food and because I had a pretty good view of some of the kitchen action, but because the whole time my partner and I sat and ate, not a soul left. The izakaya was rammed with business men, all suited and booted, chatting and smoking away in the deceptively sized room, the amazing extraction whisking away the heavy cigarette smoke before it reached my kitchen/bar location.
I doubt any of these men had just enjoyed the night time Sakura viewing near the Yasukuni Shrine corner of the Imperial palace park that I had, perhaps they already knew the flowers were fading fast and that the street lights where not an ideal lighting. The incandescent light of the low street lights do an ok job of lighting the lower hanging flowers, the palace moat and walls lit well, the few cherry trees there had a good light while those street side had to make do with less. Looking up towards the night sky through the less lit street side trees I could see the crossed branches fading to black against the night sky, the pink blossom drifting slowly down into the night becoming brighter as they fell, still a nice experience.
The izikaya had one of those menus with anglicised Japanese as well as a limited English description. So as I sat with my menu and whiskey making a tricky decision about what to eat I could see the skewered items rotating over the charcoal brazier that was not far from my seat, the glass screen, scrupulously clean of course, sadly it prevented any wafting smells from reaching me.
Both pork items I ordered fell into the classic things on sticks category:
Butabara miso tare – pork belly with miso sauce
I thought the miso glaze on the belly would blacken up more on the charcoal brazier than the simple salt option that was also offered. It did.
Kashira – pork meat from the forehead
Eating the clearly pre-poached tender and skin free pork with a little spring onion I could tell this was pork cheek rather than a literal translation, it was tasty, but rather plain.
Kushi kiyabetsu – cabbage on a skewer, served with spicy red miso
Japan has reminded me about cabbage, about how good a crisp sweet, crunchy bit of raw cabbage can be. This served with some chilli laden red miso was excellent, the salty, spicy miso excellent with the crisp leaves.
Atsuyaki tamago – traditional Japanese rolled omelette
The salted and sweetened Japanese omelette is one of those ubiquitous Japanese dishes, this one was fresh, warm and worked as a good palate cleanser.
Torikawa ponzu – charcoal grilled crispy chicken skin served with ponzu sauce
Well this certainly didn’t look or taste as I expected it too, the blistered and blackened skin wasn’t crisp like I had envisioned, the citric notes of the ponzu sauce it had been glazed with did make the un crisp fat tasty.
Yokohama croquette – minced beef and potato puree deep fried in panko crust
This was more potato and less beef, however a nice soft texture and a good dipping sauce, reminiscent of the dipping sauce used with tonkastsu. Sharp and a little mustardy.
Satsuma-age – deep fried minced squid and burdock
Surimi under any other name sounds better to me than surimi, this fishcake had a nice fresh taste and delightfully chewy texture. It reminded me a little of a Thai fishcake, without the spice.
Yakionigiri – crispy grilled rice ball with a miso glaze
I really like toasted sticky rice, slap on a miso glaze and this will always be a winner. Yumbo, the crisped rice sticking to the roof of my mouth somewhat.
In the interests of keeping the posts ordered in my own mind I include this entry with Tokyo at the end of my journey rather than posting in sequence.
I was only in Tokyo for one night between leaving Kanazawa and heading towards Kawaguchiko to see Mt. Fuji. A night time blossom viewing and a fortuitous meal seemed like the perfect time sink. I’m due back in Tokyo in a few weeks but I’m sure this will be the last I see of the Sakura bloom here.