First of all, this is not meant to be a restaurant review. Unlike many food bloggers, I have never taken pictures at any restaurants or drinking place but I decided to try it with Tako Grill so that we could share our evening at our Izakaya substitute.
Here is today’s otoshi お通し; avocado, akami 赤身 in sweet vinegar which contains what appears to be finely chopped transparent (red?) onion (below left). This night, we noticed one of the Niigata 新潟 breweries, “Ichishima” 市島酒造, was featured in the sake menu and as a part of the special, all classes of their sake was available for tasting by the bottle or glass. We decided to try “Jun-Gin” 純米吟醸 in addition to our usual bottle of “Mu”. It came in the proper Izakaya way (which did our heart good) with a generous amount of overflow in the “masu” 升 cup underneath (below right).
This Ichishima Jun-Gin is rather nice. Very subtle but had a nice clean taste with a slightly assertive finish. Then our waitress suggested we should taste other Ichishima and brought out small cups of “Junmai” 純米 and “Junmai genshu” 純米原酒. We both felt that the junmai lacked character. The genshu definitely has a higher alcohol content, which we could feel, and has more edge to it. Among the three Ichishimas we tried, we liked “Jun-Gin” the best but we still like “Mu” better and, for cost performance, our usual “Mu” definitely wins out. Now, we were fairly sloshed and moving into the sashimis.
Sekisaba 関サバ (above left) is served already seasoned with (rock?) salt and sesame oil (mist?) and served with plenty of sliced scallion and threads of ginger which go very well with this oily fish. Big eye Tuna toro めばちのとろ was very nice. By the way, daikon tsuma 大根のつま was skillfully hand cut. Even in Japan, many Izakayas serve daikon tsuma prepared by a special cutter such as Benriner turning “head” slicer (actually we have one of these devices which I have not used for some time). Although this does not make any difference in the quality of the food they serve, I like the fact they pay attention to the details and take pride in these minor items. From robatayaki 炉端焼き menu, we ordered grilled shiitake mushroom (barely visible behind the toro sashimi picture above. I forgot to take a picture), Ginko nuts 焼き銀杏 (below left), and shishi-tougarashi ししとう (below right). As usually happens, with shishito produced in the United States, two of the peppers were atomic hot, each of us got one. Part of the fun of the dish is the Russian Roulette aspect of whether the one going into your mouth is a “hot” one.
We were winding down here and had a very meaty “Hamachi kama” はまちのかま grilled, served with a large mound of grated daikon 大根おろし, which I like. My wife is usually in charge of taking off all the available meat from the bone and, as usual, she did an excellent job. As a shime 締め, we had few nigiri and two US style rolls (A California roll was made of real lump crab meat, avocado and tobiko roe. A Philly roll was made of smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese).
We were stuffed and had more than enough sake at this point. Chef Kudo sent us an ice cream daifuku (Ice cream encased in a mochi skin) for dessert. We do not have thousands of Izakayas to visit but we were doing well here for sure tonight.