My last night in Tokyo, several days of frantic eating, drinking and shopping had ground me down to the point where not even the shop based joys of Shibuya could stop me from wanting to throw up and go to some quiet dark place. Not the ideal prelude to a final evening in Tokyo but I was ahead on points. I fell upon the mercy and wisdom of tokyo goat who had so far provided a roof over my head, a camera in my hand, and a suitably undisciplined voice of reason. Destination was an izakaya in Ikebukuro that had a big door but with a little door. Through the rabbit hole then. Personally I expected to be clubbed on the head but all turned out much much better.
Reading a Japanese menu is always a challenge, so I usually pick the easiest to read one’s first and interpret/guess the rest at my leisure. First from the specials menu was hanpen (fish cake), and kurogomadoufu (black sesame tofu) served with a sprinkling of sea salt. Quite delicious cold with a savoury pannacotta texture.
The beers finished and we moved quickly to the business end and some sake. Asking the waitress she recommended one, Ginban sake from Toyama, but eventually confessed to not having a clue but we thought we’d try it anyway, the place was clearly good enough to take a punt on their sake list. Bought by the glass, a 1.5 litre bottle is bought out and poured into our o-choko overflowing into the small laquer masu it sat in. Lovely dry and clean.
The vegetable dish arrived, I’m not sure what it was but it was written as ninnikuyasai (garlic vegetable), tasting more like spring onion, grilled and served with (dengaku?) miso. Tsukune, yakitori made from minced chicken, which came out unusually on a paddle. Fish next and the choice was hokke (atka mackeral). This is a whole fish flattened out and then grilled. Very Japanese but so often done very badly, typically luke warm after having had the life cooked out of it. This one wasn’t, it was beautifully moist. The scattershot menu choice of the Okinawan dish of goyachamporu( bitter melon with eggs, tofu, and bacon) had the many textures and tastes in this dish blended well.
Next sake, Hakkaisan, which is possibly the best regarded sake in Japan. We had the Genjou [looks at scribbly notes flower? Seymour?] and the Shibori. Both smooth and tasty but the Shibori’s taste was boosted by the higher alcohol content. We had half an hour to enjoy them while our takenoko chahan (rice with bamboo shoot) slowly cooked in front of us. And we finished with this, miso (goat is right, the good stuff is subtle) and the Tengumae Ginjou sake. Being good sports, the staff let us finish off the bottle, bless.
And that was that, we squeezed our way out of the door. To have such a wide range of food, done so very well, in charming setting with friendly staff and good company capped and exceptionally good trip to a wonderful place.
Teshigotoya has a website and a map here.
The three exceptional photos here were by the talented and prolific Andrew Mc Lucas, the first guest photographer here none less. There are still more pics of the night by two snap happy Aussies at Flickr.