Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ishii, Shinbashi (いし井)

Boy do the hits keep on coming. Coming a little too fast; I kept sitting back contentedly while eating and drinking with Woody, thinking "Phew, that was a hard week. Glad it's Friday night!" It was Tuesday. 
What's happening in Shinbashi around quitting time? I mean this semi-rhetorically, because if you have to ask, you don't know. But the big plaza with the steam engine outside the 'Crow Forest' entrance on the west side of the station is quite the scene in the early evening. Part of why it's so startling is that it's big, open and chaotic. In contrast to the 'scramble' intersections like Hachiko in Shibuya, people aren't really walking in particular paths. In a sense, I'm also startled that it was so startling - am I too used to rules and order?
The scene that's quite scenic is scenesters waiting for other people. Here, check 'em out. I know these videos are sorta nausea-inducing (as well as privacy-violating), but they're fun too. No?
A short, confusing walk gets you to the small alleys in the southwest quadrant of the neighborhood, where real fortitude (or a recommendation from Et-chan) is required to pull open most of the doors, including Ishii's. It's not as intimidating as going up the stairs and picking the right tiny door that corresponds to the Fish Research Center sign though; Mr. Ishii has nice frontage and a quality sign, and that kinda lets you know it's going to be a friendly place, even as it tips you off that it may not be cheap. In case you're wondering, it's the lit sign high up on the wall on the left side. Not the brighter one underneath.
Inside you'll find some welcoming signs, like lots of wood, lots of bottles, a packed fridge, and a master eager to practice his English (so you could go here with no Japanese skill, but you'd be very reliant on him). You'd also find something I love to see in izakayas, a big screen TV. In this case, it was playing a loop of photos that the master had taken on visits to sake breweries. Changing every 2 seconds or so, the loop was probably 2 hours long, give or take - we saw it start to repeat, but it took a looooong time. This is a guy who loves his sake. 
This is a guy who loves his sake. Did I already say that? There were a bunch of brands on here that I had never heard of, and I think any sake lover must love that. 

While we started with these individual 120-ml glasses of different varieties, I quickly convinced Woodsworth that we should be drinking out of the 180ml 'pitchers', for which you get to choose your own little cup and then share the taste. The bottle pictured here was Asamayama sparkling nigori; after the elaborate opening ceremony featuring a needle to let out the excess pressure in a controlled way, we were pressured into drinking some. Just one glass though.

Since I complained about the pricing at Nekoya earlier this month, I should mention that the prices on this sake and food are in line with the pricing there. But the food is a bit more elaborate, there's a greatly-reduced reliance on cats as a decorative motif, and the master is a good deal less cute. On balance, the comparison is balanced. Why not try both places and see for yourself? Why not invite me? Actually don't. I've had enough sake for this month.

Food-wise, the highlights were really the fish and the smoked items. Here's the fish, which deserves its own picture due to the elaborate serving platters (seemingly hewn from living rock.) Do be careful -these are not cheap either, but they sure were good.
And finally we have the obligatory 'everything else we ate' shot (time goes quick, so this is over 4 hours).  Clockwise: dried, toasted skate wing; very good satsuma-age, not sure what was in it but it was steps above the usual; smoked egg, terrific! as long as you like smoked and egg; boiled fish, a disappointment because it was done in a sort of dry style and was less sweet, fatty and falling-apart than I like my nitsuke; smoked scallop, kinda beastly looking and too dried out from smoking (but cf earlier comment about smoke); yuba sashimi; salmon toba, very fatty and very grilled, quite crisp.
You've probably gotten the idea, but you can definitely put this on the list of 'good ones' for both food and drink...like so many of these places, the usual proviso applies: "as long as you're not price sensitive".

Or the bill might hurt your feelings.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the video. I dont think there is any privacy violation if things are the same as the US. The video was taken on public property of the public. In the US that is pretty much ok.