Anyway today was spent recovering from a busy Saturday where we cooked and hosted dinner for 6 of our friends in a small apartment and we had spent most of the day on the sofa so we thought an evening walk would be good and it gave us a chance to get outside, breathe in some fresh air and find some dinner.
We walked past Akachochin and thought it would be the likely dinner destination but decided to walk to the end of the area just to see what else was around. There is certainly some work going on in the empty boatsheds so I hope they fill up and are completed soon. There were a couple of other places opened but quite a few were closed. Most places were pretty quiet although they all had someone in. I really hope this area gets busier as it would be a great place to come by often and it needs a buzz and also if it does get busy it's a sign of a decent economy!
We already knew the the head chef here is Kengo Hiromatsu, former head sushi chef at Nobu and from our seats at the sushi bar we recognised his sombre face that occasionally breaks into a sweet and genuine smile. He always gives the impression that he takes his work really seriously and rightly so. It's good to know his standards are high. It was a little strange to see him get really hands on and involved with the dishes as when we used to see him at Nobu, he definitely had more of a supervisory responsibility and was surrounded by a number of chefs but here he was pretty much on his own with a smaller team in the kitchen behind him.
but in a much less raucous and screechy way that can be at Nobu.
Steve opted for the Orion beer and we had a giggle at the label - "for your happy time".
Hiramasa Namerou w Rice Crackers - Japanese style tartare - chopped kingfish w spring onion, moromiso, kizami-wasabi, olive oil served with rice cracker came first. I guess this is a little like the spicy tuna with crispy rice at Nobu. The rice cracker was super thin and crunchy. The tartare had a strong wasabi fragrance to it but the flavour of it was light which was good for me as I'm not a wasabi fan. I found the fish fresh but the tartare was quite oily and needed a either a citrus or a soy tang to it to keep it light.
The scallop special came next which was scallop sashimi in green tea oil served with a cucumber and pink grapefruit relish. I thought this dish was better balanced as the rich protein element was cut through with a zingy salad. I didn't think the green tea oil had that much flavour though but I loved the sweetness and freshness of the scallop.
Wagyu Tataki w Yuzu-kosyou su-miso - pieces of seared wagyu beef, crispy leek, ito-tougarashi and chives w yuzu-kosyou su miso arrived soon after and we loved the sweet sauce and the thick pieces of beef. The crispy chilli and leek strands added some heat which was a welcome addition to the clean flavours.
The chicken wing dumpling stuffed with chicken mince is probably becoming this young restaurant's signature dish or at least one of them. I'd read about this on food blogs and the amount of preparation involced so was pretty excited. The chicken wing is deboned except for the tip which becomes a good handle and the wing is stuffed with a gyoza type filling and the whole thing deep fried.
I loved the concept of it but as Steve pointed out, the filling was quite heavy on the veggies and water chestnuts giving it quite a strong leek / onion flavour which was overpowering. For me the flavours could have been better balanced but the concept and cooking method was spot on.
Being a huge egg fan I couldn't resist the Akachochin Gourmet Chawan Mushi - fish, prawn, crab, scallops, ginko nuts, chicken, shungiku and shitake mushroom in egg custard. It was a great bowl to share and there were treasures galore by way of seafood buried beneath. This was a great chawan mushi and good value.
We finished off with Fish Ochazuke - soy marinated sashimi on rice, served w hot green tea, wasabi, kizami-nori, spring onion and oshinko. Apparently this is a traditional way to end an izakaya meal so we're obviously familiar with this dining style! That or we pretty much fluked it! It was interesting as the dish came out with the rice and fish and then the waiter poured green tea over it all. The fish had already been seasoned but I enjoyed dipping it in some soy for added flavour.
The tea and rice was weird at first and reminded me of the the Chinese breakfast dish my gran and my sister I-Lin used to enjoy. They would pour hot water over leftover steamed rice and eat it with preserved veggies, leftover dishes and preserved beancurd. It's a way of ekeing out food and is a common way of eating for peasants and country folk apparently. The water makes the rice go further and fills you up more.
Anyway this version was a little strange as the tea flavour was quite strong. However after a couple of mouthfuls, I got used to it and although it was bland I found it quite cleansing and light. I don't think I'd necessarily order it again as the flavour hit wasn't there but it felt quite a pleasant dish - comforting and cleansing - so I can imagine why traditionally people like to end with it.
We enjoyed this izakaya experience and I can see us returning. The freshness of the sashimi and the fish in general stands out for us. Service was also friendly. The manager had a conversation with us and made sure we were happy with our meal a few times. During the chit chat it appears that business is good on a Friday and Saturday night and they are turning people away so that's a good sign for the are