Restaurants & Bars

Tokyo Chowhound Dinner #2 Report (Novella-lenghth Long)

Andy P. | Feb 7, 200212:24 AM     13

Hi Everybody,

Still reveling in success of Tokyo Chowhound Dinner #1, T.C.D. #2 took place last night, Wednesday, February 6, 2002.

Last Monday afternoon, (2/4/02), T.C.D. #1 participant Bryan Harrell sent an email to the rest of us, proposing a “Night On Planet Gotanda”, to take place on 2/6. He got the idea for this gathering last Saturday, while walking around the Gotanda area of Tokyo.

After scouting out at least 5 restaurants, he explained the concept for the name: “This is truly a ‘planetary’ experience since I found places serving food from wildly disparate countries. All owner-operated, small places.”

Bryan, Rachel, Marcus, and I hooked up at Gotanda station, and headed out. Sadly, Bryan’s first planned stop, “The Oyster Bar”, was closed for kitchen renovations. Not to be downcast, we headed for place number 2:

Higashi Gotanda 1-6-6

This place is a small, (really small) sake pub, with some very interesting food choices. I think Rachel hit it on the head when she described it as a “joint”.

First, the food (hopefully, in the order that it arrived at the table):

On each table is a tall cup of crispy, fried spaghetti. Munch on them while drinking the sake.

Beef tongue – a plate of beef tongue, sliced about ¼ inch, and quickly pan-heated. Very nice.

Jakoten – Fried fish paste cakes. Gotta admit, I wasn’t wild about this dish, only because it was way to salty for what I was expecting. But, the others didn’t let it go to waste.

Nanohana – Boiled, then marinated, rape (canola) flowerettes. Slightly, but not unpleasantly bitter. Served cold, with what looked like slivers of daikon mixed in.

Avocado Tempura – Amazing!! This was the culinary star of the Nonki stop. The first bite kind of froze up my brain … Confusion. This is avocado. But, this is tempura. Damn, the temperature of this is friggin’ HOT!!! Man, this is really, really good…
This dish went so fast, that we didn’t have a chance to find out how it tasted cold.

Shitake caps filled with shrimp, heated under broiler – Simple, and delicious.

Stir fry of bitter gourd, bean sprouts, tofu, shitake, and carrots. – This was the last dish of the Nonki inning. Very warm and comforting.

We would have been remiss to be in a sake “joint”, and not have some sake. We each ordered two different glasses, and shared a sip with everyone else. (BTW, all sakes consumed this evening, and during T.C.D. #1, were served cold). And, as before, I will defer to the more knowledgeable sake gurus in our group to provide commentary on these:

1. Hatsumato
2. Aramasa
3. Tosatsuru
4. Tutaiyama
5. Uragasumi
6. Ichi no Kura
7. Kaze yo Mizuyohitayo
8. Oiyaji

Finished with Nonki, we headed out into the fresh evening air, and were joined in this adventure by Robb, and his buddy, Jonathan. So, at this point, attendance for T.C.D. #2 exceeded attendance for the first dinner by 50%! We are growing!!!

We followed Bryan for a couple of minutes through the back alleys of Gotanda, stopped at a building that I never would have found, climbed up a flight of stairs, and entered:

Arco Iris Peruvian Restaurant
Higashi Gotanda 1-15-5 2F
(sorry, didn’t get a phone number)

Okay baby…Izakaya food, followed by Peruvian. We were starting to get an inkling of what the night had in store for us!

First a word about the actual ambience of Arco Iris: This is perhaps the MOST brightly lit restaurant I have ever set foot into. There was only one other table being occupied when we entered, but this group was making so much noise, that it sounded like the restaurant was full…which led us to come up with this totally unsubstantiated hypothesis: The brighter the lights in a restaurant, the louder the customers will talk.
Up in one corner of the restaurant was a T.V., playing a tape of some South American talk show. And, on the counter, next two the register, was a rack of Latino music mini-discs for sale.

Anyway, on to the food:

First thing to be brought to the table were bowls of deep fried corn (Bryan assured us that this was feed corn). Nicely salty, and kind of soft when bitten into. These went well with the beers.

Yuca ( Mandloca Frita) – Deep fried yuca, which was very firm, and very good. Served with a side dish containing 3 condiments: Mayo, mustard, and a 1000 islandish looking sauce that actually turned out to be extremely HOT!

Ceviche – Very nice portion. The red snapper, and octopus, were especially nice.

Linguica on a bed of French fries – The linguica had the look of being made on the premises, and was really flavorful. The fries, served unsalted, and barely drained, were oily, but actually tasted more like potato than any French fry that I’ve had lately.

Aji de Gallina - Stewed Chicken and Potato w/ Peruvian yellow sauce and Rice. – A totally non-pretentious dish, which was just so darned good, that Marcus and I agreed that a return trip is in order, just to have this. They are using some really subtle spices in this, and perhaps some coconut milk. The chunks of potato were pleasantly firm, too.

Chupe de Camron – Shrimp Soup. Once again, an amazingly subtle dish. Whole shrimps, rice, and green peas, all surrounded by a cloying yellow cream broth. Another dish that warrants a second trip.

Since Arco Iris doesn’t have sake, were drank BEER!

Cusquena – I really liked this lager. I think it is a lager. Anyway, it was GOOD!

Cusquena Dark/Malta – An extremely sweet, dark beer. This is one that, I guess, might grow on you. But, IMHO, it just didn’t go along with the foods we were eating.

And Robb, just to be different, ordered:

Inca Kola – This soda provided some of the most entertainment of the evening. The color is bright, florescent yellowish-green. The first sip tastes of cream soda, then a hint of melon sneaks in. After that, a bit of cotton candy flavor lingers on the palate. As for the scent of it, Bryan put it best…”Smells like the midway at the County Fair”.

Done with the Peruvian, the next place was a funky little Korean shop. Unfortunately, they were full of customers. (We will give it a try another time). But, still in chowhound mode, we once again hit the pavement, and ended up at:

Higashi Gotanda 4-7-29
Kl-Bld. 1.Floor

Hey, why not have some German Food!!! Actually, this is a cool place to kick back, and drink some very nice beers. The food, though, was really hit-and-miss.

Kartoffelpuffer mit apfelkompot – Potato pancakes with applesauce – Two large potato pancakes, with a side of unsweetened applesauce. Unfortunately, the potato pancakes were literally devoid of taste. A shame.

Greibenschmalzbrot – Pork lard Bread!! Nice slices of brown bread, served with a dish of pork lard spread. In the lard were little bits of crispy pork fat, and caraway seeds. Spread the lard on the bread, take a bite, have sip of beer, close eyes, and die happy!

Fleischkase gebratener m. ei & rostaweibeln - Fried meat loaf with fried egg, and fried onions – The meat loaf seemed to be of a pork variety, pan fried, and served with fried onions on top, and a sunny-side up fried egg on the side. Nice, large serving, which would have really hit the spot this morning!! (read, great hang-over meal).

The beers that were consumed, (thanks Bryan, for the recs):

Franziskaner Weissbier – I ordered the 500ml glass of this, and really wished that I hadn’t offered a sip to everybody. Less for me :) This went wonderfully with the 3 different dishes that we’d ordered.

Kostritzer - Very nice flavor. A bit herbal.
Erdinger - Dangerously drinkable.

After leaving Wunderbar, Marcus and Bryan had to bid us so long, farewell, aufweiter…

Robb suggested a sake nightcap at a place he knew within walking distance. So, off we sauntered to:

Waniya (Crocodile)
Higashi Gotanda 1-18-3

Once again, we found ourselves in a sake pub! Since there where no seats at the counters, and all of the western-style tables were occupied, we got to sit on the floor, and sidle up to the low tables in one of the tatami rooms.

Straight to the food:
Tatami iwashi – Shrimp mat. Somewhere, someone caught some miniscule shrimp, and spread them out in a single layer, to dry. But, they forgot to separate the shrimp. Once dried, the shrimp formed what looks like the top of a tatami mat. Tatami iwashi is served in about 5”x5” squares. Just rip of a piece, and eat.

Cucumbers with miso sauce and garlic – Cold, crisp cuke sticks, served with a side of miso for dipping. But, this miso has had a huge piece of roasted garlic mixed in with it, giving the miso a big “extra something”.

Roasted eggplant with dark miso – small eggplants, sliced lengthwise, roasted over open flames, and served with a dollop of dark miso. I actually didn’t try this one, but the others seemed to enjoy it. I don’t have anything against eggplant, but was saving room for…

Fugu karage – Deep fried chunks of fugu flesh, with a bit of fresh lemon juice drizzled on top. All four of us are still alive!! And, it would have been a shame if something so tasty had been our demise. But, I kid you not, watch out for the bones!!! Each chunk of fugu is a cross section from down near the tail.

Deep Fried Whale – Yes, whale. Thinly sliced chunks of whale, deep fried to a golden brown. Once again, served with a drizzling of lemon juice. This was the first time I’d tried whale, so I’ve nothing to compare it to. But, while I do feel somewhat guilty, I am not ashamed to say that I found it to be very, very good.

Soramame – Ah, one of the favorites. Fava beans, roasted in the pod, over an open flame. Peel the pod, pop the bean onto the plate, add a bit of salt, and eat. Wash them down with sake. One of the great drinking snack foods.

Sasami to nori to ume to cheesu tempura – Chicken breast, wrapped around a piece of cheese, then spread with ume (plum sauce?), wrapped in a piece of nori, and fried, tempura style. While this was very good, we agreed that, as the last dish of the evening, this was just too heavy.

Finally, the different brands of sake:

1. Shimeharizura
2. Koburyu
3 Juyondai
4. Oigawa – My personal favorite of this flight.
6. Kikuhime Yamahai – Has a very yellow tint, and an attitude.

As with the first T.C.D., this was just a blast; Wonderful people, great drinks, some really great food, and lots of talk about food. And, the thing that really blew me away about this dinner was the total spontaneity that surrounded it, even down to which restaurants to go to. Once again, a huge “thank you” to Bryan, for scouting the restaurants, and setting this up.

The total bill, per person, for the entire evening, was about 10,000 yen (if all 4 restaurants were visited).


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