Trying to decide on the subject for my first boozy bunch blog post was a struggle, but when I thought back over the last month one meal stood head and shoulders above the rest. That meal was at Isari juhachiban.
So there I was in Tokyo, fortunate enough to have a Japanese friend who lives there showing me around. We had a lovely sunny sunday checking out Harajuku and surrounding areas, including Takeshita Dori (I saw less Harajuku Girls than a Gwen Stefani video but more matsuri processions) Yoyogi park, the Shibuya crossing and Meiji Jingu. But it wasn’t long before the takoyaki (octopus balls) that we had as a ‘light lunch’ felt like a distant memory and we got to thinking about dinner. Because although Japan is filled with many, many wonderful places, people and things it is also filled with many amazing different types of food, and as this amazing food is everywhere your next meal is never far from your mind. So with the luxury of a local foodie I was given a list of options, one of which I was told was a really, really good Izakaya (a Japanese bar that does food – I mean it is much more than that but this is my attempt at a description) which doesn’t get many tourists and is very popular as the fish is so fresh and that was enough for me. So we phoned for a reservation, of course as I speak about 4 words of Japanese and even those 4 I am probably pronouncing incorrectly my role in this phone call was purely supportive nodding and nothing else. But I managed that pretty well. I was told that we were lucky and there was a table in an hour which was perfect as I needed another puri (photo booths with a sort of exaggerated photoshop effect) fix anyway. So an hour and about 15 photos of us with huge eyes covered in stickers later we were ready to eat.
When we got there it was packed – absolutely heaving. Lucky for me I had help, but they also gave me a menu with extra photos – always a bonus. Although maybe it wasn’t as basically every single thing that I saw I wanted. Fuelled by the delicious plum wine we settled on a sharing platter and a few random extras – some because they were seasonal and others like the boiled egg tempura because well how would I ever know what boiled egg tempura tastes like? If you are wondering- it was delicious like everything I had here. We tried conger eel tempura also and the tempura was so light and tasty- you could taste how fresh it was. I had no idea what to expect but it was so delicious and the texture was much softer than expected. We also tried umi-budō/sea grapes/sea caviar which is a specialty from Okinawa, apparently this is rarely available. It was quite different to anything I have had before- much less strongly flavoured than other types of seaweed that I have tried and they do taste a lot like a savoury grape. We also had some really great miso soup that was so flavourful I struggled to stop eating it, but I managed as I knew what was awaiting me. The platter! The platter of pure joy, the platter to end all platters. I have never had a platter so fresh and so delicious, nor have I ever used the word platter so much in such a short space of time. The photo obviously does it no justice as it was so beautiful I didn’t want to eat it, obviously I did and I didn’t hang about either, but it was beautiful. I feel like the words that I would usually use to describe an amazing meal are not enough to capture the experience of this platter. It was divine. Incredible. I am salivating at the thought of it. The bonito, salmon, tuna and many other fishes (some of which even when translated into English I had never heard of) were all incredibly fresh and amazingly tasty. But my highlight item in the highlight dish in the highlight meal of the trip was the sea urchin. The sea urchin was like nothing I have ever tasted, the texture was really soft and it wasn’t the easiest thing to eat with chopsticks but it just melted in the mouth and had a really unique flavour. It also tasted special, like the best bit of a lobster claw in that it has an intense concentrated flavour that is not overpowering. It was creamy and almost sweet and luckily for me my eating companion was happy just to watch me enjoy it most of it. Although in my mind I started to plan my next trip to Japan before I left the reality is it will be a while before I’m next in Tokyo so until I am able to go back I am back on the mission to find more great Japanese places in London. Maybe there is a platter that can hold my interest until I can be reunited with the one.
2F Dogenzaka Torowa Bldg., 2-6-12 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo