September 26th, 2010
As the late September typhoon rain descended, the traffic along Kannana Dori slowly ground to a halt. It was going to be long, slow, crawl home.
The words, “Shall we stop off in Shimo for something to eat?” were barely out of T’s mouth, before I had wiped out my iPhone, fired up the tabelog app and put a call through to the best izakaya option in the area, Tobusakana. One step ahead of you, kiddo.
Unbeknownst to me, Tobusakana has two stores directly opposite each other on a small side street a few minutes from the south exit of Shimokitazawa station. The original store (where I thought we had a reservation) is a tiny space made up of a counter and a squishy table at the door; the place has the well loved (read: tatty and worn) look of a shop that has enjoyed many years of regular patronage. The new annex store (where we actually had a reservation), stands in stark contrast; bright & breezy, designed to resemble a hybrid of an American diner and, err… my uncle’s corrugated iron boat shed.
The place has got a fish market feel, with the day’s catch displayed in ice packed styrofoam boxes at the door (today’s specials were kinmedai and Hokkaido crab), and a counter topped with glass cabinets brimming with fishy delights. In keeping with the ichiba feel, the service is boisterous and to the point. “Weclome in!…Now, what do you want?” Sometimes, that’s all you need.
What do we want? Well, it took us a good 20 minutes to come up with an answer, as the menu was a metre long scroll of stylized kanji. While it made for amusing reading, it inexplicably came with two volumes of supplementary food & drink menus – Yikes! Fish, meat, poulty, vegetables, noodles, rice, fried dishes, grilled dishes, & probably even flambeed dishes are available on any given night. Now I was worried; a restaurant that tries to be all things to all people generally only produces a few things well and the rest mediocrely. Then there is the issue of keeping such a diverse range of ingredients in stock; cost/time saving measures such as buying in pre-made, or frozen food to be reheated to order are usually employed so an over extended kitchen can cope. I think a big edit is needed here for the sake of the customer and the kitchen. We gave up halfway through reading the regular menu, and decided to stick with the specials of the day.
First up, our otooshi of nemitsuba, enoki ohitashi and a small bowl of oden, which arrived with our drinks order.