Sunday, August 1st.
Summer sees the arrival of a plethora of antipodean visitors to these shores, desperate to escape the worst of the southern hemisphere's bleak winter. So while most folks headed to Yokohama to watch the hanabi display, I guided two Kiwi's through the madding crowds of Shibuya to a quiet side street in Namikibashi, and our destination, Nakamura.
Housed on the 2nd floor of a nondescript office building, Nakamura's restrained, minimalist interior and subdued lighting give it an air of casual elegance. The room is dominated by a wide U-shaped wooden counter, which encloses the kitchen, upon which large platters of the day's vegetables and fish are temptingly displayed for your consideration. Discrete private dining areas are also available for larger, more boisterous groups.
Nakamura specialises in obanzai fare; something which has become a bit of a trend among eateries these days - what's old is new, it would seem. The menu focuses on homestyle food made with seasonal ingredients. This evening's specials included a variety of organic vegetables, which could be ordered individually or as part of an obanzai tasting platter.We opted for nasu (eggplant), tomato and courgette, which were served on ice with umeboshi, miso and Okinawan salt. Although flavourful and cooling, let's be honest it's just a pricey plate of cut up vegetables. The sadachi sours we ordered helped everything go down nicely - including my indignation.
The waiter who attended us grew impatient with my endless questions and requests for kanji readings - fair enough, it was peak dining time and the place was filling up fast. So after a few minutes fretfully deciphering the cursive script, I placed our order and hoped for the best.
Our sashimi moriawase was an elegant array of suzuki (sea bass), iwashi (sardine), katsuo tataki (seared bonito), nama tako (fresh octopus) and tashiuo (great sword fish). The only let down of the evening was that the special of oma maguro (line caught adolescent tuna from the Tsugaru Channel) was not included in the dish.
We were advised to eat the white fish with a squeeze of sadachi and Okinawan salt in order to best enjoy the flavour, and we obediently did just that. All were of good quality, and they did not skim on the portions - as is so often the case with posher places.
here for a visual.
There was no nitsuke this evening - the bane of dining out on a Sunday - but I was delighted to learn that they had 'early' sanma shioyaki on offer; a fish one usually associates with autumn. According to the news, fishermen are predicting the worst sanma season on record due to a severly reduced fish stocks off the coast of Hokkaido. Apparently, 'global warming' is to blame - or that just the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestries and Fishing's code word for 'overfishing'?
The sanma was indeed early, as it arrived before the sashimi. When I questioned the waiter about timing, he immediately apologised for the oversight (sashimi is usually served at the start of the meal, and I had ordered it as such), and the the offending dish was immediately removed. When it, or rather one of its freshly charcoal grilled brethren, reappeared later in the meal, it was indeed a happy reunion. The flesh was moist and unctuous with a wonderful smokey flavour. Delectable.
Reminiscing about misspent youths is thirst inducing, so a round of Gorin daiginjou (五凛大吟醸), from Ishikawa, was ordered. It had a fresh, slightly fruity fragrance and a full body, which gave way to a lovely clean finish. Mmmm. By now, the sommelier had realised that one member of our group was a sake otaku (my stack of sake guidebooks must have been the giveaway), and began offering the bottle to the table. Please note; they don't take too kindly to flashes accidentally being fired - I was soundly admonished by our curmudgeonly waiter for this oversight.
The kiwi's were well pleased with the golden orbs of minchi katsu which arrived next. The crispy panko coating gave way to juicy, just pink meat inside - or so I am told. The waiter decided that I shouldn't miss out on action, and presented me with a plate of my own, "Service desu!". It was a nice, though wasted, gesture and was quickly re-gifted to the Kiwi's, who thought all of their Christmases had come at once.
Nakamura is definitely a shop to keep in mind when an occasion calls for food and surroundings that are a little more refined that your usual izakaya joint. Overall, the food was fantastic and the service, while at times brisk, was professional and attentive. Sadly, my ordering did not do the thoughtful and comprehensive menu justice, so a return visit is most certainly on the cards.