My quest for food and nihon-shu in the Tokyo metropolis means that I have clocked up many hours, if not days and weeks, scouring the pages of tabelog.com for inspiration. Love it or hate it, it is a useful search tool, and while I have become wary of the arbitrary nature of the ranking system, I've had plenty of successful dining experiences through it, too.
So, with my list of 'go to izakayas' spawning lists of their own, I (foolishly) decided to devote the 10 days of my summer holiday to knocking some of the buggers off.
The first day of my holidays coincided with The Surfer's birthday, so a booking was made at Nakamenoteppen; an izakaya which had piqued my interest after being named one of tabelog's top restaurants for 2009 - what the criteria was is anyone's guess.
Nakamenoteppan is conveniently housed on the first floor of an apartment building on a street parallel to the station. Gaining entrance, however, proved to be something of a skill test - of which we failed miserably. The liliputian door, barely one metre in height, had no handle or 'bing-bong' and was resistant to force. "How the hell do we get in?" - well, those seemed to be the magic words, as suddenly the door slid open and we were warmly greeted by a spritely waitress.
The menu focuses on robata grilled food - natch; lots of veges, dried fish, along with grilled meat and a few Okinawan dishes for the pork lovers. Once our order was placed, the chef, who was boisterously manning the grill, dispatched it with such lightening speed that within minutes all of our dishes arrived and we were forced to colonise the our neighbours counter space.
First up, the sashimi moriawase, which arrived on a plate so long that it required two photos: tai, kinmedai, chu-toro, nama tako and shime-saba. All of good grade and cut in generous proportions. Note the personalised reservation and welcoming message in the background - I must be easily impressed because it scored points with me.
As the night progressed, more and more punters managed to work out how to get through the door, and before long the shop was filled to capacity. The grill chef was now working like a man possessed and with each successive order the smoke and heat were ratcheted up a notch, which made for thirsty, and consequently, increasingly intoxicated customers - Hic!
One last round: Hayaseura junmaishu (