"Zakoya" is a restaurant we've been passing by for quite some time now always thinking it looked really good with its bricks and black wood structure, but without ever visiting. We finally entered the izakaya (food serving pub) yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The restaurant consists of a big counter circling the kitchen, some tables at the end, and a second floor where you can fit 20 people. We sat at the only two seats available at the counter (the place is popular) and after ordering two beers (quite cheap at ¥450), the man in the counter started explaining to us in a perfect English what the recommendations of the day were. As it turned out, pursuing his passion for rock guitar, he had spent 10 years in California when he was 18, hence the perfect English. He also happened to be the eatery's boss as well as the son of the lady who brought us the beers, and he is now back to Shimokitazawa where he was born and raised. Local family business.
There was an amazing choice of what looked like excellent Osozai (Japanese "deli") on the counter, but we rather opted for some of the recommended stuff as well as some of our favorite dishes, starting with the cold "Nasu No Agedashi" (deep-fried eggplant). Though dubbed "deep-fried", it is cooked without batter and seasoned with a dashi broth (mix of bonito sauce, soy sauce and mirin), thus the rather boiled or simmered look of the vegetable (or fruit, whichever you want...). The beautifully purple eggplant topped with sesame and grated ginger was nicely tender and the dashi well done. Good stuff.
Then came the "Reba-Katsu" (deep-fried liver), one of the strongly recommended dish. The liver was slightly too creamy for my liking but it did work well with the crunchy breadcrumbs, letting you enjoy two opposite consistencies at the same time. The mayonnaise and the Japanese style Worcestershire sauce added on top of the fries were the perfect seasoning, the sauce adding some kick to the rather low-salt liver, and the light mayonnaise sort of smoothing the oiliness. I do not need to tell you that the beer disappeared quickly with that recipe. Which led me to try a glass of sake "Inokashira" (¥450). Good drink but I would choose something else if you're into dry sake, as this one is pretty sweet.
By that time, they were done cooking the "Kabestu No Obun Yaki" (oven grilled Cabbage), which was brought to us very hot in a small casserole. The half-cabbage was topped with sliced carrots, bits of beacon, powdered cheese and parsley. The cabbage was juicy and sitting in a broth which reminded me of a pot-au-feu bouillon. The sauce is surprisingly peppered so beware if you're not into spicy stuff.
Wanting something more appropriate for my sake, we ordered a plate of "Aburi Shime-Saba" (quickly roasted marinated mackerel) which I jumped on for its relatively cheap price at ¥580. I had been tempted for already a good fifteen minutes as our neighbors had ordered it and it looked quite good, not to mention that I always love the mise en scene often put by chefs of quickly spot-roasting the fish in front of you with a kitchen torch. After once again witnessing the boss' burner abilities on our fish, I quickly tried a slice as I like it when the flesh is still slightly warm from the fire. Very glad I chose this item as the fish was fatty (melting like butter...) and nicely sour from the vinegar. Not bad at ¥580: by the way, there were more slices of fish than on the above photo, when it was brought to us. With the sake working on me, I had neglected my journalistic duties and forgotten to immediately shoot the plate when it reached us. Apologies.
More pushed by curiosity than appetite, we finally ordered the Nazo No Corokke (the mysterious croquettes) at ¥100 a piece. You just need to know that in Japan, Korokke are usually stuffed with mashed potatoes and bits of beef. I will let you try these without telling you what's in it to keep the mystery alive. Don't worry, they were good and there was no weird ingredients in it.
Once again, we overall enjoyed the meal and the place looks good with its authentic Izakaya decor, hand-written menus hanging from the roof and osozai displayed on the counter. Do ask the boss what the deli items are, as they all seemed excellent, and you sure won't be lost in translation there.
Couple of minor complains would be 1) the ¥300 per head seating charge (probably for the Edamame appetizer they gave us) and 2) the slightly small size of the drinks (but probably compensated by their cheap price)
Before I forget, the boss was wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt, so who knows, you might get a free dish if you're from Birmingham or a metal fan...
Zakoya is closed on Tuesdays and open the rest of the week from 17:30pm to 24:00pm.
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-9-21
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