Nishinba (izakaya), Shimokitazawa

We tried yesterday this Izakaya (food serving Japanese-style pub) "Nishinba" for the first time. We've always passed by and seen bunch of people in there so we had been interested in trying their food for a while now.

The kitchen and the busy cooks

Nothing really special about this place. The atmosphere's good, with a healthy variety of customers ranging from young college kids to older businessmen and even dining families. The kitchen has four cooks, which seems like a lot, but I am not going to complain if that means your food getting to you faster. The young lady (everybody's young here) waiting is efficient and smily, and the music quite good: for a couple of hours, they were playing an eclectic mix of good Japanese rock. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the people working here are playing in a band. That's actually what I really like about Shimokitazawa: if you throw a stone, you're almost guaranteed to hit an artist.

The place is popular for its fish menu so that's what we went for: two of the daily recommendations "Katsuo To Tamanegi No Karapaccho" (Bonito spicy carpaccio with onion) and "Maguro No Kama Shioyaki" (oven roasted Tuna with salt), as well as the "Daikon To Kaibashira No Salada" (Japanese radish and eye of scallop salad) which we found on the regular menu.

"Daikon To Kaibashira No Salada"

The salad is simple, with thinly cut crunchy Daikon radish, fibrous but yet tender scallop, slices of fresh tomatoes and a lot of mayonnaise. It tasted too much like mayo for me at the beginning but it got amazingly addicting at the end. Not bad at all. Nice combination of textures. Loved how chewy and tasty the scallop was.

"Katsuo To Tamanegi No Karapaccho"

The bonito salad was very good too as well as being well presented. The fish was fresh and nicely seasoned. Actually, the name of the recipe "Karapaccho" is an easy pun on Karupaccho (Japanese way of saying Carpaccio), Kara being an adjective meaning hot.
The seasoning was a mix of white sesame vinaigrette with a generous adding of Rayu (chili-infused Chinese style vegetable oil), which spiciness went very well with the bonito and the big topping of fresh onion. Don't forget to dip the onion slices in the sauce and devour the whole thing!

The two chunks of Tuna

The final dish was a great end to this overall good dinner. Two BIG pieces of oven-grilled tuna. A block of meat from the fish's cheek (piece on top in the picture) and a chunk from the flank, closer to the fins. The cheek was just a big tasty piece of firm flesh that would satisfy any white-meat lover. They manage to cook it with the right amount of salt, and it goes incredibly well with a glass of slightly sweet sake: we ordered the "Kikuyoi" (sake from the Shizuoka prefecture) as it was the cheapest but it definitely did its job.
The big flank part (with its fin attached!) was a blend of firm flesh and juicier fat all attached to a large bone, which we scraped until it got fully striped. Nice stuff!
Add a little Daikon-Oroshi (grated Daikon radish) and Shoyu if you feel like it is too fishy and the meat too dry.

We ended up paying ¥2,500 per head, which is average considering we had three dishes, two beers and a big glass of sake.
The food is good, the portions relatively large, and the service satisfactory. I can recommend this place.

Nishinba is open everyday from 18:00pm to 02:00am, and 17:00pm to 01:00am on Sundays and National Holidays
Setagaya-Ku, Kitazawa 2-9-20
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