But oh boy, was I wrong... This turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and a nice dinner.
The classy looking Ya-Yu
Ya-Yu just opened in last December and is still looking brand new. It's so unusual to see classy places in this neighborhood that you feel you might be in trendy Aoyama for a second.
We felt a little intimated at first when entering the elegant (for Shimokitazawa) restaurant but much better as soon as the chef and the other two staffs gave us a smily welcome and a very polite and genuine "Irasshaimase" (The welcome formula you get when entering any Japanese restaurant).
Ika No Shiokara
Not really knowing what to order, we went for our favorite appetizers "Ika No Shiokara" (raw squid marinated in its own guts) to accompany our opening beers, the Horenso To Bekon No Salada (Spinach and bacon salad), another one of our beloved dish the "Nasu No Dengaku" (roasted eggplant topped with Miso) and the delicious when well cooked "Wakasagi To Takenoko No Tenpura" (Japanese smelt and bamboo sprout tenpura)
The Shiokara was good, not too salty, with fresh and firm slices of squid in it. I preferred the smoother and sweeter "Shiokara" we were served at "Gohan Gohan", but it was worth it nonetheless. A bowl of steamy white rice would have been welcome.
By the time we had eaten half of the marinated squid came the very big salad. At a cheap ¥680 and in such a refined decor, I was expecting a small dish; but my predictions turned out to be largely erroneous. The big plate of tasty spinach made in local Setagaya topped with excellent sauteed bacon and fresh tomato is more than enough to fill a little appetite so be warned (click here for a picture of some of the relatively unknown but numerous crofts existing in still quite rural Setagaya). It is a simple salad only seasoned with vinegar but the ingredients being very fresh, it's really worth it.
This restaurant seems very attentive to details and they were definitely checking out how we were doing with our fares: they clearly made sure to bring us the eggplant dish after we were done with the green fiesta.
The cooked eggplant that was brought to us was a rather large piece of beautifully purple BeiNasu. Beinasu, literally eggplant from the USA, is a Japanese modification from the original American species "Black Beauty". It is famous for keeping its form pretty much intact even after baking or stewing and is largely used in Japan for Dengaku purposes. The Dengaku recipe consists in adding a layer of Miso (fermented bean paste) on top of the main ingredient before quickly french-frying and/or roasting it.
"Yu-ya" asks you to choose the type of Miso you want on top of your eggplant: we opted for the smoother and sweeter Saikyo Miso, which you will often come across in southern Kansai region. The said paste is pale colored (it is also called Shiro Miso, or white Miso, in comparison to the red and brown tinted regular Miso) and less salty: regular Miso contains an average of 12% salt when the Saikyo one is at 5%.
I think it was the right choice as the mellower fermented bean glaze on top allowed you to enjoy more the tasty, fleshy and juicy vegetables. It also went very well with the generous topping of chopped Negi leek. Good stuff, go for it!
The last dish was delicious as well: (another) big portion of deep-fried bamboo sprout and Japanese smelt "Wakasagi". Wakasagi, often angled in lakes around Japan, is a very tender fish which is excellent in Tempura. It was no exception yesterday, as the easy to bite flesh and slightly crunchy Tempura batter provided a harmonious texture collaboration. Add just a hint of salt and go nuts. Eat the head as well.
The deep-fried bamboo sprout was definitely worth it too. The thick and crunchy cuts were sweet in taste and provided a lovely aroma.
let's sum it up: one appetizer, three above-average size mains, two beers and "Grapefruit Sour" in an upgrade atmosphere = ¥4,100. Unbelievable. Talk about cost performance.
This place is going to be doing very well, I can promise you. We already couldn't get in the other day as we had no reservation. Booking is a must if you want to make sure you'll have a seat.
Yu-Ya is closed on Mondays and open the rest of the week from 18:00pm to 24:00pm (L.O. 23:00pm). They will be open until 02:00am (L.O. 01:00am) in July
Setagaya-ku, Daizawa 5-33-5
Click here for a MAP