Part2: Ya-Yu (Japanese), Shimokitazawa

It is the first time I cover one place twice but I really think Ya-Yu deserves it. The cost performance is incredible, and for me, that's a good enough reason.

The first time we went there, we opted for the traditional "Ika No Shiokara" (squid marinated in its own guts) to match our beers, so this time we selected the "Cheese No Miso-Zuke" (cream cheese marinated in fermented bean Miso sauce). It wasn't mind-blowing, but it definitely did its job as the perfect appetizer.
You like cream cheese? You like it even slightly saltier? There you go, order it. The miso aroma is almost inexistant, just enough to add that salty kick to the cream, whereas the finely chopped shiso leaves bring freshness to the recipe for a perfect taste balance.

Since we loved the vegetables they served us on our first visit, we tried their "Hatake No Sashimi" plate (cuts of raw vegetables). The different veggies are served with two small portions of low-salt Miso paste and a Japanese-style cold Bagna Cauda sauce (vegetable oil with hints of anchovy and garlic). Man, those ingredients were good!

The beautiful dish contained some cucumber, Goboh (Burdock root), red radish, chicory, chinese cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and all sort of delicious stuff among which a newbie in the veggie-world and still very rare yellow crunchy ingredient called コリンキー (the Japanese word sounds like the English "Colin Key"), a pumpkin that has been modified to suit raw eating. It doesn't really taste like pumpkin when you chew on it, but the after-taste is quite like it.
Anyway, all the stuff was fresh and a pleasure to eat. The textures were great so were the color of each roots, leaves and fruit. I think it's better to eat them without sauce to further enjoy the experience.

When you sit at the counter, you get to see the chef preparing all the dishes. Not only you have the opportunity of being able to witness the care and attention with which he cooks his cuisine, but you get to have a good look at potential future orders. I couldn't forget the "Tori No Karaage" (fried chicken) I had seen him cook on the first visit, so we went for it.
It's a simple but very well done KaraAge. The skin was hard and crunchy, the meat was firm and juicy but tender inside. It was once again low on salt (which tendency I like, as you might have noticed by now) and I liked it. This guy doesn't make any flashy stuff. Just like the menu, it's all basic recipes, but beautifully done and at a cheap price.

By the way, I had ordered in the meantime a recommended by the chef glass of Sake called "Suminoe" from the northern Miyagi prefecture. I think it was a tint yellow (couldn't tell whether the glass was that color or the alcohol), and it tasted smooth, slightly on the dry side and probably great with any food.

Our final dish was the Kakuni Chahan (fried rice with simmered pork) which was a grandiose way of finishing this satisfying meal. The portion was big, so be sure that you're still a little hungry when you order it, as its size might exceed your expectation. The taste of the cuisine did exceed my expectations for sure: the rice was fried just the way I love it, that is dry and not sticky; the egg as well as the fibrous bits of simmered pork and the generous topping of chopped leek combined really well in a sober yet delicious fried rice.

So, another recap: two beers, a glass of nice cold sake, a small appetizer, three dishes for a total of ¥4,400. Not bad?

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
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Enotria Diana (Italian), Shimokitazawa

After visiting "Daniela" over the weekend, we felt somehow like we needed to profound our knowledge of Italian restaurants in the area. We therefore chose to try the popular "Enotria Diana", an Italian pub with an airy open terrace and big oak barrel tables outside. The place definitely has a welcoming and unpretentious vibe to it that I like.

As it was our first time in this place, we went for what looked like the recommendations on the menu: "Olive Farcite e Fritte all'Ascolana" (deep-fried stuffed olives), "Insalata Dil Campo Alla Toscana" (mixed vegetables salad), "Prosciutto Di San Daniele" (cured ham from San Daniele), "Pancetta Alla Casalinga" (roasted marinated pork)
This joint has an extensive wine list, but not being acknowledged at all in the vino of the boot-shaped country (not that I know much about French wine either to be honest), we just went for the decent house white wine "Trebbiano d'Abruzzo".

All that really remains from eating there is how small the portions are. We went there for food, to realize at the end, that this is really more a pub than an eatery. Well, we sort of knew it, so we can only blame ourselves. At least, you will be warned: only go to this place if you're into a wine drinking mood with little dishes to munch on.
Should you be willing to stuff yourself, you will most probably have to spend a good ¥3,000-¥4,000 per head.

Anyway, here's a quick recap on the food!

The cured ham prosciutto wasn't bad, but I always tend to look at the amount served rather than the quality. You can't expect much at ¥530, but still, a little more slices can't kill. It's a medium salted one, quite flavorful, aged for 14 months.

Their Pancetta was probably the best stuff we had, though a hint too salty. But remember: NaCl is a leitmotiv here. At the end of the day, this is a pub so everything they serve you is supposed to help you drink some more. Thus the overall saltiness.
The thin slices of pork back ribs are marinated in aromatic herbs and salt, then brought to you roasted. The meat is juicy and chewy, and a nice "mediterranean " aroma floats from it. I could definitely have eaten some more of it, but once again, at ¥490, you can't ask for the moon I suppose.

The 8 (!) little olives stuffed with minced meat and then deep-fried weren't the highlight of this meal. I guess it has the potential of a great recipe but I found the fried batter plain and "tired", and the olives so-so. I probably won't go for an encore on this one if I go back.

The salad was good. Simple vinegar, salt, black pepper and oil dressing. The vegetables were fresh.

We paid ¥3,000 for two, which I find slightly expensive considering the wine was just ok and the food served in minimal proportions. The lady serving us was smily and helpful though.

Enotria Diana is open 7 days a week. 15:00pm to 03:00am Monday to Friday; 11:30am to 03:00am on Saturday; 11:30am to 23:00pm on Sunday
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-14-14.
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Daniela (Italian), Shimokitazawa

Further to a tip from a friend, we went to Daniela, a nice-looking Italian restaurant. He had told us it was a great dining experience combined with a good selection of wine, but we decided to go for lunch to have a little idea first.
The place is simple, well decorated, with a nice little collection of foreign recipe books and Taschen-ish photo albums on the walls. If you're not willing to eat there, they also sell some cheese and delicatessen, as well as all sort of mouth-watering breads, letting you do some take out if necessary.

We opted for the cheaper lunch at ¥1,050 (the other ones which let you choose an hors-d'oeuvre, a main, a dessert etc... are charged at ¥2,100 and ¥3,150 if you want to add a plate of pasta), which comes with a serving of home-baked bread and a choice of tea/coffee.

Ravioli Di Patate

I chose their Ravioli Di Patate (potato stuffed Ravioli) topped with what I think were sauteed Porcini mushrooms. The ingredients were generally quite soft, making the dish almost feel like a ragout. The Ravioli were good, though I would have liked them more Al dente given the potatoes inside were surprisingly puree-like (when I was expecting a firmer texture). The olive oil and grated cheese made for an excellent sauce to scoop with the bread, and the cooked Porcini combined wonderfully with the sauce and the pasti. Once again, I would have preferred my mushrooms firmer as the recipe generally lacked consistent texture but they were tasty nonetheless.

The excellent bread

A special mention to the excellent bread they served us: two cuts each of a plain "Country bread" and some Onion Focaccia.

The lasagna

I had a bite at the Lasagna my wife had ordered: plain, not too flashy and low on salt. Good stuff. The dough did seem a little bit soft again, but maybe that's how the chef cooks his pasti here. By the way, the pasti are all homemade here.

Fresh Herbs Granita

Just as when we thought we were done, they brought us a delicious fresh herbs Granita Siciliana. Too bad it was a miniature portion as I could have downed a pound of that semi-frozen dolce. It was just sweet enough and delivering a refreshing anis-like soft aroma. Beauty.

I shall definitely go back for dinner to explore the chef's abilities furthermore. Next time with you, A. R. (you know who you are!)
By the way, it is pricy in the evening, so keep that for special occasions!

Daniela is closed on Thursdays and open the rest of the week from 11:30am to 23:00pm (closed from 15:00 to 17:30pm on weekdays)
Setagaya-ku, Daizawa 5-16-23
Click here for a MAP