Arakicho is an area adjacent to Yotsuya San Chome, Tokyo that has a very lively atmosphere as the sun goes down, and when the restaurants light up. Lots of drinking places, izakaya type eateries, kappo places, and specialist restaurants. Some say this is part of untouched old Tokyo stuck in time. There is an unspoken atmosphere and mood of some might say romance as you stroll down the main path, while watching the night life. You have to be there yourself to understand what I’m saying.
Somewhere in the area, is Sushi Watanabe. Not considered famous by any means, but has quite a bit of character, flavor. It’s unfair to compare them with Ginza, and is more of a locals only hangout. Those in the know come here for versatility, ease of booking, and the opportunity to sample seafood across the country. Excellent appetizers/otsumami and some very well stepped in washoku. If you can appreciate the sum of all these parts, the experience is quite satisfying. But if you prefer name recognition, prestige, and feel that quality of the ingredients trumps everything else then this place might not be it for you as a casual visitor to Tokyo.
Watanabe san has formal training in washoku and kappo cuisine from Kansai, and that is reflected in some of his appetizers.
I locate my reservation and seat, which is in front of Watanabe san. I was the only visitor that night, the rest of the customers were entirely local. Only a few spoke English, including Watanabe san, who were very friendly and warm.
To start, I picked out my starting beverages from the hand written sake menu (if you can read kanji and know names of sake, you are good to go)
The starter turned out to be the most impactful and worked best. The legendary Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai which is available in the USA, but i wanted to see how this fared in Japan and it was very excellent indeed.
Ni-tako from Akashi , note the gelatinous bits inbetween…super delicious
Sashimi of madai and matsukawa karei
Shimaaji, judging by its non pinkish looking flesh this was not a wild specimen
Modori katsuo, with ample fat
Kegani with crab miso, presented sunomono style, one of the best pairings with Denshu
The sous chef presented this as “udo ebi” which I have no further information. The surface stickiness and natural sweetness was incredible. Topped with some shiso flowers. Absolutely delicious
The lightly grilled shellfish threw me off a bit. Japanese tsubugai and ishigaki kai. Pristine specimens should be just eaten raw, but I suspect these were grilled for another reason. Either way quite pleasant as drinking food.
Chiba prefecture steamed Megai abalone with liver sauce
When I was finished with the abalone but had some liver sauce leftover, I got some sushi rice and slivers of shiro ika sashimi strips to soak the rest up, because why not make an abalone liver risotto with some texture? This is the proper way to do it.
Next sake: Abekan (ah bey kahn) from Miyagi Prefecture, Junmai Ginjo Genshu, and a fall release (Akiagari). Less impactful than the Denshu
Sawara saikyo yaki (Kyoto white miso marinated and grilled) with grain mustard and salted gingko nuts
Nodoguro and shimeji sakamushi (steamed in sake), the addition of mushrooms was a fantastic touch as it elevated the umami component!
Chef owner Watanabe san
Two kinds of ginger
Kawahagi (filefish) with its liver between the rice and the fish (there is actually a little shiso leaf inside there too)
Next sake: Hidakami Hiyaroshi (fall release) Junmai 60%, single pasteurized (Miyagi Prefecture)
Wild Minmaya bluefin (Aomori prefecture) chutoro aged 8 days
Dashimaki tamago (entirely eggs and seasoning, no seafood or root vegetables added)
Shako (only had this twice out of 7 or so sushi meals, very lucky)
The bowl de resistance: a mini donburi of four kinds of uni (sorry don’t recall which is which)… Hokkaido, Aomori, Kagoshima, Kumamoto
Soup made with the flesh and bones of Kue, with Niigata mushroom called “shongenshi”
Katsutera style tamagoyaki (made with shiba ebi)
House made oba (like a shiso) sorbet, absolutely delicious and refreshing
Total Damage: about 25,000 yen
160-0007 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Arakichō,