Despite the recent regeneration of the Meieki area, there can be no doubt that Sakae is the city centre in, if not name, pretty much every thing else. What with the nightclubs and bars, shopping and restaurants, it really is the beating heart of the city, But sometimes it can be a little too much, a little too hectic, and you may want to escape for a quiet bite to eat and sip on a relaxing drink.
The problem here is that when it comes to most restaurants in the Sakae area they are either loud and lively izakaya, where your table is squeezed between an enkai party and a goukon group date, or it is a ridiculously expensive and a plate of chips costs a month’s salary. “But Mark,” I can hear you cry in the fashion of a 1990’s made-for-school educational video. “What can we do? There is no restaurant that is both quiet and pleasant yet in a decent price range.” Well, that’s where you would be wrong.
Kamado de Gohan Odaidokoro Furari is just that. Regular readers will know how excited I get whenever there is a new Furari restaurant in town – I have previously effervesced over their sushi bars in Fushimi and the NHK Building as well as their Odaidokoro Furari ‘teishoku’ bar by the Tokyu Hotel.
It is to the latter of these that this new restaurant, just three months old, bears a closest resemblance. But while the older restaurant is best suited for getting healthy lunchtime set menus, this new one, in my opinion, is more of a dinner location.
It sits on the ninth floor of the Skyle building (you’ll know it as the same building that houses UNIQLO and GU clothing stores), but despite it being in the heart of the shopping district, you could be forgiven for believing yourself in a different world entirely. The table at which I sat had beautiful views of Sakae, and as the easy-listening jazz tinkled out over head and I gazed out upon the lights of the Sunshine Sakae Ferris wheel gently revolving against the jet black night sky I felt whisked away to the setting of the TV show Mad Men. All I needed was a cocktail…
Which is why it is fortunate that Kamado de Gohan Odaidokoro Furari has introduced their Otonano Premium Drink Bar, listing a wide range of grown up drinks – from mojitos to deluxe highballs, from sparkling wine cocktails to sake, Shirohonoka Luxury Beer to lemon sours made with the current hipster’s favourite Limoncello. And while these drinks are definitely on the premium end of the dinner tipple scale, with short term all-you-can-drink prices: ¥798 for an hour and ¥399 per additional 30 minutes, you certainly don’t have to be taking home a Madison Avenue salary to enjoy them.
With drinks having arrived it was time to order something to eat as, thanks to the sweet sent of tempura wafting in the air, my stomach had been rumbling since I stepped out of the elevator. Specialising in teishoku set menus, I wasn’t sure what to go for, so I allowed Hanaguchi-san, my waiter for the evening, to suggest their specialty: the Aji no Himono set (¥1,166).
Now I’m quite a fan of grilled aji (mackerel) but I often have problems fighting with the bones, but here this was never a problem; it was light and the meat just fell from the bones in huge flakes like leaves from the autumn trees, and the skin was crisped perfectly to my liking. If I had any criticism, for my tastes it could have done with a pinch more salt – but then I am something of a salt fiend as I have no doubt my future doctor will warn me about – however, squeezing the lemon wedge over the meat negated any concerns in that respect, giving a zesty zing to the charcoal flavor.
As I tucked into the aji, I couldn’t help but dip in and out of the tempura, as its scent had cast a spell over me, and I wasn’t disappointed. The prawn had maintained its juicy plumpness in the fry, and the sweet pumpkin fell apart in the mouth. It is sometimes difficult to explain how good a tempura is – there are only so many times you can search your thesaurus for ‘light’ and ‘fluffy’ but I think it speaks volumes that when I, someone who holds the greatest of grudges against the hated eggplant, am surprised just at how juicy and delicate it is. They must be doing something right.
Speaking of which, miso soup is a simple dish that we all know, but it is surprising how often it is done badly in restaurants. With this being a teishoku restaurant, Kamado de Gohan Odaidokoro Furari gets it spot on, with their red dashi miso soup almost beefy in its flavor.
Finishing up the set comes the chawan mushi, the savory egg custard dish that I always leave to the end as it looks like it could be a desert. However, this was so creamy, were it not for its full-flavored saltiness, I wouldn’t have been surprised had Hanaguchi-san appeared at my table with a blowtorch ready to get all crème brûlée on its ass.
As it happened, Hanaguchi-san did return to my table, but rather than a blowtorch, he came bearing a surprising gift of another kind, namely a ‘magurokatsu’. Despite the fact that I was already pretty stuffed from the meal – though very healthy it is pretty hearty – I had just a week prior visited with my girlfriend and her family the Furari Sushi in Meieki and had eaten this very dish. It had then been sublime, the crispy outer layer contrasting exquisitely with the soft, near-raw tuna steak, and this time it was perhaps even better.
I suppose I should not have been surprised at this lovely touch of extra service, as I had noticed throughout the evening that the waiters and waitresses were extremely attentive, constantly checking on their customers, from the young couple on a date on the table next to mine, the middle-aged women chatting quietly over a glass of bubbles and a tempura set opposite me, or the small group of co-workers having a relaxing drink two tables down. This is something that I, having worked many years in the hospitality trade, regularly notice for its absence in most other Japanese restaurants. It certainly made for a pleasant change.
It is this attention to detail that encouraged the overall atmosphere. There were no shouts of ‘sumimasen’, nor even the ‘bing-bong’s of tables desperately trying to gain a server’s attention. So I was able to relax as my table was cleared, and sip on the remains of my glass of Shirohonoka beer. And, as I stared out over the city below, the music washing over me, my only worry was that I knew, soon, I was going to have to leave this haven of tranquillity and return to the hurly-burly below.