Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kotaro 高太郎, Shibuya

I really love reading Rebecca's blog on Tokyo - it is chockful of good recommendations, particularly sake. The izakaya itself wasn't hard to find, located on the other side of the Cerulean Hotel Tower Shibuya, which is a massive complex. Up a narrow street and we reached Kotaro, which is highly recommended both on Rebecca's blog, and on Tabelog - with a rating of 4.00 (out of 5) and No. 6 on the izakaya list.

The entrance was pretty nondescript, though what is distinctive is the words "高太郎" on a lamp located outside the restaurant. 

The restaurant itself is tastefully decorated, the highlight being the counter where the chefs are in action - and featuring loads of wooden panelling that lines the sides of the restaurant.

We started off with some sake, as usual - this one was a pretty easy-drinking sake, known as "priest". I couldn't quite catch the pronunciation of the words (someone, please help). Taste-wise, pretty dry, easy-drinking. Smooth. 

As we are non-Japanese speaking "Gaijin", we decided to order omakase - basically letting the chef decide, which saves us the hassle of having to order dishes. Having said that, all the dishes were pretty amazing and I don't think we encountered a single bad dish.

First up, we had spring vegetables from Shizuoka province, with dashi stock and topped with katsuoboshi. The spring vegetables included beans and some leafy greens, and all of the vegetables were just so fresh and flavourful especially the beans. A good start to the meal: 8/10.

Next up, we had the sashimi platter featuring an assortment of baby squid, octopus, and cured Spanish mackerel. The highlight was undoubtedly the baby squid which was seriously oishii to the max - accompanied by some grated ginger, the baby squid had intense flavours of the sea, a clean "seafood" sweetness - so very delicious. The mackerel was also one of the stars, lightly cured and again, a deep umami taste of the mackerel. Octopus was good too. Another great dish. (8.65/10)

Third course - beans (they look like giant edamame!) paired with some miso. Good. 7/10

Fourth course was one of the signature dishes of the izakaya - Potato salad with smoked onsen egg. The egg was absolutely delightful, lightly smoked such that the smokiness permeated through the egg. The potato salad - a mixture of sweet, savoury, potatoey... - was balanced. (8.25/10)
I really liked the Kikuyoi sake which Rebecca mentioned she drank while at Kotaro. This was so tasty - a light junmai sake which was redolent of fruits particularly pineapples. We understood from the waiter that it's from Shizouka and the brewer is Mr Aoshima. (8.5/10)

The next course was gratin - I didn't expect to see gratin in an izakaya and expected it to be just passe, but this baked squid and radish gratin was delicious! The cheese balanced perfectly well with the seafood flavours of the squid to create a harmonious whole. The aromas of the gratin was particularly inviting on a slightly chilly spring day. (8.5/10)

Next up, an enormous croquette - filled with delicious pork and - I suspect - some offal as well. There were really deep flavours at work here; and the crust was light and crisp. It paired well with a rich sake we had. (8.5/10)

We were still hungry, hence the chef brought us some otsumami - duck marinated with miso, light clams, and eggplant that was braised till soft. All of these were good accompaniments to the sake. 

Last, but certainly not least - was one of chef Kotaro's specialties - cold bukkake udon, handmade each day, with grated radish and topped with a slice of lemon. There was something very refreshing and fresh about this dish - everything was incredibly delicious and balanced. The udon had a very springy texture which comes from the fact that it's handmade. Delicious, and a great way to end the meal. (8.75/10)

The damage for all of that? 12,700 Yen for 2 people. Pretty good value.

Kotaro is a highly recommended izakaya and well deserving of its esteemed reputation. I highly recommend that you visit it the next time you're in Tokyo. Good stuff. If this is how we're going to eat the rest of the trip, I'll be a happy foodie.

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