Even though we'd done a good bit of walking already, the Missus wasn't done. After our light lunch, the Missus decided She wanted to visit Sensō-ji. So we headed back onto the Ginza line, getting off at Asakusa. It was no problem finding the temple, you just follow the crowds! Man was the place packed. There's a long street leading to the temple gate lines with small shops called Nakamise-dōri. It would have been quite charming if things weren't so crowded. To get to the temple, you need to pass through the impressive Kaminari-mon, the "Thunder Gate".
Sensō-ji was founded in 645, which makes it the oldest temple in Tokyo. According to the story, in 628, two brothers, Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari pulled their nets out of the Sumida River. Caught in the net was a statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. The village chief, Hajino Nakamoto, recognized the importance of the statue and turned his home into a temple to enshrine the statue.
The area is quite impressive. If we ever get back to Tokyo, I think an early morning visit might be in order.
As things stood, it was a bit too crowded for us. We wandered a bit, before sneaking out a side street.
We got back on the Ginza line, transferring to the Chuo line back to Yotsuya. We strolled the neighborhood a bit before heading back to the apartment to do some laundry and take a short nap.
Soon enough, evening rolled around. On the night we arrived, we had walked to a little place in Yotsuya. Somehow, using just the handful of Japanese I knew, I managed to get reservations for dinner. Finding out that our friend Reiko was free, I told her to call the place....there's just no way I'd be able to communicate effectively over the phone, and have her added to our reservations. We walked over to Yotsuya Station and met Reiko. Getting to the place from here was a short 7-8 minute walk; though if it was up Reiko, who walks at the "Tokyo pace"....very quickly, we'd have gotten there in five!
Our destination was a little shop named Tanyaki Shinobu. Yep, this place specialized in beef tongue.
The interior of the Izakaya is small, rustic, and sorts of wraps you up in itself. There is counter seating, or like what we had tiny tables, with stump-like stools....if you had less than six in your party, you shared the table, which didn't bother us at all. Luckily, the cigarette smoke was kept to a minimum.
A big plus was having Reiko with us.....she told us, there are 8 tongue dishes on the menu......so we ordered all 8.
Things started off with the very simple sounding "Boiled Tongue". Which was simply amazing.
The pure beef flavor was so pronounced that you almost expected the dish to bellow out a strong "Mooo..." The tongue kept its form until it hit your tongue, at which time it just melted away. The was just perfectly flavored and simmered. In fact, we had another order of this.
The Missus just adored the ponzu pickled yamaimo.
I'd never had mountain yam this good. The "ponzu-zuke" really added a nice flavor to the yamaimo, the sour seemed to bring out a bit more of the background sweetness, it also seemed to make the yamaimo less slimy. There's a nice crunch to this very refreshing dish.
The Tan Stew was very tender, with what tasted like a red wine based demi glace.
The Tan no Shogani - ginger stew, brought all those familiar comforting flavors to me.
The salty-sweet-ginger flavors in this shoyu based braised dish was just perfect. Nice texture, not falling to pieces, but with a light chew. We also had an additional order of this.
The tongue stewed in miso was also delicious.
The scallions added just enough pungency and the konnyaku a nice textural contrast. Very balanced flavors and not as salty as I thought it would be.
The pickled cucumbers were a bit of a surprise.
Pickled in shoyu and garlic, with a mild chili kick, both the Missus and I immediately thought of Pai Huang Gua (派黄瓜) - the "Smacked Cucumbers" that I make.
Strangely, the dish the Izakaya is named after; the Tanyaki - broiled tongue was probably our least favorite.
A bit too thick and rubbery for our tastes. It was also on the salty side.
The miso cured tongue (on the left) and the salt cured tongue (on the right) were nice.
The Kinoko no shioyaki - salt grilled eryngii mushrooms were fragrant and earthy. The texture, nice and meaty.
The meal ended with Tan Soup, which was so good. The soul of the cow condensed into this wonderful, clear broth.
Man, this was a great meal...one main ingredient, beef tongue presented a different ways. When I first told the Missus about this place, She wasn't too thrilled. But now, She was sold.
It was great to see Reiko, it had been a while. Nice to know she is happy and healthy, and we hope to see her again soon!
We walked back to the apartment feeling a bit sad. We had really enjoy our time in Tokyo. Tomorrow, it was off to Kyoto!