2 visits in 4 days (and a small green kabocha) is how fear turned into awe.
Last Saturday nite, post drinking (Suntory scotch with a splash), I was in a sudden rush to catch Shigen-san before midnite. Thanks to some fine red wine loving folks with whom I shared an epic Shibucho dinner earlier in the week, I somehow promised the infamous itamae a freshly picked kabocha would be presented to him that weekend and by god, I wanted to be a man of my words.
For nearly 10 years I’ve wanted to do Shibucho while sitting in front of Shige-san. After the final course of the perfectly appropriate piece of toro (not otoro, NOT chu-toro, really, too “greasy” like “100 grams of Japanese kobe beef”), I admitted my long dormant fears to Shige-san with impunity. What followed, was the most gentle telling of a Gastro Life (Japanese car magazines always used phrases like “Car Life”, “Tuning Life”, etc.) by a never-retiring itamae I’ve experienced, in a room with no one present, over a cup of green tea freshly brewed by hand, from loose matcha, natch.
And folks, that is how one should end a nite of debauchery. Screw the 25 Degree Burger, forget the bowl of haejang gook. Have a bowl of miso made from house-made dashi, followed by some shiromi (engawa, tai, kanpachi – holy shit, that is the softest piece of kanpachi I’ve ever had, not 1 iota of noticeable striation, kanpachi, buri), followed a nimono of 2 pieces of anago; followed by a revelation of how a sushi chef stays healthy: no breakfast, only coffee, dinner of often only quality miso soup with lots of vegetables, and no grease; followed by a sushi chef’s disdain of what has gone wrong in Little Tokyo: bunch of rowdy people in Honda Ya’s smoking in front of fake “Itlian” restaurant in Honda-Ya Plaza (2nd St Cafe, previously blogged here), Korean-operated sushi joints offering 50% off rolls ala Tenno Sushi.
That wasn’t all tho. The take home point of the nite, to poorly paraphrase the itamae cum food philosopher of the nite: “chefs can’t eat too heavy, his cooking won’t taste right”. Ya know, it really made a lot of sense at 1am.
A parting thought: To communicate mano-a-mano with Shige-san, the stars and the moon don’t have to align. You just need an empty restaurant, and this wisdom dished out so eloquently by a LA Chowhound poster back in ’01:
the “strike zone” at Shibucho, at least until you win Shige over, is somewhere above “know little” and below “know it all.”