How many roads must a man walk down, before he finds the perfect lunch. In a Bob Dylan sort of way, Cherry led us down (or up as the case was) one of the roads less visited in our new stomping ground. Down Hitotsugi dori and turn left at the corner where Sam and Dave’s and up the road. Today’s was about being disappointed, not bitterly disappointed like every true rugby fan is at the final of a World Cup (except the magnicent one in 1987, the only one that really counts), but just a mild feeling that things were not as good as they could have been; perhaps with no particular reason why.
Sam and Dave is one of those places. I used to go there every time I was in the Kansai area, brilliant place, packed with cheap booze and even cheaper women. A place you would always leave with a smile on your face and something smiling on your arm. When I heard that they were going to open in Tokyo I was happy; when I heard that they were opening in Akasaka (and not the hell hole of the Pong) I was even more happy. Every time I have been in there though, there crowd has not quite been enough, in fact it has been near empty. For a dive to be fun it needs to be crowded, perhaps S&D’s could have moving partitions so even if there are on ten people in the joint, they can all feel squashed together like they should at a dive. For every additional ten people in the room, they could even move the walls together another 10cm, sort of like that scene in Star Wars where Luke and the Princess are in the garbage compactor and as the walls get closer and closer, you know that they are also going to get closer (although at that stage, I am betting that not many people thought it would be in an incestuous way). One of Tokyo’s greatest, sorry perhaps Tokyo’s greatest ever dive, the Rolling Stone (R.I.P.) lost almost all of its magic when it moved to a larger place. The whole point of the place was being so squashed into a bunch of other sweating maniacs that you could not tell whose limb belonged to who. The only problem with the new Stones is that it is not the old Stones, and therefore for anyone who knew the old Stones, just not enough. I am sure to a younger generation, it is a great proper dive, but to us old timers, we know that the young’uns of today never had it as good as we did.
Back on track. Housen was not a dive, not was it overly crowded. It was a rather attractive looking Japanese restaurant. It had a sort of stone path on a stone garden leading from the road to the door; an impressive single piece of lumber used as a counter for at least eight people; waitresses wearing Kimonos (which must be, next to a gimp suit, one of the most uncomfortable get-ups for doing what is a rather active job); a well priced menu that looked very tasty; all in all, it looked very good.
The food: I ordered the teppanyaki set (1,300 yen), which looked very good, bowl of rice, bowl of miso soup, a nimono dish of chicken and winter melon; some pickles and a cook-at-your table plate of bean sprouts, white asparagus, mushrooms and some very well marbled beef. The problem was, after everything looking so promising, the food was not bad, but just not that exciting. The beef was very tender, but perhaps lacking in flavour a bit, the sauce it was cooked in was a sort of sweetish soy-sauce based sauce, not bad, but just not that impressive. The rice was nice, the pickles were a standard selection of takuwan and kuri asazuke. I wanted to go wow, but I didn’t. The food is by no means bad, it was just not as good as the lead up had lead me to want to believe. 22 points.
The price: Not bad for what you got. 7 points.
The volume: Although the serving was not huge, extra rice was on offer. I guess I can’t really complain. 9 points.
The extras: No desert, no caffeine, which are the essentials for scoring high on extras, but for a Japanese style place, in line with expectations I guess. 7 points.
Bonus: Walking back to the office, RB asked what I was going to give the place. After a bit of debate, I said probably about 55 points, i.e. it wasn’t bad, would not object to going there again, but it is not going to be the meal I order on my death bed. Lapp said that I was doing the equivalent of sticking my finger in the air and coming up with a score as opposed to conducting a thorough analysis based on the categories set out above. Today that is what I have done, so to come up with the score which I reckon is about right: 10 points.
The details: Akasaka, Minato-ku
Phone 03 5545 4161
Web site: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/p868700/