Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Exploring Arakicho at Yakitori Ogawa

Arakicho is an interesting neighborhood in Tokyo that I fell in love with during my recent trips there. It could be a little off-track for some, but it's only a few stops away from Shinjuku and a short walk from either Yotsuya-sanchome or Akabonobashi metro stations. It's characterized by narrow and quiet streets with twist and turns, and small bars and restaurants in between, which I found it lovely just to stroll around in the evening, something for a change then the often busy Tokyo streets.

A few months ago I had a decent evening of food and sake when I stumbled into a random izakaya in the hood. And this time, I decided to check out Yakitori Ogawa, a relatively new chicken skewer restaurant that seems to have received good reviews since its opening last summer.

I stayed quite late in office that evening but the restaurant is close to my office and open til late. I didn't have a reservation, but luckily, after a short 5-minute wait, there was a seat available. The restaurant is small with only a long wooden counter with high chairs that can sit around 15 at a time, and chef/owner Tsubusedo Ogawa is the only one working in the open kitchen.

Both a la carte and set menus were available - but most people went for one of the few sets on offer and order additional items at the end if they want more. The place not only offered conventional yakitori items but some other snack-size courses served in small plates as well. I had the 10-course, 5000-yen yakitori omakase menu which gave gave me a bit of everything - starting from appetizers, salad, chicken sashimi, a few skewer items, more small plates and finishing with soup and rice then dessert. Obviously chicken is the major ingredients used in most of the dishes, and Chef Ogawa uses predominantly Amagi shamo from Shizuoka, a special chicken breed with dark feathers and traditionally used for cockfights. The chickens are kept in a free-range farm in Izu Peninsula and its meat is said to be extra firm and succulent.

I would say the restaurant serves modern-style yakitori cuisine and they excelled in it. There were traditional courses like tsukune (minced thigh), sasami (white meat) or the rarer saezuri (throat) that were delightful, and there were also some western-inspired dishes. I particularly liked the chicken liver pate serves with thin slices of toasted rye and raisin bread - it's rich and smooth and went well with a slightly sweeter sake. Another of my favorite was the grilled masutake mushroom, with its smokey, meaty flavors. I am usually not a fan of white meat, but the sasami skewer was flavorful and moist, and enhanced by the freshly-grated wasabi.

And for a good, original taste of the chicken, the sashimi platter was not to be missed with three different parts being served, some slightly grilled on the skin and to be eaten with a light dip of salt, lemon juice or soy sauce. Only in Japan will I dare eat chicken in the raw and I love its texture and balanced flavor. I also like the shishito skewer (small green peppers) which I think was perfectly cooked with just the slightly charred skin and a hint of bitter aftertaste typical of this type of peppers.

The last savory course of the meal is plain rice with soy sauce and amagi shamo egg. It's an ordinary family-style dish that I found comforting. The egg has a huge, bright golden yolk which was very rich and need no additional seasonings. Dessert was a salt-flavored ice-cream which brought the dinner to have a satisfying end.

I would love to come back to this neighborhood in my future visits just to check out other eateries and bars around, and I certainly don't mind coming back to Yakitori Ogawa for some excellent chicken dishes again!

Where? Yakitori Ogawa, 1/F Wind Arakicho, 9-1 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
焼鳥 おがわ 東京都新宿区荒木町9-1 ウインド荒木町 1F
Menu Highlights? Chicken Sashimi, Chicken Liver Pate
Drinks? Kozaemon Junmai Ginjo No 20 (小左衛門 純米吟醸 20号 美濃瑞浪米)
Web: (Tabelog)


Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post but just wanted to know if the restaurant would be hard for a non-japanese speaker to reach and to order the 5000 yen set menu.

gary s said...

It's not that difficult if you don't have any food preference.