One of our favorite things about dining at the Kichiri izakaya chain is the atmosphere. A visit to one of their taverns is all about elegance. The food and drink, while prepared with care and artistry, are secondary to the overall experience—an acceptable trait in an upscale izakaya. So when we found out that the company’s newest endeavor, Manaya in Ginza, is being billed as more of a straightforward restaurant, we wondered if the challenge would be met. The Kichiri philosophy is evident immediately in the clean-lined decor, at once wa and minimalist modern. When we arrived for a press dinner, the staff immediately recommended the house specialty, kiji tataki (¥1,029), or lightly seared green pheasant. Dipped in a simple soy sauce, the bird is barely distinguishable from chicken, with just a bit more chewiness.
A buta-shabu salad with crisp lettuce and ginger (¥788), plus a large bowl of fresh veggies with three dipping sauces (¥1,029), provided a refreshing palate cleanser. Next to arrive was the simple and hearty uni-meshi (¥1,890), an earthenware nabe of moist, sticky rice topped with savory sea urchin. Excepting the rice, the portion sizes at Manaya are small. Dishes are elegantly presented and subtly seasoned (no dark sauces or thick miso pastes here), in quantities that invite savoring rather than urgent gorging. But for a slow evening out with a few close friends, it may be just what you’re looking for.
B1 Yamashita Bldg, 8-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3569-2888. Open Mon-Sat 5pm-3am, Sun & hols 5pm-midnight. Nearest stn: Shimbashi or Yurakucho. www.kichiri.com/sites/manaya-ginza