Enraku Mitaka Sou
Simple but thoughtful cooking at this intimate washoku gem
By: Jane Kitagawa | Apr 21, 2011 | Issue: 891 | No Comments | 4,150 views

david labi

David Labi

Jane Kitagawa

Foodies and franchises—they’re pretty much mutually exclusive, right? Not according to the Enraku Sou chain, serving simple yet sophisticated izakaya cuisine in Akihabara, Mitaka, Nakano and Takadanobaba.
Rustic in style, the restaurants occupy converted private houses and wouldn’t raise eyebrows along the backstreets of Kyoto. Enraku Mitaka Sou, less than a five-minute walk from Mitaka station, is an unassuming two-story affair.

A traditional door slides open to a dining area that offers a ringside view of the kitchen, dominated by a glistening wooden counter. Ceramic dishes of all shapes and sizes adorn the shelves while the walls, sand-colored, have been plastered in washi containing crushed oyster shells. Low-lying tables, zabuton cushions and chairs occupy the upper floor.

We start with a glass of Suntory Malt’s (¥480), for now skipping the Italy and Spain-dominated wine list, shochu, cocktails and sake. An izakaya staple is first up: the daikon salad in mentaiko dressing (¥720). This version is organic, the mentaiko-drenched matchsticks studded with flecks of yakinori, kyo mizuna and baby scallops. It whets the appetite.

Next is a serve of sashimi—today, kurodai, or black sea bream (price variable). Simply put, the fish is perfect. Super-fresh, it almost dissolves on the tongue, its slippery texture suggesting immaculate knife-work. Enraku Mitaka Sou also serves its sashimi with fine sea salt—an unusual combination, but it works.

Hibachi-grilled meat and vegetables are one of the Enraku group’s specialties. We plump for a platter of mixed vegetables (¥850) and one of the day’s specials, a side of duck breast marinated in red wine (¥600) to round out the order. A little charcoal grill placed in front of us, large discs of yama imo (mountain yam) sizzle as they hit the barbeque. Drizzled in olive oil and grilled until caramelized, they call out for liquid refreshment.

We forgo the homemade plum wine cocktails (all ¥580) for some premium jizake, in this case, Shikisakura from Utsunomiya (¥500 per pour). Barely acidic but fragrant on the nose, it’s a fine match for the tubers and accompanying asparagus, eringi and burdock root. It also stands up to the slivers of duck. Imbued with a smoky fragrance and a hint of red wine, these are magnificent. The accompanying thimble of herb salt imparts an even greater depth to the dish.

Menu in: Japanese

Dishes to share average ¥850 without drinks

No nonsmoking seats

Watch the chef counter-side, or head for the washitsu upstairs

Outstanding food, serenely elegant interior

Why the disposable chopsticks?

2-13-27 Nakacho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo

Tel: 0422-54-4778

Nearest station: Mitaka, north exit

Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-1:30pm & 5:30pm-midnight, closed Sun

Something from the agemono menu is in order, and what a revelation the deep-fried anago (conger eel) with two kinds of seaweed is (¥720). Light and non-oily, it’s how all good tempura should be. It sings of the sea and oozes textural oomph and a delicately sweet flavor.

Next, the Enraku group’s signature dish: gyudon like you’ve never seen—or tasted—before. A disc of tartare Tokachi grass-fed wagyu crowned with yakinori sits atop a bed of rice (¥980). Mixed, it really is melt-in-the-mouth goodness, and you’ll never look at donburi the same way again.

The dessert menu’s creamy houjicha bavarois (¥350) gives a sumptuous ending to a delicious meal.


Enraku group restaurants:

  • Enraku Takadanobaba Sou: 2-15-3 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. Tel: 03-3204-8989.
  • Enraku Nakano Sou: 4-6-17 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo. Tel: 03-3228-8989.
  • Enraku Akihabara Sou: 2-12 Kanda sakumacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. Tel: 03-3865-4778.
  • NB: Menu items, prices may differ depending on branch

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