One of the perks of writing a blog about life in Japan with an active readership of 1 or 2, is that occasionally I get asked to check out nice restaurants around Tokyo, sample their fare and then review the overall experience. Happens all the time.
Well, OK. not really all the time. But it did happen the other day.
I was invited to SOZAIYA in Yaesu (a neighborhood in Nihonbashi). Sozaiya is an izakaya chain originally from Nagoya. It’s apparently most famous for its reasonably priced fresh sashimi and, of course, a few Nagoya-style dishes.
While I’m not usually a big fan of chain izakayas, they definitely have their place in this world. They tend to be cheaper than an equivalent grade private izakaya and the menu tends to stay fixed (so they rarely run out of food and the menu is roughly the same season to season). I found that Sozaiya is a little bit different in that respect. The word Sozaiya comes from 素材 (sōzai) which means “fresh raw materials.” So the concept is more like a mom & pop izakaya than a big chain. Meats, fish and vegetables are brought in daily and if they run out, they run out. Your choices of sashimi may be limited by both season and availability (and I’m assuming market price). According to the staff at the Yaesu shop where I was, the taste/quality may vary from location to location and they insisted – quite adamantly – that their shop was the best in Tokyo.
Everything I sampled was freaking awesome. I particularly liked the tempura and miso katsu kushi.
So let’s take a look at some of the goodies:
One of my favorites of the whole night was 穴子天ぷら (anago tempura). This is saltwater eel quickly deep fried in a thin, light crispy batter. Sozaiya serves it with a special salt that I don’t know the name of it, but it was really delicious. While anago is not a food limited to Nagoya, the city has many famous dishes that feature it.
Another delicious dish was the えび醤油ソテー (ebi shōyu sotē), baby shrimp sautéed in soy sauce. Don’t be put off by the feet and antennæ, they’re crunchy, delicious and go well with beer!
Then it was time to get healthy, so they brought me a dish which I can’t remember the name of, but I can tell you what it was. The sauce was made from shredded seaweed and you can see the homemade tōfu on the top sliced into 3 chunks. On the right hand side, you can see yuba. Yuba is a byproduct of tōfu. Small bits of tōfu rise to the top of the water and settle on top and make a film (skin). That film is scraped off and saved in sheets that are rolled up for storage. Yuba can be eat raw, as here, where it’s called 湯葉刺 (yubasashi), or used as an ingredient in other dishes. It’s yummy and super good for you.
As Sozaiya is an izakaya, you have to drink alcohol. I mean, it’s in the name izakaya! (居酒屋 = being + alcohol + shop). As you may know, I take issue with the way in which draft beer is usually poured in Japan, but at Sozaiya I was served a cold, frosty beer without excessive head. Proper!!
Drinking beer makes yours truly crave fried food. Had to try the potato croquets… yummy!!
In Nagoya, there is a famous dish called Miso Katsu. It’s like ton katsu, but smothered in miso paste. Well, Sozaiya has a version of this served on a stick (called 串 kushi). It’s crunchy and porky and miso-y and all around delicious. I coulda nibbled on these all night long!
For dessert, I was given this beautiful pineapple sherbert. It was served inside a real pineapple and had little chunks of real pineapple inside the ice cream as well. Highly recommend this!!
The Korean Style Seaweed salad, which I don’t have pictured here, was also absolutely delicious. At first I thought the Korean seaweed was too salty, but I quickly got used to the taste.
Basically, everything was really delicious. I was a bit skeptical at first, it being a chain and all, but actually, nothing that I tasted was “average” or worse. It was all ranging from “really good” to “excellent.” The service was really genki, too, which made for a good experience all together.
At the end of the meal, they even hooked me up with some 20% off coupons and told me that the menu switches over to all new items for the Fall starting next week, so I’ll definitely be taking advantage of that!
Who says writing a blog that no one reads doesn’t have its perks? lol
Here’s the address of the shop I visited:
Here’s the webpage of the shop I visited:
Here’s the main website for the company (to find one near you):
μαrκy sταr( -_-)凸