Narukyo has long been one of my favourite Isakaya’s in Japan. I was first taken here by a work colleague in around 2007 during a business trip to Tokyo and have been in love with it ever since. My attraction to it sprung to me on the first night I visited when we saddled up to the bar stools to the left and back and started with a glass of imo shochu and the rest just seemed to happen. Maybe it is because I always go with a regular, but I have never seen a menu (although I am assured they have one) and with just a hint of “what do you feel like” you wander through some courses until you are full.
I have to admit also that I have never set foot in their dining room, a more traditional Japanese / sit uncomforatbly on the floor type arrangement from what I have heard. Oversized western man no fit so the counter near the bar is right on for me. This is the perfect spot for me as I like watching the food being prepared almost as much as I enjoy eating it (ok, maybe not that much). From our facourite vantage point you can see right across the bar / kitchen area, seeing all the preparation for the food. While we have never been short of good food suggested by the staff, sometimes that dish the crosses your sight is what you want next ;).
As for style it is very Japanese and very seasonal. I have been there through many seasons and whether it is an appetiser of Oden from the bubbling pot at the front of the kitchen to the seasonal vegetables and seafood. Narukyo himself is a frequent visitor to the Tsukiji fish market for fresh produce and there are always fresh vegetables and fruit procured that day balanced on mounds of ice ready at hand to be crafted into something special.
There are always an array of grilled items available including sensationally marbled Japanese beef, tataki of tuna or bonito, and I am quite surprised at how many different ways I have been served what began as a chicken thigh.
The standard issue ending dish for me has always been Champon – a noodle dish quite unlike any other I have tried. If you search the internet you will be bombarded with simple explanations of this former peasant dish but no comments or photos will do justice to the flavour. This beast is part ramen, part yakisoba with an interesting array of fish cake, seafood, pork and other items included from time to time. The stock is vaguley ramen-esque but when quized the only answer I could get roughly translates to “secret sauce”. When in for a real treat, close your eyes and open your wallet and ask for the “deluxe” champon which with include oftern uni (sea urchin roe) or ikura (salmon roe) or sometimes even a giant hard shell prawn.
The owner, head chef, master of ceremonies and stand up comedian Narukyo of the restaurant of the same name ;). He is a colourful character as anyone who remembered what adorned the walls four years or so back but has a great eye for food and always keeps you entertained. I only wish my Japanese was better to understand the complete entertainment package.
So when you have a few hours of hunger to kill and Omatesando is nearby, find the nearest Japanese speaker and head down for a great meal and entertainment all round. Contact details can be found on their facebook page.