While in Tokyo, we asked a couple of new friends made over dinner to recommend a restaurant they would go back to time and again. In a heartbeat, Nogizaka Uoshin. Why? For freshness, good service and great value.
Uoshin is a fish izakaya chain and the Nogizaka outlet is a favourite for its character. A hop, skip and a jump away from the upscale Tokyo Midtown complex, Uoshin is a popular after-work hang-out for office workers from the neighbouring business districts of Akasaka and Roppongi.
The izakaya chain is owned by the Uoshin group, a major seafood wholesaler based in Tokyo. The Nogizaka restaurant sits in what used to be a gas stand and a cola-specialty cafe. The building looks like a shack with a mezzanine and a verandah both filled with tables made from wooden fish packing crates (printed with the words Uoshin in kanji) and stools made from plastic cases padded with thin cushions. The verandah is draped in clear plastic sheets, offering a glimpse of the action within. From afar, it’s a quaint sight indeed – curiously incongruous with the ritzy neighbourhood it belongs to, yet charming in such a rustic and down-to-earth way.
When we arrived at 7pm, the restaurant was brimming. We didn’t wait too long for a table, thanks to a tip from a friendly Uoshin fan having a light bite at the standing bar.
Given the restaurant’s seafood wholesale lineage, it’s no coincidence that the fish is wonderfully fresh and well-priced. Near the long open kitchen is an eye-popping selection of the day’s catch on ice, ready to be grilled to order.
The mixed sashimi plates (from ¥1,500 to ¥4,800) are excellent value for the quality. The Gokujo Sashimi Moriawase we ordred was a gorgeous platter of splendid alfonsino (kinmedai), Japanese butterfish (ibodai), tuna (maguro), Bigeye tuna (mebachi), hen clam (bakagai), gaper (mirugai) and sea urchin (uni). Fancy names aside, we prefer to call them delicious!
Our yellowtail cheek (we handpicked from the fish counter) was grilled to a salty crisp on the outside and still juicy and firm to the bite inside.
Springtime heralds the arrival of Sakura ebi, a tiny shrimp from the Shizuoka Prefecture. Our cabbage and wakame salad topped with a generous serving of the seasonal cherry shrimp and tossed in a very fragrant and appetizing soy sauce and sesame oil dressing was addictive.
Be sure to try Uoshin’s house specialty, the Nokkezushi (¥1,500). This is a kappa-maki (thin sushi roll with cucumber strips in the centre) sliced into eight pieces, then enveloped with lavish shovels of crab meat (kani), sea urchin (yesss uni again yeehaa), salmon roe (ikura) and fatty tuna mince (negitoro). Simply decadent. Too much of a good thing doesn’t apply in this case.
The one small miss we had was the Mentai-Okara (¥380), salted cod roe with soybean curd paste. The mentaiko-tofu combo was enticing. The dish, however, turned out too dry for our liking. Just as well, the perfect excuse for copious amounts of Japanese beer to wash it down with.
And yes we would go back.
Thanks Yuki and Mike for your recommendation!
9-6-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Tel: (03) 3405-0411
Open 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Sunday and holidays 2-9 p.m.)
Nearest station: Nogizaka (Chiyoda subway line)
Written by Jack.D
Photographed by Jack.D and Leni.B