I have to admit, if you want to talk to me about seafood, I don’t have much to say, other than that I find particular deliciousness in certain breeds of fish. The finer points concerning shellfish and other various creepy-crawlies of the ocean’s wide expanse don’t really entertain nor entice. In fact, I find many undersea creatures far too alien for me (to eat). For example, I call lobsters “Ocean Roaches”. So yeah. I’m not the best person to ask.
However, this trip back to Japan, my husband finally had the opportunity to munch away with our two other friends – normally he wouldn’t take me to many seafood places (knowing that it’s not my stomach-forte). Taking advantage of this numerical upper-hand, we visited the local Isomaru Suisan (磯丸水産) at Takadanobaba not once, but twice, during our 4 night stay in Tokyo.
Isomaru Suisan at Takadanobaba is one of many in this chain izakaya’s massive repertoire. Like all izakaya it serves up good quality – well-priced food with the added bonus of copious booze at very reasonable prices. Isomaru Suisan has a significantly seafood-centric menu – and literally pages and pages of choice. The sheer amount of choice was blinding – and we spent much time poring over the random things we could stuff into our faces. As a non-seafood professional, there was still enough in the menu to keep me entertained (and full).
A nifty little bonus with this place is the presence of personal grills so you can spend your time anticipating food as you grill it to delicious perfection – and in many cases, only you can be blamed for your own late-night stomach cramps. The unfortunate downside of this is the strong smoke-fish stank that comes with it. So be prepared to enter this restaurant to the overwhelming smell of cigarettes and grilled seafood – oh, and to exit it smelling much the same. We got so used to smelling like random burnt things we actually set aside what we called our “BBQ Outfits” to wear to places where we could potentially run into smoke stench. We also investing in a bottle of extra-strength Febreze.
Salmon ochazuke – my favourite thing to eat in the colder months (and you’ll see it again in future eating adventures). A simple rice dish that combines green tea, steamed rice and assortment of savory ingredients with salmon sashimi and wasabi. Amazing when the temperature drops.
Fresh squid tube – pre-cut, that you can baste with the available sauces and then pick off to eat – and basically a sliced up kabana in butter – super simple, but absolutely delicious.
An assortment of different shellfish – you can actually select them by the type – in this case, a selection of fresh scallops, clams and whelks. They provide you with a variety of different tools and condiments to baste and cook your shell-fish (and other BBQ-able) eats to perfection. In the case of the whelks, once cooked, the small shell over the body is supposed to pop open with a jab of a well-placed pair of chopsticks. In some cases, as we witnessed at a nearly table, they need to be coaxed out with a vigorous slam with a pair of scissors – we witnessed a slightly splashy end to that whelk.
Kani Miso – crab meat, miso and what appears to be crab insides mixed together and then grilled. Apparently this is absolutely delicious. My husband nearly went as far to lick the inside of the shell clean. Because he’s a classy brother.
Clams steamed in sake and butter – cooked on your own table, so I had an entertaining time observing my friends and husband staring at the table for a solid 15 minutes. Oh, and then ravenous eating. Then my husband declaring he needed more clam soup.
They also provide an assortment of free fish cakes and tasties that you can grill away as you wait for other things to cook – an FYI – they really don’t take too long to cook (they’re pre-cooked) so a small heating up on your grill should do the trick. We lost a few fish cakes simply by underestimating the power of our tiny grill!
I think on our first visit, we were visiting quite late in the night (around 11PM, after landing and eating Christmas KFC) and we were joined in the restaurant by a huge variety of different salarymen – a handful were clocking away at numerical puzzles (yes, really) while absent-mindedly turning their burning seafood, others were celebrating with much drink raising and enthused shouting and one particularly sozzled man was busy talking to a wall in the back corner of the restaurant (a waiter went to go fetch him). So if you want to ease yourself into Japanese izakaya-culture without having the nervous jitters of going to a back-alley bar, starting at a local Isomaru Suisan is a recommended idea – people watching is always a lot of fun!
Consistently fresh, easy to order and satisfying unpretentious food at locations that are open 24 hours – this place is actually pretty spiffy. As the least qualified to speak of the deliciousness of seafood, I can say that what I did eat was delicious and fresh – and if my fellow travelling companion’s stomachs are to go by, everything else was damn tasty too.
Isomaru Suisan 磯丸水産 Takadanobaba
3-3-1 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture