Tuesday 15th May, 2012
With just 8 seats, how can an izakaya pub-style eating place return a living for its owner? While the answer is a bit unclear to us tourist types, it starts with a cosy venue, a variety of good food on offer, a cheery owner, and regular clientele.
For the four Central Coast Mariners fans on their way to the big game, the pre-match essentials of food and beer – or better still, beer and food – just had to be consumed.
And what better place than the Zen kushikathu dote shop just across the road from the Toyoko Inn Marunouchi we were staying at?
Peering in to the empty shop, overflowing bowls covered the bench, with various meats for cooking and numerous fresh vegetables and salads. Beauty, 5:10pm and about half an hour till we had to be on the train. All of the eight seats are vacant, so let’s go in!
Shinji Kobayashi raises his eyes from his newspaper he is quietly reading behind the counter. The shop’s owner for eight years let us know that he did not open until 5:30pm! Damn. The food looked fantastic.
After the game, we took the gamble that Zen would a) be still open; and b) there were less than eight people in there! Good news, some sated and sozzled patrons were just leaving as we arrived, giving us the four precious stools we were after.
We soon learnt that kushikathu are breaded and deep-fried meat or vegetables on skewers. We also learnt that we had no real idea of what the menu described. We also had not clear idea of what was in the ‘owners specials’. We also learnt – me especially – that sake is a strong alcoholic drink.
Following the departure of the remaining local patrons, Shinji spent some time describing his time at the shop, prepared us some more delicious foods. Shinji had recently commenced English language lessons, so we worked him through some new English words that we had used earlier at the game, usually directed at the ref.
We had some great conversations here with Shinji. A really nice hour or so in which we experienced another exciting element of Japan.
When it was time to go, we proffered a Central Coast memento. Shinji gave us 2 calendars with a couple of wood block prints on them by a ‘famous Japanese artist’. This was a very nice gesture.
Returning home, I googled up that artist, Munakata Shiko. Bugger me, there are 5 museums around the world devoted to his works!
So, if you are in Nagoya and want a fantastic feed, go no further than Shinji’s Zen place. By the way, the address is Maki Maru Building, 1F 1-8-8 Marunouchi, Naka-ku, Nagoya.