Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sendai City

We loved Sendai!  It is the capital of Miyagi prefecture and the largest capital in Tohoku region.  Sendai is very cosmopolitan, but not huge like Tokyo.  It is famous for gyutan (beef tongue) and lots of drinking establishments.  

We were shocked and saddened to hear that the city and surrounding area had suffered major damage from the earthquake on March 11, 2011.  What happened to Isshin?  What happened to Genji?  What happened to Aguraya?  We had wonderful sake and meals at these izakaya in Sendai, and we hope that the people we met there are safe.  

Isshin Kagenkan, specialized in Miyagi sake and atsukan (warm) sake.  A do-it-yourself sake warming device is found on each table.  

 Sendai's famous gyutan (grilled beef tongue) at Isshin Kagenkan.  Isshin was not  a gyutan speciality restaurant, but their thick-sliced gyutan was delicious. 
Cute and knowledgeable wait staff Tomomi-san at Isshin Kagenkan.

Genji, which opened in 1950 is a Showa era retro izakaya at Bunka-Yokocho.  After World War II, the area revived and thrived.

Okami-san at Genji.  Tsukedashi (small dish) comes with one drink order. There is a maximum of 4 drinks  (sometime more).  We first ordered a beer which came with a small plate of Tororo (mountain yam) with raw egg.  This first round cost 1000 yen.  The raw egg was so fresh and sweet that it tasted like vanilla custard when mixed with the tororo.  Second round was Aramasa Namazake paired with fresh homemade tofu.  Cost was1000 yen.  The tofu was so fresh and had great soy bean flavors. The beauty of this place was the drinks always come with food.

 Owner chef Sato-san at Ajitsukushi Aguraya, in Kokubucho-Dori.  The izakaya was recommended by Mr. Aoki of Kanetake Aoki sake shop which is just outside of Sendai city.  The Kokubucho-Dori is a famous entertainment street where you can find izakaya and bars to night clubs.  

 Food, sake, and shochu menu are posted at the ceiling of Aguraya.  They offer a wide range of sake and shochu.

 Drinking Onumaya Tokubetsu Junmai, local Miyagi sake.  Once pasteurized sake.

The entrance to Aguraya on the 3rd Floor of Abe Fort Building. 

Isshin Kagenkan
3-3-1  Kokubu-cho, Aoba-ku, Sendai, 980-0803

2-4-8 Ichiban-cho, Aoba-ku, Sendai, 

Ajizukushi Aguraya
Abe Fort Building 3F
2-1-10 Kokubu-cho, Aoba-ku, Sendai, 980-0803

Monday, April 11, 2011

Visiting Urakasumi Brewery

When we heard about the earthquake on 3/11/11, our thoughts immediately went to Urakasumi Brewery.  We had just visited them in late January at their location in the Miyagi prefecture town of Shiogama near the coast of Sendai Bay.  Shiogama is famous for having  the largest number of sushi shops per square kilometer in Japan (not Tokyo!), and as the largest tuna port in the world is quite proud of its fresh fish.

We were relieved to learn after the earthquake and tsunami that that the president Mr.Saura, his family, and his kurabito (brewery workers)were all safe.  It was initially difficult for anyone to get in touch with them since there was no electricity and phone service was severely limited.  More recently we've heard that they have fully resumed operation and shipping sake...hooray!

On the day that we visited Matsushima, we stopped by the sushi restaurant Shirahata which was right around the corner from Urakasumi Brewery to have a quick sushi lunch.  It was early one afternoon on a weekday, and we were seated in front of sushi chef Shirahata.  The master was cheerful and talkative, and we were so impressed by both his entertaining and sushi making skills.   He loved to talk and laugh while his hand swiftly moved to slice and make sushi.  Before you know it, he finished making a couple of omakase plates.  We were short on time due to our appointment at the brewery, so we quickly enjoyed the sushi and his homemade pickles.  Lunch was perfect!  We sincerely hope that Mr. Shirahata and his staff are all safe. 

We then headed up the street to the Urakasumi Brewery.  The brewery was founded in 1724, and is still responsible for making sake for the Shiragama Shrine.   It occupies a beautiful, well-preserved building where we met with brewmaster Mr. Suzuki.. (Unfortunately Mr. Saura was not at the brewery at that time.  He came to visit our store in NYC a few weeks later.)  He showed us around the brewery and explained their unique approach to sake making.

They still use old fashioned bamboo baskets to wash rice and strain the water.  Workers were counting "one, two, three," swinging the basket right and left like pendulum to strain off the water from rice.

After the tour, we sampled several of their unpasteurized sake and then thanked Mr. Suzuki as we said farewell before returning to Sendai City.