Honoka, Musashi Koyama 穂のか、武蔵小山
Before we visited Japan, we consulted the preeminent Izakaya expert,, and this was . In addition, Rebecca of “ ” has more than one extensive and detailed discussion of this place. This post is just to preserve our own “sake pickled” memories of the evening we spent there.
I called Musashi Koyama from the U.S. to make a reservation. I had to call early in the morning my time aiming at just before opening at 6pm Japan time. I was not sure if the master indeed recognized this reservation was made from the U.S. Nevertheless, on the second night in Tokyo with some jet lag lingering, we ventured out to Musashi Koyama 武蔵小山. You have seen the front of Honoka before in the aforementioned blogs but this is a must-have shot. I think we tasted a few from the list in the front of the store which appears to be updated frequently.
“Try not to be late” (in our case we had three transfers of metro and train lines from Ginza) but it is difficult pinpointing “on time”, as must happen to many people who don’t actually live in the neighborhood, we arrived early. After confirming the location of our destination and taking a picture of the store front, we killed time by wandering around the downtown (or main street) of Musashi Koyma until the opening time. It is a very quaint suburb and it was kind of nostalgic (for me) and interesting (for both of us).
Of course, we noticed as soon as we came out of the narrow alleyway where Honoka is located and snapped the obligatory picture of “the house of the twenty port holes”.
Although, we knew by the description we read that this place was small, it was smaller than we expected. The L-shaped counter will sit two at the shorter end and 5 or 6 at the longer end. The toilet was clean and functional but the door is multi-segmented to accommodate the tight space. The master, his assistant (wife?) and young “arubaito girl” アルバイトの女の子 or “arbeiten Mädchen” (meaning part time help) appeared to be the complete complement of staff.
Although the izakaya was not full, we were somewhat disappointed to find our assigned seats at the shorter end of the counter behind the “frying” or “grilling” station. The partition protecting patrons from accidental splashes from the fryer served as a very effective barrier isolating us from the rest of the counter and any communication with the master (albeit the upper half was transparent plastic). I had been looking forward to interacting with him but all communications went through the “arubaito” girl or “assistant”. This included some chiding “If you wanted to order more sashimi you should have kept your soy sauce plates”. There were only 3 other customers and one left fairly early so the long counter in front of the master remained completely vacant while we were delegated to huddle behind the fryolator. This is not to say, we did not enjoy the sake and food. There is no question, the master knows his sake. The food he prepared was excellent. Here is our account of what we enjoyed.
The followings are the sakes we enjoyed from the amazing collection of sake available. One thing that impressed us (and we also found at other sake-oriented Izakayas in Japan) is that there were so many good sakes in hon-jouzou 本醸造, tokubetsu junmai 特別純米酒, junmai 純米酒 and jumnai ginjou 純米吟醸酒 classes, particularly if you know how to identify these good ones. Dry or savory, all the sake we tasted were good and I am not capable of describing them in detail (please refer toof Honoka which contains an extensive description of the sake she tasted at Honoka; some overlapping with what we tasted).
We started out with flights of dry and sweet sakes.
This is the line up of “dry” sake.(from left to right)
1. 三千盛 純米 超特 極め辛口, 岐阜県 Michi-sakari Junmai cho-toku extreme dry、Gifu prefecture
2. 白瀑 純米 ど辛＋１５, 秋田県 Shirataki Junmai do-kara (extreme dry), Akita prefecture
3. 山形正宗 辛口純米 Yamagata Masamune Kara-kuchi (dry) Junmai, Yamagata prefecture.
We liked all of dry sake here.
This is the line of “sweet” or non-dry sake (from left to right)
1. あぶくま純米吟醸雄町、福井県 “Abukuma” junmai ginjou Omachi, Fuku-i prefecture
2. 鍋島三十六万石 中汲み無濾過純米吟醸、佐賀県 Nabeshima naka-kumi, mu-roka (middle press, non-filtered) Junmai Ginjo
3. 鳳凰美田 Wine-Cell ワイン酵母仕込 純米吟醸 山田錦米 2012, 栃木県 Junmai Ginjo Fermented with Wine yeast, Yamada-nishiki, Tochigi prefecture.
Again, all were good. As to #3 sake, my understanding is that this is Houou Biden fermented using wine yeast. The portion we were served was turbid or “nigori” but other description of this sake appears to refer to clear sake. This one, to me, was too sweet. It needed more acidity to counteract.
(From left to right)
1. 純米天狗舞原酒, 石川県 Tengumai, Junmai Genshu, Ishikawa Prefecture
2. 磯自慢 特選 特別本醸造、静岡県 Isojiman toukusen tokubetsu honjouzou, Shizuoka prefecture
3. ソガペールエフィス Numero Six 純米吟醸 生原酒, 長野県 Sogga Pere et Fils “Numero Six” Junmai-ginjou Nama Genshu (Miyama Nishiki)、Nagano prefecture.
The last one here was brewed in Obuse Winery 小布施 using wine yeast. This one was called “Numero Six”, so possibly seventh batch of the year if the “Neuf” was not counted as “Numero One”. This was a just last dreg left in the bottle and may not be representative. Fairly subtle mild favor with some acidity reminiscent of Sauvignon blanc.
田酒 特別純米酒、青森県、Denshu Tokubetsu Junnmai, Aomori prefecture.
We must have asked for an another round of Izojiman since the bottle appeared again. We must have really liked this Tokubetsu honjouzou Isojiman. This really tells you the depth of sake in Japan. Surely Izojiman Daiginjo is nice any time any where but even this “lower” class Isojiman, it held its own and we really enjoyed it.
As to the food, it was also superb. Here is the assorted sashimi.. Tuna and shime saba しめ鯖 were especially good.
I am sure we are missing few items since I am not as a good picture taker as other bloggers. It was my impression that when at Honoka, this is the must-order item; assorted flavor grilled miso. These are perfect small nibbles between sips of sake. We particularly liked the walnut miso (Since my gig is to make Izakaya dishes, this will be reproduced soon). We expected the “Uni” one to be better.
I am sure we had one serving of this dish before the miso; Sea urchin from Hokkaido. But it was so good we ordered another. This definitely was not previously processed but removed from the shell by the master himself.
After we ordered “Squid Okizuke”, the master recommended (through intermediary) this dish; shark cartilage dressed in salted plum さめの軟骨の梅和え. This was with nice crunch but quite salty.
We could not pass.
The check, at least by our standards, seemed reasonable after the extravagant feast and sake tasting. If we did the equivalent of this evening (although it is just not possible anyway) in the U.S., the bill would have been three or four times larger.
We staggered to Musashi Koyama station. I thought I had it all figured out how to back track the way we had come. We took the train to Meguro 目黒. From Meguro we were to take the Mita line 三田線 to Mita and change to Higashi-ginza line 東銀座線, sounds easy. After taking the subway from Meguro, however, I noticed that the first two stations were correct but the 3rd and 4th were not. So we got off hastily at Roppongi 1-chome (In retrospect, we took Nan-Poku line 南北線 instead of Mita line). We emerged to the surface in a very high end residential neighborhood with lush greenery and big mansions. It was fairly dark with a blustery tropical wind blowing. This did not look like in the middle of Tokyo. We were not entirely sure where we were. In addition to absence of neon lights was an absence of taxis. After some effort, we finally found one and the ride to our hotel was, fortunately, fairly short.