Comfortable Seating in a Traditional Decor
Teshigotoya Seigetsu (てしごとや霽月) an izakaya specialising in Robata-style cooking and Japanese sake, located about halfway up the sloping street connecting Kagurazaka and Iidabashi stations – the latter is only 10 minutes from Shinjuku via the Chuo line. They are open daily from 5pm to 11pm, even on Holidays.
There is an interesting map of Japan showing sake from every prefecture, displayed outside at ground level. I had passed it numerous times while walking up and down Kagurazaka-dori Avenue, but had never been inside as smoking was allowed. However, since May 2019, the restaurant has become 100% non-smoking. It was finally time to give it a try!
The restaurant is on the second floor, so we had to walk up two short flights of steps on the left, making a mental note to be careful when descending these at the end of the evening! Upon entering, I was surprised to see my name pinned to one of the shoe lockers – a nice touch for those who make a reservation!
However, this meant removing my shoes, and walking in my socks. After a quick check, I was relieved that there were no holes in them! After putting my shoes inside the locker, I pulled out the wooden block, locking the door. I had to make sure not to misplace it during the evening, easier said than done when sake is involved.
As we were led to our seats, I noticed that the restaurant was quite big, a little unusual since Japanese sake places tend to be on the small side. According to Tabelog there are a total of 82 seats, making Seigetsu suitable for large groups. On the left was an area with tables and chairs, in the center a dozen counter seats, and on the right, where we were seated, several Japanese style tables.
At first, I thought we were going to have to sit cross-legged on the floor. However, it turned out that there is a sunken space under the table, so that you can sit as if you were at a table. We lowered ourselves down onto the flat cushions on top of a tatami bench. I found this to be a good compromise between traditional Japanese seating and Western seating. Although there was no back rest, my shoeless feet felt quite snug under the “kotatsu”.
We were glad to be sitting at the sunken “kotatsu”, since the surrounding decor was typically Japanese, with latticed windows, and ceiling lighting made of washi paper. The counter seats also seemed interesting since they were opposite the open kitchen. Since Seigetsu is a Robatayaki restaurant, diners can watch the chefs grill skewers and other dishes over a charcoal fire.
Sake from Hokkaido to Okinawa
The main attraction for me was their stock of Japanese sake. Seigetsu has around 100 different kinds, including famous brands from all 47 prefectures of Japan. Even Okinawa, a place more renowned for “awamori” is represented. I have to admit that even though I was tempted, I didn’t dare order Okinawa’s “Reimei”. I guess I am a bit of a sake snob!
We were pleased to be given a detailed Japanese sake menu in English. In my experience, food menus at restaurants are usually translated, but drink menus often aren’t. I thought the following things were especially good and unique about their English sake menu:
- – Sake is organised per region and prefecture
- – Key information, such as polishing rate and sake meter value, is provided
- – There are recommendations for hot sake or “kanzake” (not every sake is suitable for heating)
They also have a list of recommended sake outside the regular menu that changes on a monthly basis (Japanese only) which includes seasonal “namazake” (unpasteurised sake).
Another interesting aspect of Seigetsu is that you can choose from 4 different serving sizes:
- – Small glass (70ml) or “sho gurasu” (小グラス)
- – Large glass (140ml) or “dai gurasu” (大グラス)
- – Bottle (210ml) or “tokkuri” (徳利)
- – Large bottle (360ml) or “nigo tokkuri” (2合徳利)
Since we were keen on sampling sake from many different prefectures, we mainly ordered the smallest glasses. However to keep costs down, we also ordered the larger bottles and shared them. We had briefly considered the all-you can drink course from 5000 yen (2 hours including food) but we opted for a more leisurely evening, during which we could savour our sake.
We really liked how the staff would kneel on the tatami and pour the drinks directly from the bottle right up to rim. Sometimes, the sake even spilled over slightly – better a glass completely full than nearly full! The main drawback is that it’s hard to drink a cup that is full to the brim. My advice is, rather than lift the glass, slide it over first and take a quick sip. Not good manners, perhaps, but better than spilling more of that good stuff on the table.
Filling the glass like this is quite a skill!
Raw Fish and Grilled Meats
Sake is best enjoyed with some food and we tried several dishes from the menu, also translated in English. Since they specialise in robatayaki cuisine, many of the menu items consists of skewers and other grilled dishes. Here are some of the dishes we especially liked:
- – Cheese “tsukune”
- – Regular “tsukune”
- – Boneless “tebasaki”
- – Homemade tofu
- – Deep-fried yuba with shrimp and cheese
Be careful when biting into the last dish, since the melted cheese can squirt out. The homemade tofu can be seasoned with salt – just a pinch will suffice – and umami-packed bonito flakes.
However, the most important dish to order when having sake is, of course, sashimi. Seigetsu has an excellent sashimi assortment. I’d also recommend getting the steamed rice salmon and salmon roe or “ikura” – it’s filling and tasty.
As the evening progressed, we asked for more water. It’s important to drink water regularly to avoid getting too tipsy. They brought us…a sake bottle labeled “yawaragimizu seigetsusui”. Looking closely, we realized it was a bottle of water imitating a sake bottle. The alcohol content was clearly labeled as 0%. The name translated at “soft water, Seigetsu water”. Finally, the kanji on the label was the one for water (水). Although, it felt weird to pour ourselves glasses of water from it, it suited the atmosphere of a Japanese sake restaurant perfectly!
For smartphone users, please click the link below to go to the Tadaima Japan website which includes additional location details:
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