Archive for May, 2010

Takahashi-san: Wine and vegetables at a yatai

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Takahashi-san, a hip winebar yatai a few minutes from Ebisu station, serves only vegetables—exquisitely fresh, pristine vegetables prepared with only a gentle steaming, or perhaps grilled for an interval over embers of charcoal.

Season by season, the vegetables will change. Spring brings fava beans or asparagus: white, green, purple. Summer means sweet corn—long slender cobs of baby corn which Takahashi-san  steams so expertly that you can eat the long twist of corn silk still attached. Summer also means lily flower bulbs or bamboo shoots. The tender bamboo shoots, which Takahashi grills in their sheaths until they are charred black, are gathered by yamabushi monks from the hills surrounding Kyoto. He’ll also have eggplant so fruity you eat it raw as dessert.

Pairing vegetables with wine is decadently healthy. Descriptions and prices of ten to fifteen different seasonal vegetables are tacked up on the wall behind the counter. No fat or oils are used, except for the olive-oil based bagna cauda which you can order if you like.

As you make your choices, Takahashi-san will suggest a wine pairing for you. All the wines—Old World and New—are available by the glass. He keeps an impressive collection of bottles chilled behind his counter.

Some of my favorite are the steamed kabu, turnips; luscious potatoes, kabocha pumpkin, grilled brussel sprouts, green pepper with freshly shaved katsuo flakes, and the garlic gloves which turn a soft golden brown after thirty minutes in the steamer. Most of the items cost from ¥300-500.

Not to be missed is one of Takahashi-san’s specialities: the steamed shiitake mushroom caps filled with a spoonful of freshly squeezed sudachi juice. He says you’ve got to take the whole thing in one mouthful for the best effect. Delicious.

Takahashi-san’s winebar counter is among a dozen yatai in an enclosed mura. So if you absolutely need some meat, gyoza, or grilled fish to go with your wine, stroll over a neighboring yatai, order some up, and bring it back to Takahashi’s counter. It’s one big party.

Some evenings a nagashi, a wandering guitar-strumming minstrel, makes his rounds yatai to yatai. For ¥500 you can choose a song or two. You can sing, or just let him entertain you with his original songs.

Takahashi-san stays open until the wee hours.

Wine & Vegetable Takahashi-san: 1-7-10 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 080.5527.1117. Reservations recommended.