Monday, February 14, 2011

Aka Oni (red devil) Izakaya - Sangenjaya Tokyo 赤尾に

Thanks to my friend Shaun-san (Sake Restaurant Sydney and Brisbane) I was introduced to both Kozaemon-san (super sake maker) and also Brend-a-han san (Tokyo local and ex restaurant manager)...  all three of them insisted wholeheartedly that we eat at Aka Oni while I was in town recently.  I am not even going to attempt to tell you how to get there as it is tucked away in a Tokyo rabbit warren and besides it is constantly packed - but if you do happen to seek it out and score a table I promise it will be worth the effort. 

They served very well executed, hearty Sake fare   - perfect for the impressive list of sake available here. Many sake makers visit this venue to check out the competition and other restaurateurs come to find new brands of sake to sell at their own establishments - these guys are that onto it. And I have it on good authority that  it can take you years to get your sake brand onto their list - only when your craft has been honed to the point of perfection will they take agree to serve it! I like.

Mmmm... chunky sake to start - specifically less finely filtered to allow some texture
Chicken sashimi and small taro and roe sacs simmered in dashi
Wonderful sashimi including tako (octopus) - the round white discs above the wasabi and a sauce on one of the pieces made from fish liver
Duck and daikon - has a certain ring to it  - ne?
Lightly cooked shirako (fish sperm sacs) served with ponzu, ginger and sudachi lime
Kakuni (simmered pork belly)
knuckle shaped satsumaage (fish cake)
hmmm... what else do you suggest we try....?
nagaimo with uni, wasabi and nori - where the mountains meet the sea, a surprisingly excellent combination
fish karaage with a vinegar dressing- crisp as can be and bloody delicious
Agedofu (fried tofu) with daikon and soy 


  1. Now...I have to ask, how did the sperm sacks taste? Texturally, I'm going to guess creamy/mushy.

    p.s. Jane, I've gone through bookstores looking for your book Grubs but I haven't had much luck; would it happen to be out of stock now?

  2. like a creamy seafood chowder... Texturally, there is a fragile outer skin that gives way to a creamy centre more smooth/custardy than mushy I guess. They can be slightly different in size, flavour and texture depending on the particular fish it sprang from... mostly I have come across ( pardon the pun) cod or fugu shirako in my travels...

    Hmm.. perhaps look online for Grub - it may be out of stock for now but likely to be on Amazon. Most of the recipes have been reprinted in some smaller format books called mum's dinners and nanna's sweet treats. If you can't find it I will see if I have a spare one at home when I get back to oz.

    cheers J

  3. Thanks for the uhh...detailed description of the sacks haha. I'm sure I'd be game to try it too if it were placed before me. As a child, I used to gratify in sucking the luscious, fatty brains out of fish but not so much these days. Don't even recall when I stopped.

    As for Grubs, it does seem available on Amazon but the only problem being I try to avoid shipping payments when I can; it's a tad costly from the US to Oz. The price for the book itself isn't a problem, though, so I may ask my sister to purchase it (she lives in the States) and then pick it up next time I'm there hmm. However, if you do find it available directly here in Oz, please do let me know. Thanks plenty, Jane.

  4. Hi Jane - I wasn't going to ask about the sperm sacks... but glad someone else did! Is chicken sashimi quite common? Somebody mentioned it the other day but in the context of "there's a place in Japan that does sashimi with chicken" so I assumed it was rare/a gimmick. What was it like?

  5. Hi Injera, yeah, shiroko is an unusual one outside of Japan but having been here for two winters now (while they are in season) you see them everywhere so they don't have the same "Shock value" for me as they used to - but I must admit I do still get a giggle when other people react to them.. And if we can eat fish eggs - why not sperm? Makes perfect sense to me.

    As for the chicken sashimi, no it isn't a gimmick but you don't find it everywhere. Mainly in Chicken specialist restaurants. Obviously some people are queasy about it and with the whole bird flu thing (which has just resurfaced again here) - I would think it has turned some restaurants off serving raw birds. The idea of it doesn't appeal to me but honestly it was very pleasant. Not a strong flavour at all - think of sashimi salmon compared with the flavour of cooked and you might get an idea of the subtle nature of the chicken sashimi. Texturally it was like eating really rare steak I guess. This version was lightly cooked on the outside. With a bit of shoyu and wasabi you probably wouldn't pick it as chicken with your eyes shut. Thanks for dropping by!

  6. Thanks, Jane! Might have to hunt some down when we're back in Japan (chicken sashimi, that is... not sure I'm game for the fish sperm!).

  7. Hi Injera -I would probably go the shirako over the chicken sashimi if I had a choice. Have you eaten lightly cooked fresh foie gras before - shirako reminds me of that texturally - only with a creamy seafood flavour. Foie gras of the sea! I really highly recommend it if you get the opportunity to give it a go. The chicken sashimi is fine but not exactly a gastronomic revelation. go the sperm!

  8. Hi Jane,

    Wonderful pictures ! I will surely go there in about a month. What would be the average price for a evening meal with or without the sake ?

    Cheers !

  9. Thanks Christian. Good question re $$. I think it was probably about 5000 yen for food per head (however we ate a LOT - we probably could have fed three for 10000 yen) we probably also spent about 2000-3000 p/h on sake but again.... more than we probably should have consumed!! It isn't the cheapest izakaya in town but definitely one of the better ones I have been to. Worth the few extra yen if you are into food and an authentic experience. Let me know how you go with it.
    Cheers, J

  10. Hi,

    Exceptional reviewing, giving me lots of ideas close to my heart (sake) - Does anyone speak english here..? Is it relatively easy to communicate ones needs..? Do you have any other reccommendations with regards to sake bars..?

    Grateful Epicurean..:)

  11. Hello there - very little if any English is spoken however if you have a Japanese friend, good hotel concierge or someone from the tourist information centre who could call on your behalf and let them know you are coming and perhaps order for you or tell them just to feed you good food and sake until you are full ( mentioning any dietary requirements of course) - that might be a great way around it. They were very friendly and its a great, buzzy ( but local) vibe - expect a few stares at first but they will soon ignore you when their food arrives! Hope you get there. Enjoy!

  12. Oh.. forgot to answer the second part of your question. Are you looking in Tokyo or Kyoto - I'm afraid I'm much better versed on places to eat and drink in Kyoto these days.... cheers, J