Food & Drink | TOKYO FOOD FILE

Bakushuan Nihonbashi: Oysters don’t get much better than this

by Robbie Swinnerton

Contributing Writer

Bakushuan Nihonbashi is keen to make sure you know what to expect. “We’re a craft beer and sake place,” they tell you when you call to reserve. It’s not so much a warning as an invitation: Come prepared to explore both beverages in considerable depth.

In fact, the beer part is already clear from the name, bakushu being an older Japanese term for the brew. Nor is the sake component unexpected, at least for anyone who has visited Bakushuan’s sister branches in Otsuka and Ebisu.

But what should really be mentioned when you phone is that, besides the 11 taps of craft beer (plus one of generic Sapporo) and the considerable cellar of artisan nihonshu — 80-plus types, many of them limited edition or otherwise rarely available in the city — this branch of Bakushuan has a very reliable kitchen. And, while the menu is not extensive, the quality is a considerable cut above the standard of an average izakaya tavern.

At the top of the list — and a compelling reason for visiting while it’s still peak season — are the oysters. Currently three varieties are being served: Senposhi, from the east coast of Hokkaido; Sentan from Hiroshima; and fleshy jumbo Hirotawan, from Miyagi. Order a mixed plate (one of each; ¥1,700), either steamed or raw on the half shell. They’re so good, you’ll probably want to try them both ways.

The big question here is what to drink. Do bivalves go better with beer or sake? If it’s sake, you have two options: play safe and order whatever you know and like; or get Norimitsu Tamaki, Bakushuan’s friendly manager, to make the selection. Chances are it will be remarkable and from a brewery that you’ve never heard of.

There’s plenty more on the menu besides oysters. Needless to say, you’ll find good sashimi and lots of the miscellaneous fermented marine tidbits that are a feature of sake drinking in Japan. The other day they even received a small consignment of shira-uo (tiny ice fish), which were served live or pickled in sake.

Look also for the striking potato salad made of yellow Inca no Mezame potatoes topped with crunchy, smoky iburigakko pickles; the duck breast salad; and, notably, the Daisen-dori chicken from Tottori, which is grilled and seasoned with sansho pepper. In the end though, you’ll find it hard not to go back to the oysters.

Don’t leave without ordering the kaki furai, two of those jumbo mollusks, breaded and deep-fried, served with a homemade tartar sauce that incorporates pickled takana greens in place of capers. When the oysters are this fresh, plump and well-sourced, you’ll struggle to find better.

This branch of Bakushuan has a lot going for it, but perhaps the biggest attraction at this time of year is the view. From the upstairs window you look out on a sakura tree that is ready to burst into bloom. With good food and drink at hand, you have all the ingredients here for a fine cherry blossom viewing.

Lunch from ¥1,000; some English spoken