One might think that eating underneath the train tracks is something strictly reserved for those who are a bit down on their luck but in a city that seems to shove stores and restaurants in every nook and cranny, I guess it isn’t all that unusual to find some great food where you wouldn’t expect…or wouldn’t be able to find without GPS aid.
Andy’s Shinhinomoto is a popular izakaya located underneath Yurakucho station, easily accessible via the JR Yamamote line. At first, you wouldn’t think much of it as the exterior doesn’t look like anything special. The interior doesn’t get much better. It’s small, cramped, and reminded me of some of the seedier bars I’ve been to in Hong Kong mixes with a bit of…and don’t tell me you don’t see it too…pirate ship.
The place is run by Andy, a very tall, very bald Englishman who I overhear speaking extremely fluent Japanese so I assume he’s been in Tokyo for awhile. I arrive at around 6:00pm and stumble through my usual routine of extremely poor Japanese and then speaking English like I would to a six-year old. Andy, hearing my vocal troubles, comes out from the kitchen to greet me at the front. Although he said he’s full for the night and I don’t have a reservation, he kindly manages to squeeze me in to the front counter.
The menu is available in English, although it isn’t bilingual so explaining to the Japanese servers what you would like might be a bit of a challenge. One or two of them speak passable English or you could always ask Andy for help.
Shinhinomoto’s specialty is fresh fish, which Andy buys from Tsukiji Market fresh each morning. The special of the day was John Dory, which I ordered along with a dish of sauteed Eringi mushrooms and a plate of garlic butter king prawns. I chose to forego the sashimi platter (which I hear is great since it’s fresh) since I had sashimi earlier for lunch.
I also ordered a bottle of Sapporo, which was huge! Twice the size of a regular bottle, I believe.
The mushrooms arrived first, served with a side of picked greens and a slice of tomato. I should mention that I love all kinds of mushrooms and these were no different. Simply cooked so that the natural earthy flavors and crunchy, slightly stringy texture shines. Fantastic.
My John Dory arrived soon after, a whole side fillet of the fish served with the same salad and a dish of hot sauce. The fish is cooked perfectly, with the skin side delicious and crispy as well. I’m not too sure about the hot sauce with the fish but maybe I just haven’t had too much spicy food since I’ve been in Japan.
My prawns arrived last, with three very large prawns under a bed of sauteed onions. The garlic and butter tasted great but the prawns themselves were slightly overdone. When you butterfly a prawn like this and cook it even a little too long, they tend to lose moisture and become a bit chewy. They tasted good enough but maybe a bit too long on the heat.
The draw of Andy’s Shinhinomoto’s is really the ambiance. The train passes by every couple minutes and the mixed crowd make it a very unique place to be. It is extremely popular with both locals and tourists and getting a seat without a reservation is unlikely so call ahead (03-3214-8021) to book a table. I arrived at 6:00pm but by 6:30, the place was packed and bustling.
Expecting the usual tiny izakaya dishes, I ordered three dishes but I was actually pretty stuffed after the John Dory. My bill came to 3,100 yen, a very decent price for the amount and quality of food. While it may not have the flair in presentation or perhaps the upscale creative taste of somewhere like Kaikaya by the Sea, Andy’s Shinhinomoto provides large portions of honest, delicious food at reasonable prices.