Restaurant Review: ã˜ã‚…ã’ã‚€ Nishinomiya
The perennial cheapskate in me will always be happy to find a good deal on the drinks/good food combo. When the same is offered right on my doorstep I can never decide if it’s a good thing, or just dangerous for the wallet and waistline. On this occasion I am very much leaning towards the ‘good thing’ side of the equation.
ã˜ã‚…ã’ã‚€(Jugemu) is a yakitori-heavy chain of izakayas based in Nishinomiya, in and around Koshien stadium (see map). The blue and yellow flags outside, emblazoned with ç”²ååœ’ãƒ’ãƒ¼ãƒãƒ¼æšã’(Koshien hero-age) make them easy to spot, and indicate that they are firmly based in Hyogo and proud of its most baseball-centric institution. (There’s a branch next to the stadium itself and, since they do take-out, useful if you feel the need for chicken on your way to a game. In researching this article, I also discovered there are locations beyond ã˜ã‚…ã’ã‚€ that sell ãƒ’ãƒ¼ãƒãƒ¼æšã’, click here for more info).
On this occasion, we were headed to the Mukogawa branch, of particular use to anyone living in Rainbow Town (though others might prefer those slightly closer to Koshien itself). The tiny shop front doesn’t lead into a grandiose restaurant spread over a plethora of floors; this is a small place, with two large(ish) tables, a long counter you can eat at and a few tiny tables for two (perfect for dates). It can get busy given how small it is, so reservations would be recommended for larger groups. No longer advertised outside, the previously mentioned food and drink deal is still available. It consists of 3 drinks and a set course of food including salad, ãƒ’ãƒ¼ãƒãƒ¼æšã’, yakitori and more, all for 2000å††. Given that a beer alone is 450å††, you are potentially getting a decent selection of food for significantly less than 1000å††. It’s a bargain, and all drinks on the menu are included. You can’t get it if you’re on your own though, so take at least one friend with you.
The first offering off the course is the salad. This comes topped with a dome of freshly fried spring roll wrapping which not only looks good, but also adds that extra bit of texture to the refreshing and crisp salad. Depending on the number of people you might get additional salads with different varieties too, but ‘dome salad’ as I like to call it (or sometimes ‘tasty-tasty yum times’ salad) seems to be a constant.
Next up is the justifiably pride-inducing chicken wing karaage, and well do they deserve to smile about it. Available in four varieties, the garlic is by far and away my favourite. That said, they all present you with succulent morsels of chicken-y heaven. The wings are prepared in such a way as to almost look like mini fried legs. Whether that’s the intent or not, the bone ‘handle’ created makes for decidedly less greasy fingers than your average éª¨ä»˜ãæ‰‹ç¾½ç„¼ã (chicken wings) I’m not entirely sure if you can choose the flavour on the set, but you’ll probably want some more of these little gems afterwards anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.
Yet this remains a yakitori place, and the carefully skewered and grilled meats are fantastic too. One of the truly great things about the 2000å†† set (and, I would argue, sets in general) is that it acts as such a good introduction to what they have on offer.Â You get some chicken and leek, chicken meatballs, and (I don’t doubt a proportion of those reading this will go ‘eewwww’ at this point) chicken skin, along with other bits and pieces. By turns juicy and crispy, they act as a welcome starter pack to the world of chicken-on-sticks as done by Japan.
The slightly disappointing last item on the set list is French fries. They aren’t bad by any means, but neither are they anything to write home about, so I’ll return to the yakitori.
The set complete, it’s time to start extra-ordering, which I would really recommend. Everything I have ever eaten here has been perfectly cooked. Moist chicken oozing with flavour, it can be difficult to stop eating when there are things you have yet to try.Â For me, I don’t think I would ever feel a trip to ã˜ã‚…ã’ã‚€was complete without having at least one order of shiso-ume yakitori.Â The sharpness of the ume, the almost metallic shiso and the succulent chicken make for a mouth-wateringly good combination. It’s also always fun seeing what non-menu items they have advertised around the bar as well.
I really hope the other branches are as good as this one, and next time you’re down Nishinomiya way, why not give one of them a go!
Pro tip â€“ don’t feel the need to finish all the ‘set drinks’ before starting to order more food. This isn’t a time limited operation!