Naka naka, Japanese for pretty
good, seemed a rather pretentious name to christen an
izakaya, and the temptation to find out just how good
this eating and drinking establishment was drew us through
the stampede of tipsy train-riders to the back streets of
Shinjuku Station. Alighting on the sixth floor of a building
surprisingly free of junk blocking the staircase, we slid
past an antique-looking oak door to find a darkened cloister
cloaked in a jungle of twigs and bare branches that could
only be the work of one manYusaku Kaneshiro.
Sheathing our umbrellas, we followed the waitress through
Naka Nakas maze, past a crudely chopped giant slab of
wood that served as a counter, beyond a dozen compact but
comfy-looking private booths, and into a small chamber already
occupied by several budding salarymen and OLs. A sizable screen
with sakura paintings hung overhead, and we soon noticed the
cherry blossom motif was copied on several decorative pillars
nearby. Finally laying our eyes on the menu, we discovered
that Naka Nakaunlike most izakayais stocked with
a decent variety of wines, ranging from Rosso del Veneto (¥2,500/bottle)
to the Golden States Heitz Zinfandel (¥6,000/bottle),
as well as sake and shochu, and we opted for a yuzu Grand
Imperius champagne cocktail (\650). Otoshi of fresh feta cheese
coated in basil (\600) arrived soon thereafter, confirming
the izakayas Eurocentric twist.
Clinking our flutes and surveying our surroundings
once more, we noted other groups of office workers cuddled
up in their booths in merry conversation, their faces lit
by the glow of Oriental lanterns. The prevalence of washi
throughout the izakaya, in lamps as well as floral patterned
scrolls, underscored a nod to Japanese tradition, and the
list of Japanese sake and shochu, from which we subsequently
selected Yumezuru wheat shochu (¥550) diluted in hot water,
was just as extensive as the wine list.
With the limited edition Hyakunen no Kodoku (¥800/shot,
¥6,800/bottle) beyond our reach, we stuck to conventional
brands like Awamori (¥500) and Korean Makkholi (¥500)
until shortly before midnight, when the ushering out began.
We made a hurried exit to beat the crowds to the elevator,
agreeing that our night out was indeed naka naka.
Open 5pm-midnight Mon-Sat, 5-11pm
Sun & hols. 6F, 3-34-11, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 5312-2845.
Nearest stn: Shinjuku.
Photocredit: Photos courtesy
of Zokei Syudan