shochu lounge's neon sign is at odds with it's dim interior and dark mahogany tones. as its name suggests it is a lounge type bar with low comfortable sofas. o had picked roka for my birthday dinner and we both agreed it would be better to reserve at shochu because then we'd get the best of both worlds - cocktails and food.
the cocktails were worth it, fruity but not too sweet with lovely citrusy and sharp flavours. shochu is described as vodka-like distilled spirit which i personally think is a bit misleading as it is much lighter and smoother than vodka. i loved my nightingale which was a combination of lime, elderflower and orange bitters. but even better was the summery peach tanuki with a hint of lemon to enhance the peachiness of the cocktail. we started with a bowl of the nutty tasting salted edamame squeezed from their pods. in hindsight it would have been wiser not to order these as they fill one up fairly quickly and leave too little space for what follows.
we tried to pick a mix and match of dishes. from the specials of the day we picked the langoustine nigiri with a peanut dressing. as we discovered through the course of the evening, presentation was as essential as the flavours and ingredients that made up the dish. and so the nigiri was served as a reconstructed shellfish. from the snacks, salads and soups part of the menu we picked the butterfish tataki with a yuzu dressing. the name of the fish accurately describes its taste. the flesh is the colour of a hand churned butter. the citrusy yuzu added the right sharpness to the buttery fish and the tobiko, texture. it was my favourite dish of the night. the fried eggplant, sesame miso and katsuobushi salad was recommended to us. small curved pieces of aubergine with shallow incisions in its purple skin, the flesh oily and silky and cooked to perfection. on the platter was smeared the sesame miso dressing and a thin scattering of katsuobushi leaf. it was really good.
from the roka dishes we picked the rice hotpot with king crab and wasabi tobiko which o really liked. whilst i could not fault the dish on the generosity of the crabmeat and tobiko, i felt that it lacked the depth of flavour that i have had with other rice hotpots like say the one at sake no hana. the rice was too wet and bland like baby food. it would have been nice if the rice developed a crust from the heat of the pot and had a sharp lemony kick. i found the black cod, crab and crayfish dumpling with roasted chili and ponzu dressing to be outstanding though. triangular dumpling with a delicate filling of three mild fish with a sharp ponzu dressing were just perfect! i am still mourning the fact that o got three and i got only two of those.
from the robata menu o picked the quail marinated in plum wine and miso. plump little deboned quail whose meat was made tender by the plum wine and miso marinade was grilled really well. on the side was the sharp sour umeboshi pickle and some kind of an onion pickle. the tart sour of the pickle was essential for the fatty meat. once again, we really loved this.
despite being very full both o and i had dessert. it seemed right to conclude a birthday dinner on this note. i had the signature roka chocolate and matcha pudding. o had an artistic creation for dessert - a combination of black sesame ice-cream with cherry macaroons. on the face of it the dark chocolate and matcha pudding was like most other molten chocolate puddings; a souffle like pudding whose centre was a mixture of chocolate and a really green matcha sauce with pear ice-cream on the side. but it was the matcha sauce itself which was excellent with a strong matcha essense. it was well that the ice-cream was more like a sorbet as otherwise it would have been too rich. well worth the greed!
we'd definitely recommend shochu lounge for a special night out on town.