Rera-Chise (レラ・チセ) - Ainu food *****
Address - Tokyo-to, Nakano-ku, Arai 1-37-12
Opening hours - 17:00 to 23:00 (last order 22:00, closed for lunch); closed on Mondays
Telephone - 03-3387-2252
Menu - In Japanese only
A very unusual restaurant serving food of the Ainu, the indigenous inhabitants of Hokkaido. The restaurant belongs to an association called Rera no Kai
(Wind Society), a cultural center dedicated to Ainu. Mini-conferences and artistic events are organized in that place from time to time.
The restaurant itself is rather small, with a couple of tables on the first floor, and a tatami room on the second. Several Ainu artifacts are found on the walls.
The food is extremely interesting, and significantly differs from classical Japanese dishes. It is based on salmon, deer meat and potatoes. We started with a couple of salmon dishes, including sashimi of frozen salmon (チェプルイベ, cep ruibe, 1000 yen) – since Ainu where basically leaving the fish outside to preserve it, and smocked and dried salmon (チェプとば, cep toba, 850 yen). Deer dishes included a fantastic tender steak served rare (ユクステーキ, yuk steak, 900 yen), as well as a saute dish with vegetables (yuk yasai no itame). Our favorite was definitively the meat roll with wild garlic "kitopiro" (キトビロの肉巻き, kitopiro nikumaki, 700 yen); the tender meat forms rolls filled with a local type of wild garlic.
Among side dishes, it is worth to mention the traditional munini imo (ムニニイモ, 700 yen) formed by frozen and fermented potatoes; at the first glance, the dish resembles to bread that would not have been cooked for a long time, but it is very tasty and perfectly marry with the meat. More adventurous persons will want to try the mefun jaga, potato served with a sauce based on the blood of salmon!
The cook sometimes proposes some "out of the menu" recommendations, and we had the chance to taste a great curry – the best I have eaten so far in the country. It is worth to mention that the staff is extremely friendly, and will guide guests on the road of the discovery of Ainu food...
In fact, our only slight disappointment was the imo sito & kabocha sito (イモシト・カボチャシトセット, 350 yen), deep-fried galettes
that were a little to greasy to our taste.
Drinks include a variety of nihon-shu from Hokkaido and local beer, all reasonably priced. Per person, the bill reaches between 4000-5000 yen with plenty of drink, which is a real bargain considering the quality of the food. You can also check most of the food pictures
on the web site of the restaurant, which might help you to make your choice. Also, due to the small size of the restaurant, calling ahead for reservation might be a good idea.
Directions : From North exit of JR Nakano station, walk past Broadway Arcade; the restaurant is about 12 minutes by foot from the station.
Internet - www2.odn.ne.jp/rera