Kanau is one of those tiny places offering quality food at reasonable prices that seem to defy economic logic. How can these places possibly survive having only one table for 4 and a counter seating 8? There are many such restaurants in this city, usually run by young couples. What makes Kanau stand out is the quality of the cooking.
Just now, while I was writing, I had to look up the name ‘Kanau’. As we never call this restaurant by its proper name, I could not remember it with any certainty. For us, it is simply the ‘bunny place’, because all the plates and bowls are decorated with rabbits. Even the chopstick rests are shaped as miniature, supine rabbits, and there are quite a number of critters sitting on the counter. These are not just any ordinary rabbits, but the images of one particular, plump, black&white bunny. It took us a while to recognise this fact. Once we did, we asked the owners for an explanation and were told that indeed, the model was a pet rabbit they own. They showed us some photos of the original, a truly magnificent specimen.
There is a regular menu with the usual izagaya fare - soba, dashimaki tamago (Japanese omelette), sobamiso (grilled miso mixed with buckwheat), and tempura - that we often plan to explore but rarely do, because the weakly changing, hand-written one-sheet menu offers too many tempting options.
We may check out the lower right corner of the menu first, which offers sashimi, or we may start at the bottom of the page and browse among the small plate dishes, featuring innovative combinations of seafood and vegetables. We end by selecting fish, chicken, or sometimes pork, and seasonal vegetables from the list along the top of the menu. These are prepared above a charcoal fire which burns quietly behind a glass wall at the corner of the kitchen counter.
The husband, as chef, stands behind the counter, working in an easy rhythm and listening shyly to the conversation and banter his wife carries on with the regular customers. She flits about the tiny space, serving food, chatting, and offering advice on the right sake (nihonshu) to drink. She often keeps a bottle of the elusive (and exceedingly nice) Juyondai in the fridge, and she also introduced us to Murayu from Niigata which has become a favourite with us.
Prices are extremely reasonable, about 8.000 yen for two including a few glasses of sake. We have never truly become regulars in any restaurant or bar before, so this is a completely new experience. Returning from a journey abroad, an evening spent at the “bunny place” makes us feel at home.
Food: 8/10 (excellent)
Ambiance: 7/10 (pleasant)
Ambiance: 7/10 (pleasant)
Price-performance: 10/10 (a steal)
Address: 1-24-1 Sasazuka, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo Tel: +81 (3) 6407-0035