Manaita: Takadanobaba
Takadanobaba / Izakaya
Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 3-33-3.
Open 6pm-midnight. Closed Sundays.

Manaita is a small, friendly neighborhood izakaya with a very good sake selection. The decor is totally unpretentious, with seating at a slightly cramped counter that's occupied by local customers who seem to all know each other. The wide-ranging menu is hand-written (and can be rather difficult to decipher), offering everything from grilled meats and fish to inexpensive rice dishes and teishoku fare.

Some highlights from a recent visit included grilled anago eel, yakitori made with jidori chicken, and nama-fu (Kyoto-style wheat gluten cakes) grilled with miso dengaku-style.

We also had a vegetable tempura that was a bit oilier than we would have hoped, but the huge warm-vegetable platter, with at least ten different seasonal vegetables, was a winner. From the menu description we had expected a bagna cauda-style anchovy sauce, but what we got were several whole anchovies scattered among the vegetables - a pleasant surprise.

We ordered our first tokkuri of sake from the menu but after that the owner took the lead, suggesting sakes that would pair well with our food (including a sturdy nigori that stood up well to the anchovies). Budget around Y6000 for a very filling meal with ample sake and a few beers.

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