Kitchen Earl: Eat, Drink, Life Advice

The Italian restaurant and pub Kitchen Earl has been serving food, drinks, and more to the lucky residents of the Kiba area of Koto-ku for several years now. On a recent late summer morning we dropped in for a chat with the dynamic and loquacious proprietor Mr. Hiromichi Yamanouchi.

 

 

Setagaya-born Mr. Yamanouchi dreamed of becoming a professional sportsman as a child, but began his working career at the research centre of a very large Japanese brokerage house, as an analyst in the human resources section. Tiring of the daily grind, he left and went to work in a sushi restaurant, learning the trade from the bottom up, quite literally. “I began with cleaning the place,” he said. “Then I moved onto chopping vegetables and finally I was taught how to slice and cook.”

 

 

Located just a few minutes-walk from Kiba station on Omon Street, Kitchen Earl attracts a wide variety of customers, from hungry locals to employees of the many large companies with offices in the Kiba area. By all accounts it’s busy, vibrant place especially at weekends.

 

 

Mr. Yamanouchi describes Kitchen Earl as a “casual Italian izakaya” and that seems a succinct characterization. “There’s a menu of course,” he says, “but people can ask for whatever they want and I’ll make it if I have the ingredients.” The interior is comfortable with room for around 25 people seated and plenty more standing.

 

 

One of the top sellers is the deep-fried chicken, a snip at 480 yen. Other deep-fried favourites, such as rice croquettes, spicy chicken wings and the ever-popular menchi-katsu (a breaded minced meat and onion patty deep-fried), are also available.

 

 

The menu also features octopus and tomato ceviche, bagna cauda, acqua pazza, chicken in garlic sauce, baked salmon, and so on. Salads are well-represented too, with a thinly sliced and boiled pork or beef (shabu) and vegetable salad, bacon and avocado or fish carpaccio salad all sounding very tempting.

 

 

The menu also features octopus and tomato ceviche, bagna cauda, acqua pazza, chicken in garlic sauce, baked salmon and so on. Salads are well-represented too, with a thinly sliced and boiled pork or beef (shabu) and vegetable salad, bacon and avocado or fish carpaccio salad all sounding very tempting.

 

 

Japanese-style simmered beef tendon is a time-honoured dish; hearty and healthy, it’s slow-cooked to melt in the mouth. You can’t beat a bowl of this and a glass of robust red wine to refresh your spirits at the end of a long day. It’s even better in winter. Again, it’s great value at just 630 yen.

 

 

Kitchen Earl offers a fine selection of wines at reasonable prices; mainly French Cabernet Sauvignon together with American and Chilean wines. White and sparkling wines are also on the menu. Beer is Asahi draft or bottled and there’s a full range of cocktails, sours, highballs, and shochu. As with the food menu, if there’s some particular drink a customer wants Mr. Yamanouchi will make it. He prides himself on being able to remember each customer’s drink of choice. The all-you-can-drink deal at Kitchen Earl is for three hours, not two as is customary in most Japanese restaurants.

 

 

Mr. Yamanouchi also makes desserts, including a rather intriguing soy milk crème brûlée. There’s also salt ice cream from the Noto Peninsula area of Ishikawa Prefecture and yoghurt ice cream with blueberry sauce. Sounds great!

 

 

Kitchen Earl can be rented for the evening for parties and plays host to many events. “My aim is to beat Saizeria and places like that,” says Mr. Yamanouchi, laughing. “It’s tough to compete against the chain restaurants but with hard work I aim to survive.” He also acts as a life advisor, dispensing hard-earned wisdom to those in need of it. Kitchen Earl is a fun and friendly place serving great food and drink; if you’re feeling peckish in Kiba why not drop in and check it out!

 

 

Story and Photos by Stephen Spencer