Photo by Chuck Tanaka Peterson
As a New Yorker who visited Japan often in the early ‘70s as a child, I have ingrained in my memory a pizza that was topped with squid legs. I remember the disappointment of the tentacles peeking out from under the cheese almost taunting me. For the longest time I avoided pizza in Japan. Besides, there are so many great things to get here like tempura, tonkatsu, and ramen, why bother with mediocre pizza? GQ contributor, Alan Richman—the “most decorated food writer in history”—encouraged me to check out Seirinkan in Nakameguro. I went, albeit with little confidence that I would be satisfied or satiated.
The first good sign, Seirinkan is easy to find: Just a few minutes walk from Nakameguro station. The restaurant is spread over three floors and a narrow, spiral staircase connects the floors. The owner, Susumu Kakinuma, has an affinity for military souvenirs.
Restaurants like Seirinkan that focus on their craft often have limited menus. Seirinkan’s menu offers simple ingredients like cheese and tomato sauce on handmade dough, heated in a wood-burning oven until crispy and piping hot. You can select from either a Margherita of tomato and buffalo mozzarella or a marinara of tomato and garlic. Pizzas this simple insist upon quality ingredients. Cooked to exactly the perfect moment, the middle ingredients melt together and the outside crust is puffy, scorched, and crispy.
The side dishes round out the menu with salads such as Caprese, or ruccola and Parmigiano, sliced prosciutto, and broccoli in a garlic olive oil sauce. The staff suggested that we save the garlic infused olive oil to dip the pizza crust into. Brilliant advice and it has become a regular part of every visit since.
Service is simple as is the menu. My only complaint is that the staff opened the wine before bringing it to the table. My three thirsty friends looked at me disappointingly when the server presented an opened half bottle. I wanted to refuse the bottle but my Japanese companions were too embarrassed.
Seirinkan is open for lunch and is often on the quiet side. Dinners can be very busy. Note that Seirinkan’s website advises diners that the restaurant will close early if they run out of pizza. While my craving for pizza no longer exists, the search for an authentic bagel continues.
Meguro-ku, Kamimeguro 2-6-4
Tokyo, tel: 03-3714-5160, Web: www.seirinkan.jp
This first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal: