In truth, this is less of a restaurant review and more a paean to the power of convenience. Would I recommend you brave cross-town traffic to visit Murakami Ichiya, a diminutive Japanese restaurant newly opened in the Palm Springs Shopping Arcade just south of Chaoyang Park? No, I would not. Would I recommend you stop by if you live in the area or, say, just finished a rousing game of football in Chaoyang Park? Yes, yes I would.
Case in point: Murakami Ichiya is a two minute walk away from my house, above my local branch of Jenny Lou’s (aka my money sink), so it isn’t that hard to imagine myself becoming somewhat of a regular.
The brightly lit, wooden panelled space with its open galley kitchen lacks something of the serenity that we often look for in the Japanese dining experience but the RMB 20 bottles of Kirin and friendly (if somewhat slapdash) staff make it easy to forgive the place its aesthetic flaws.
The menu specializes in the kind of Japanese food that pleases wallet and stomach but makes purists back away in horror (think: Hatsune in the crazier depths of their pages-long menu of sushi rolls). Their signature Murakami Roll (RMB 45) is a hulking Frankenstein’s monster of tempura shrimp, grilled eel, salmon and surimi (mock crab sticks), finished off with tonkatsu sauce. We ordered two portions. Follow that with the avocado-cucumber roll (RMB 26), although maybe only an option if you’re a fan of more of that tonkatsu sauce. Don’t sleep on the salmon sashimi either (RMB 58), a fresh and hefty portion for the price.
Rolls and sushi aside, Murakami Ichiya purports to specialize in grilled unagi (eel) (RMB 68 per portion). Skip it. The restaurant doesn’t have a charcoal grill – essential for the charred flavor that contrasts so well with the typically sweet sauce that glazes unagi – and there are plenty of other places in Beijing serving superior eel dishes (a few of which, including the flawless Missi Missi, can be found in this article). Instead, fill up on the potato salad (RMB 15), the very definition of trashy Japanese comfort food with its topping of tobiko (flying fish roe) and lashings of Kewpie, or the passable udon noodles in pork bone broth.
Busy both times I've visited and attracting middling reviews on Dianping, Murakami Ichiya is unlikely to set the Beijing dining scene alight. But for the sake of convenience, I'll be going back for those rolls.
More stories by this author here.
Photos: Robynne Tindall, dianping.com
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