I awoke in the traditional tatami room for an early breakfast with the Shacho-san prepared in traditional fashion by his traditional wife in his traditional home. It was pretty special. We made the short drive to his distillery where the staff was waiting to greet us. The drive up the valley to the sakagura was beautiful. The distillery itself had reopened 10 years earlier after a complete remodeling.
There are some restaurants that are destinations and others that are comfortable neighborhood joints where you feel like a local even if you're not. Menchanko-Tei 55 falls into the latter category. It's a narrow izakaya in a nondescript area of Midtown Manhattan. The appeal is that it is situated in a relative food desert for good Japanese, several blocks away from any other restaurant of note with the exception of Katsu Hana (upstairs from Menchankto-Tei). The varnished wood walls give the place a warm feeling with its semi-open kitchen along one side.