Fieldwork #3: Pepe’s Dish

As usual, I came early in Nantoka Bar before it opens at 8 PM. There I saw Pepe still prepping his stuff for the night. The preparation takes some time, no wonder Pepe has to be there two hours earlier with his usual black cardigan and loose cargo pants. From there he takes it slowly without pressure whilst enjoying the ritual of cooking rice, boiling water, cleaning the fish and all essential stuff needed for the night. I took a cold beer from the fridge and asked him if I could be of help. He politely declined so I sat down on observed him.

I noticed his menu is very simple to prepare and yet it takes him so much time until his regular visitors gradually comes in.

A set of Sashimi/Sushi and a choice of tempura vegetables (deep fried vegetables with tempura crumbs) are the common dishes. Additionally, he serves grilled shellfish, which I usually order. His menu is so very basic that sometimes I wonder if Pepe consciously emulates Neolithic food diet – a pre-agriculture diet of raw fish and grilled edible stuff famous among maritime cultures in Southeast Asia. I haven’t asked to confirm, and so it remains a speculation.

That night a newcomer from Pepe’s twice a month bar schedule introduced himself. I didn’t quite remember his name but according to him he usually visits another schedule in the bar. But this time he wanted to try Pepe’s night.

Nantoka Bar is a self-managed bar served by different people each night, which I noticed that every master-servant has their own set of regular patrons. However, it doesn’t follow any strict tradition of bar system which excludes newcomers. Everyone are welcome and free to socialize.

One of Pepe’s regular patron is a farmer from Kunitachi who brings him a handful of produce. That night he brought carrots and Japanese radish. I asked Pepe what is he going to do with radish and carrots.

“I uhm… going to make it for a tempura or a salad,”He mumbled as he mixes sweet vinegar to the cooked rice especially made for Sashimi and Sushi. I was not able to try his Sashimi this time because I had to leave early for my day job the next day.

Pepe runs the bar until early morning when the train for the next day has already resumed.

Jong Pairez
3 March 2017


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