The year of the lockdown hasn’t been all that conducive for dining out and subsequently, the writing of said dining out. But there are still a few great eateries I need to expound on before we banish all memory of 2020 to a box, locked and thrown to the bottom of the ocean. One such spot is Freeman Shokudo, a pit-smoked BBQ joint in the Hatagaya locale.
Stepping into the restaurant from the cold December winds of Nishihara Shotengai and you’ll find yourself greeted by an ambience that feels like an indie kids club house. The wooden interior invokes the old school charm of a Brooklyn loft apartment. And as if to cement that message even further, a formidable fridge sat across from us filled to the brim with a selection of beers we didn’t feel cool enough to order. The overall atmosphere feels as warm as the vocals of ‘Come Together’ which plays off a sky blue vinyl record player. If you’re in need of a Tinder first date icebreaker, asking your partner what their favourite Beatles song is a pretty great one. For obvious reasons, mine is Norwegian Wood.
Bob Ross says there are no mistakes, only happy little accidents, in which case I accidentally went to Freeman Shokudo at lunch time when the Insta-viral BBQ ribs are unfortunately not on the menu. Owner and operator, Jeremy Freeman says he prepares them fresh to serve everyday which is why they’re only available from 6 pm onwards.
Nevertheless our silver lining is being able to order from their lunch time specials, which are made up of a series of interesting sandwich options. Midway through purveying the menu, the Freeman team rather helpfully let me know of today’s off-the-menu item, chicken soup. I’m not sure if it was my cold and miserable face that gave away how much I needed it, but we made sure we put two bowls of it into our orders, amongst the rest of lunch.
Smoked Saba Sandwich + Chicken Soup
It’s not long before our sandwiches arrive and the ravenous eating begins. The smoked saba sandwich comes in the form of shredded mackerel pieces with mustard seeds, diced onion and a creamy base combed through. It’s well-balanced enough that the infamously fishy mackerel is anything but while the smokiness gives it depth. The pickled onions and cucumber sit on top with their acidic flavour profiles cutting through the fat. It might be a simple addition but just like the quiet mention of an off-menu soup, Freeman Shokudo is all about the little details.
Pulled Pork Sandwich + Chicken Soup
Next up is the pulled pork sandwich, which borrows the same principles of balancing heaviness with a bit of tang. The rich and unctuous pork plays nicely with some shredded purple cabbage and pickles are included yet again for good measure. To the side of both sandwiches is a broth of chicken, onions and celery that successfully bring me back to life. A bite of a sandwich here, a slurp of soup there, rinse and repeat.
An honourable mention is in order for the mini bowl of curry you can order as an addition to your meal. The flavour seems like a cross between Japanese curry and Indian dahl, with a much heavier smattering of spices making it less sweet and more hearty. Buried in the middle of the bowl is a handful of rice, because what is curry without rice?
If this blog post thus far feels slightly incomplete, it’s because it is. Certainly I have unfinished business by way of needed to return for what I originally came for, which are the full gamut of Freeman Shokudo’s BBQ offerings. Judging by the popularity of this up-and-coming eatery, I’ll certainly have no shortage of friends who will want to come along. And hopefully one of them will order a beer.