Knowledgable staff, wide sake selection, and more...
Denbei is a sake pub / izakaya, and one of the main reasons I like coming here so often is because of its great sake and crispy skewered chicken skin, its signature dish by the way.
For the passive onlooker, a Japanese pub can look austere and uninviting and then there's the language question...? - Can I order in English, or will they understand my broken Japanese? Quite the opposite since they offer a menu in English - broken English. And the staff makes an effort to use English if necessary. The mood is warm and friendly.
Japanese pubs are the only places I actually take women, unlike my usually greasy spoon hang outs in Tokyo and Yokohama where I can act like a pig and show my true love for the food. Sake pubs are places where you can really enjoy yourselves. Usually I order up beer first then order food a bit later.
The sake being poured is from Yamagata Prefecture, and it's called Kikui-Sami. The Seimai-buai, which indicated how much rice has been milled, or the percentage of rice that remains, will often times determine the quality of the sake after it's finished...i.e. lower percentage, better sake. This sake is plus 2 nihonshu-do, which means the dryness to sweetness ratio - higher numbers indicate dryer taste - in some sake.
But if you are not familiar with the sake lingo, then just ask the servers, they all know their stuff and they can recommend some really good sake. One thing to remember, is that Denbei carries a lot of seasonal and rare sake, so make sure you ask for those, and the atsukan.
One very noticeable sake that I had that night hails from Niigata Prefecture, and was a (Hiya - Oroshi), a sake associated with being sold in autumn. Let me cut to the chase, the name of the sake is called kakurei, and it's one of the most recognizable sake in Niigata and my favorite.
This sake was exceptional, with flavor profiles which imbue ALL of autumn! Dry, crisp, and clean. It was truly our favorite sake for the night. I will buy this one for myself. This is the sake of choice for the undecided types. Rice is milled away at 55%. Can be ordered here.
A few other things I look for is chicken karaage ( crispy fried juicy chicken - boneless). It's just a personal preference for me. I love the crispy goodness that DENBEI's puts into it's chicken. Another notable favorite is the shitake, mushrooms. and the skewered tomato and bacon.
Remember, it's about the sake!
JR Yokohama Station it's a five to ten minute walk from the East Gate near the Hamabowl.