An often scowled-at and underappreciated fish in North America, the sardine is celebrated in dozens of dishes at Iwashi-Gumi, which means "gang of sardines." Try them pureed and deep-fried into golfball-sized croquettes over a pumpkin puree, or bobbing around as little fishballs in an aromatic nabe-style stew packed with tofu, greens, and shiitake and enoki mushrooms.
Sardines star as sashimi and tempura, they are grilled whole, they're stuffed into spring rolls, and they're shredded and piled on top of chazuke along with shiso leaves and nori. You can even crunch on the bones, deep-fried and presented as a sort of sardine potato chip.
The dining space itself is old, wooden and charming, and decorated with original paintings by one of the talented young servers. English menus are available.
by Rachel Krampfner