Having covered our Tokyo culinary capers in my last post, here are some of my gastronomical highlights from our short jaunt up to Kanazawa and Takayama. For those not yet in the know, Kanazawa is best known for seafood (and rice… but seafood’s definitely more exciting than rice), with neighbouring Takayama offering up some choice Hida Wagyu. I’m guessing you can see where this is going.
We didn’t really discover anything really memorable on our first afternoon and evening in Kanazawa and to be honest, we were slightly disappointed with Omicho market. Having been to Tokyo’s crazy busy Tsukiji, Osaka’s bustling Kuromon Ichiba and Kyoto’s beautifully quaint Nishiki, Kanazawa’s Omicho felt pretty much the same and just didn’t feel as interesting. Though, you can grab a bite out of some freshly caught crabs, but it will cost you quite a bit of Yens. Oysters though were a lot more economically friendly and you do get a bit more oyster for your Yens than over in Tsukiji, we happily partook.
We did wonder if it was because we visted Omicho too late in the afternoon when most of the shops were closing up for the day, sow ith a mental note made to return on another day, we retreated back to our hotel. The Share Hotel Kumu Kanazawa, it was fab. Trust me on that.
That evening, we managed to hit up Akadama Honten, a rather well known Kanazawa oden joint. It was good but nothing to write home about and service was unfortunately, rather curt. We did get our first taste of the Nodoguro fish here though.
What in the World is a Nodoguro you ask? Well, we had no idea at the time, but with the magic of Google i can now tell you that it is a Blackthroat Seaperch that is formally referred to as a rosy seabass. It is apparently, a high grade fish that can be caught along the coast of the Sea of Japan and in addition to being a popular choice for sashimi and sushi, they are also delicious grilled. Which was what we had. It was as good as it was expensive, but having taken a 3 hour Shinkansen all the way here, why not? Unfortunately, i was too tired to take any pictures so you’ll just have to bear with me on this one. Would i return to Akadama Honten? Probably not.
Day two was when things started getting more interesting as we loaded up onto a Nissan Serena for a road trip down to Shirakawa-Go to look at some scenic old houses and then to Takayama for more scenic old houses, and some tasty Hida beef of course.
Navigating the roads of Japan was rather easy with Google maps on our side but the Nissan Serena was a true dullsville of a car, not helped by its snooze-inducing CVT transmission. I swear CVTs were sent from the depths of automotive heck to suck the life out of every car they are attached to. The drone! The drone! But i digress…
After two hours on the JDM motorway (it seems most locals treat speed limits as “suggestions”), we arrived in the UNESCO world heritage site that is Shirakawa-Go. Old house jokes aside, it was really picturesque. Since this is a food post, let’s move on.
From Shirakawa-Go we got back onboard the Serena for another hour of JDM motorway driving towards Takayama. Our plan was to hit Ajikura Tengoku, a highly rated yakiniku restaurant serving up one of the best cow Japan has to offer.
Sadly though, it was not meant to be as we arrived to closed doors and a sign stating they were closed. This was meant to be one of my highlights of this road trip but life had other plans. I could have cried right there and then. But, that’s how some things go and we pottered on it was time to head towards Takayama’s historical district instead.
If anyone told you Takayama feels a little like Kyoto without the maddening crowds and super commercialised tourist zones. They’d be right. It really did feel like Kyoto without the maddening crowds and super commercialised tourist zones. There were foreigners like us yes, but you could still freely walk around and take in the sights, sounds and smells at your own pace. Or until the shops close.
It was in this historical area where i discovered Hida Kotte Ushi. I’ve had some pretty memorable cow in my life but this, this was on another level of beefy goodness. This was Wagyu epiphany worthy right there. I’ve had some really memorable beef moments in Japan, but these little slices of Heaven complete me. Damn i wish i can have some right now.
And I’ll remember, the strength that you gave me,
Now that I’m standing on my own. I’ll remember, the way that you saved me… I’ll remember…
Of course i had to go back before leaving Takayama. (After a somewhat lacklustre steak meal at Yakiniku Kaeda. It was actually pretty good, but not great and certainly not life changing. So far with my very limited beef experience in Japan, I personally think Steak Otsuka in Arashiyama Kyoto serves up a better JDM cow with Steak House Satou coming in a very very very close second. Kaeda does rank higher than Hakushu in Shibuya, i find that one a little touristy. Anyway, it was time to head back into Serena for our drive back to Kanazawa. A little tip for anybody planning on doing this drive, the roads are extremely monotonous and a big chunk of it takes place in straight and extremely monotonous dual lane tunnel roads, so do plot in some rest points. This journey was one of very very few drives where i actually felt tired and had to make a rest stop. The tunnel drives can really drain you and all your passengers out. Maybe it was the CVT.
Fast forward to our last night in Kanazawa, we found ourselves at Machiya Dining Aguri. A really lovely (and quaint) restaurant housed in a traditional Machiya.
No point boring you with details, here are some pictures of what we had instead. Yes it was a highlight. Yes it was good. Yes there was amazing Sake. Yes it is a place worth returning and worth mentioning to you.
We had another grilled Nodoguro here. Yes it was still good and it was still pricey.
With one last morning to explore the area before our Shinkansen back into Tokyo, we returned to Omicho market once again but i guess we were too early as the most of the stores were still setting up for the day. We had initially planned to have a sushi/sashimi breakfast at Yamasan Sushi Honten but they were still in the middle of setting up and were still not opened. Which incidentally led us to finding another eatery with a bunch of locals waiting to get in, this one was open. It was called Ikiikitei. They had an interesting queue system where you had to write down what you wanted on an order chit and stick it up outside the shop, along with a local number to reach you. When your turn comes, their friendly staff will take your order in and show you your seats. Boy, was i glad we saw all the locals hanging around outside. This place is gold!
Seasonal special, Nodoguro once again. This time lightly seared. Lovely.
And then, the main event. A simply devine Chirashi don. I think, i think this was the best Chirashi don i’ve ever had. They even sprinkled on some gold flakes just to make it look prettier, but Honey, ain’t no need for that.
Yes, this Chirashi don was one of the trip’s foodie highlights (along with Hida Kotte’s beef sushi). It was once again, sublime. We hear Ikiikitei sells out pretty quick, so if you are ever in the area, do drop by early!
With our stomachs filled up with amazing fish, it was time to grab our luggage and head back into Tokyo. Kanazawa is a lovely and beautiful place, but i’m not sure if i’ll ever return and this makes me sad. Sad because, i’m not sure if i’ll ever get to taste that beef sushi or Chirashi don once again.