Jul 1, 2015
In keeping with the historical richness of Shizuoka, the types of food served in restaurants tend to lean heavily towards time-honoured culinary traditions. Yet, you’ll also find a surprise or two tucked away in unlikely corners, lending the city a breath of fresh air.
Located along Tokaido Road in Shizuoka is a tiny and former lodging town called Mariko, where travellers used to rest overnight during the Edo period. Taigetsurou is a restaurant that was restored in 1980 by owner chef Akio Yagi. He specialises in a unique dish called Tororo Jiru (grated yam blended with miso soup, poured over a mix of rice and barley). A favourite among the locals, it’s got an acquired taste and interesting texture that makes it a must-try for all.
Residing in a stunning cobalt blue two-storey house is Nori, owned by chef Fuminori Nishitani, a contemporary restaurant that used to serve up purely Italian cuisine but now focuses on fusion food prepared using the freshest Shizuoka produce. A must-try is the Asahina Bamboo Fettuccine, which features marinated bamboo shoots from Asahina Takenoko as its star ingredient.
Seems like fusion cuisine is catching on in Shizuoka - bringing with him years of French culinary expertise to Nippondaira Hotel, Executive Chef Hiroshi Haraguchi, who’s worked in Michelin three-star restaurants in France and started his own Michelin one-star restaurant in Tokyo, whips up tantalising French fare using fresh Shizuoka produce. While you’re there, don’t forget to take in the gorgeous sights of Mount Fuji and Suruga Bay through the hotel’s several observation points.
Of course, what is authentic Japanese cuisine without sushi? When he isn’t busy serving VIPs, you can count on acclaimed sushi master Chef Eiji Mochizuki of Suehiro Zushi to put together an exquisite omakase-style meal using only the best ingredients - even if this means he has to source from far-flung places outside Japan. His tuna, for instance, is from Cape Town, South Africa! Chef Eiji’s favourite Shizuoka produce are wasabi (he uses wasabi from Miyahara Farm) as well as the seasonal aji (horse mackerel) and sakura ebi, the latter of which the chef deep-fries individually before serving them in a handroll.
Another uniquely Shizuoka dish is Oden, a popular Japanese winter dish that comprises a variety of ingredients (daikon, hard boiled eggs, or processed fish cakes, tofu, potatoes, braised beef, etc.) stewed in flavourful dashi broth. Unlike Oden served in other parts of Japan, the ones in Shizuoka feature skewered ingredients, including kurohanpen (dark fish cake), a dark-coloured broth, and are eaten with a mix of powdered anchovies and seaweed. The best place to enjoy Oden is undoubtedly at Aoba Koen Oden Alley, which is home to numerous Oden eateries on both flanks. With the ceiling dotted with pretty sakura flowers and the alley lined with red lamps. We’re certain each tiny eatery serves great Oden, but according to a regular customer, Ai-chan boasts the most delicious Oden of the lot. We checked it out and were definitely not disappointed! Plus, we had fun chatting with the affable owner, who has a special way of making customers feel right at home.
There is a French-inspired outlet that lies not far down the Nihondaira Plateau on which Nippondaira Hotel is located. Called Patisserie Zoree, the 44-year-old cafe is artistically decorated with some of owner Mari Yokozawa’s favourite things - from colourful fresh roses to whimsical paintings. Psst … If you love cakes, you will be absolutely spoilt for choice with the delectable selection here!
Tempura restaurants are few and far between in Shizuoka; Tempura Sugimura is one of them. Like preparing sushi, making good tempura requires a certain technique that only seasoned chefs would know. Due to the variations of density, different ingredients are deep-fried at different temperatures, which is why kakiage-style tempura - which consists of a mix of ingredients - is often the hardest to prepare.
Chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s green tea of choice, Marumo Mori, recently expanded into retail in 2014 - a testament to their commitment to moving with the times. Located in a newly established lifestyle concept building in central Shizuoka city, Chagama was set up to draw the younger crowd and at the same time allow Marumo Mori to gather information on changing consumer tastes and preferences. To date, it is such a rare cafe in the world to use an espresso machine to brew tea! At the retail store, you will be able to find a wide selection of green tea souvenirs you can purchase for discerning tea lovers.