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Nagoya - Japan

While not as famous as some other cities in the nation when it comes to gastronomical enjoyment, residents here are known to be fussy consumers, so quality is often consistently high wherever you go. There is also an appreciation for cuisine from other cultures, although some specific countries stand out more than others—France (Dr. Mao, Shirayuki Brewery Village Grand Place), Italy (Nishiki Kabenokabe, Yoshikawa Enoteca), India (Eikokuya) and China (Wan Fu, Taiwan Ramen Motoyama) are some of the more obvious. For exotic nights out, why not opt for something less classical, such as Downunder or Nova Urbana for antipodean and Brazilian fare, respectively.

Local specialties include several noodle dishes, a famous crustacean and a popular fowl, as well as a delicate sweet.

The people of Nagoya have a reputation (it is almost a national joke) for liking specific ways of preparing shrimp or prawns, called ebi in Japanese. The dish most synonymous with Nagoya is ebi-furai—deep fried prawns—usually served with a cabbage-based salad, miso soup and rice. Try Ebisuya. Another way that this tasty crustacean is prepared is ten-musu—tempura-fried shrimp encased in a rice ball wrapped in nori (seaweed).

Another culinary eccentricity of the people of Nagoya is their fondness for the rich taste of miso paste for flavouring various dishes. Pork cutlets will often be smothered in such a sauce in a dish called misokatsu. A real treat, however, is misonikomi udon. This dish is based on thick wheat noodles called udon boiled in a savory miso broth along with other ingredients, including leeks, egg and chicken. It will arrive at your table in the same heavy porcelain crock that it was boiled in, often still bubbling. It is a popular winter dish all over Japan, but in Nagoya you can find it all year round. The chicken found in misonikomi udon will often be Nagoya cochin, locally bred to be particularly flavourful and offered in various ways in restaurants. Speaking of which, another popular chicken dish is tebasaki, spicy fried wings, good as an appetizer and with beer. Talking of flavours and spices, you might want to try Karakuchi, an interesting theme restaurant centreed on the humble pepper.

Another noodle dish often associated with Nagoya is kishimen—again a wheat noodle, often thinner and flatter than udon, prepared in a dried bonito broth with other ingredients. It can be found at stalls at many sightseeing spots around the city, as well as in restaurants. One of the best places to eat kishimen is at stalls on the platforms of major train stations around the city. The taste varies from station to station and platform to platform, but one of the best is on the Tokkaido Main Line platform of JR Nagoya Station. The noodles are usually slurped standing at the counter, but if you are in a hurry to catch a train, they can be put into a Styrofoam bowl for you to take along.

If you have a sweet tooth, one local speciality is uiro, a delicately flavoured jelly-like cake made of sugar and rice flour. Like many Japanese confections, it is often used to balance the bitter taste of macha (green tea) in the traditional tea ceremony. It is also popular as a souvenir or as a courtesy gift when visiting someone's home.

There is a large choice of other traditional Japanese, as well as international, fare in Nagoya. For high-class Japanese cuisine, try Ryotei Chiyoda. For tasty yakitori, you could do no better than go to Shige Yakitori Dining Bar. Sumo fare can be sampled at Tamakabuto. American fast food, MacDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken for example, is almost as ubiquitous here as it is in Peoria. Try Sizzler for steaks. French and Italian cuisine is so popular that you can often find small restaurants serving a specific cuisine even in the most remote neighbourhoods. They are often run by chefs who have studied for months or even years in their speciality's native country. Restaurants that prepare and serve traditional Japanese ingredients in a French style are also quite popular. With Japan's current international interest, it is also not uncommon to find restaurants here with expatriate cooks, so authenticity is often at a high level. And, of course, Chinese restaurants can be found in every neighbourhood. Thai and Vietnamese cuisine are also popular. For the former, try Sukontha or Sawasdee Sumiyoshi, and for the latter, Spicy Garden or Annan Blue. For eclectic southeast fare, there is always Raffles.

Drinking is often associated with dining, and Nagoya does not disappoint visitors in this area either. Although the city is not especially famous for any particular brand of sake or the very popular Japanese beers, both can be enjoyed here in various venues--from small, cosy, neighbourhood izakaya serving drinks along with a variety of tasty items to eat, to boisterous beer gardens. Among the best known expat hangouts are

9-19 Kakuozan Dori
Nagoya, 460-0008
+81 52 763 6800
Daily 6p-6a',WIDTH, 250, ABOVE, true, OFFSETX, 1, FADEIN, 400, FADEOUT, 300)" onmouseout="UnTip()">Bumphy's Bar/Restaurant
and Shooters Sports Bar and Grill. Many "snack" bars, the tiny, pricey watering holes that Japan is famous for, can be found in the Nishiki and Shinsakae areas of the city, often a dozen or more to a building.

There is no special trick to finding a place to eat or drink in Nagoya. The shopping and business areas host a myriad of almost every kind of establishment imaginable. Department stores and malls always have one or two floors devoted to light dining and quick snacks. Family restaurants are found on major thoroughfares. The corner coffee shop usually has a simple lunch set. Many places offer specially-priced lunch sets between 11a and 2p. And, as is often in the case in Japan, most reasonably-priced, casual dining places will have a window with detailed, full-size models of dishes served and prices clearly displayed, as well as menus making heavy use of photographs of dishes available. Bon appetit!
 
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