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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. 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.
Another culinary eccentricity of the people of Nagoya is their fondness for the rich taste of miso paste for flavoring various dishes. Pork cutlets will often be smothered in miso sauce in a dish called misokatsu. A real treat, however, is misonikomi udon. This dish is based on thick wheat noodles called udon that are boiled in a savory miso broth along with other ingredients, including leeks, egg, and chicken. But regardless of whether you're looking for one of these local delights, or the tastes of some other far-flung destination, you'll be sure to find it in Nagoya.
Of course, no visit to Nagoya would be complete without sampling the standard array of local Japanese cuisine, and there's no better place to do it than in the city's central district of Naka-ku, where delicious options abound. For great sushi in the "Merchants Town Osu" area, try Sushitune, which gives diners the option of ordering set bento box lunches, or dining a la carte. For another tasty favorite that's popular all over Japan, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), you could do no better than go to Shige Yakitori Dining Bar, whose uptown New York bistro atmosphere is an enjoyable as the simple yet stunning food they serve.
In Nagoya, there is also an appreciation for cuisine from other cultures, and as a result Nishi-ku is also packed with flavors from around the world. For Italian try Nishiki Kabenokabe, whose wood-fired oven produces great pizzas to accompany their light pasta dishes, all of which are slightly altered from standard Italian fare to cater to the Japanese pallete. Or for a slightly more exotic night out, why not opt for something less classical, such as Downunder or Nova Urbana for antipodean and Brazilian fare, respectively. Thai cuisine is also popular in Nagoya; try Sawasdee Sumiyoshi, or for eclectic southeast fare, you can't go wrong with Raffles.
Speaking of flavors from around the world, you should also consider Karakuchi, an interesting restaurant that offers the tastes of many countries, with a spicy theme centered around the humble pepper.
There is a large variety of traditional Japanese, as well as international, fare in the eastern ward of Chikusa-ku. Among the most unique is chanko ryori, the traditional fare of Sumo wrestlers in training, which can be sampled at Tamakabuto. European cuisine is also popular in Nagoya, so much so that you can often find small restaurants serving a specific cuisine even in the most remote neighborhoods. For a romantic Italian meal, head to Yoshikawa Enoteca, which serves light cuisine in the quiet atmosphere of their own private garden. If curry is what you crave, then Eikokuya, one of the most established ethnic restaurants in Nagoya, offering a fine assortment of curry, tandoori and tea, is the place for you. And, of course, Chinese food can be found easily at such great places as ultra-casual Taiwan Ramen Motoyama, which specializes in extra-spicy noodles.
Drinking is often associated with dining, and Nagoya does not disappoint visitors in this area. Although the city is not especially famous for any particular brand of sake or beer, both can be enjoyed here in various venues, from small, cozy, neighborhood izakaya, to boisterous beer gardens, and even high-end clubs like Bottom Line Nagoya, sister to the famed New York night club. Another great option for those thirsty for a drink, and among the best known expat hangouts in Nagoya, is Bumphy's Bar/Restaurant.
There is no special trick to finding a place to eat or drink in Nagoya. The shopping and business areas all 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 all the major thoroughfares, and even the corner coffee shop usually has a simple lunch set. Many places offer specially-priced lunch sets between 11:00AM and 2:00PM, and as is often in the case in Japan, most of the reasonably-priced, casual dining options will have a window with detailed, full-size models of the dishes they serve with prices clearly displayed, as well as menus that make heavy use of photographs. Bon appetit!