On the third day, after another large breakfast spread, we took one last dip in the hot spring, packed up, checked out and piled into the Prius for the trip back to Tokyo. Before hitting the expressway though, we took a scenic route up the coast a short ways to visit the city of Numazu on the very northwest coast of the Izu Peninsula. Numazu is famed for its' seafood market, so we dialed the minato (port) into the car navi and made our way through the town.
While not even close to the size of Tsukiji, the market area is a well-organized, sunny few blocks of seafood operations, restaurants, and shops. There is a public parking structure near the main hub of restaurants. As this was a mid-summer day, most of the market activity was already over by the time we were there, but lunch service was just getting started. I was tasked with choosing our dining destination and well, what I really wanted to do was make concentric circles around the place to vette every possible option available. However that wasn't in the cards, so I quickly settled on a large busy seafood restaurant, with a fish head vendor off to the side of the shop. The place was called "Uogashi Maruten" (魚河岸丸天), which I subsequently found out is a well-known Shizuoka mini chain of four restaurant . "Uogashi" means something like "fish quay" and this was the main shop.
Inside, noisy, efficient middle-aged women coordinated traffic of tourists and local businessmen, while a long kitchen the seemed to run the length of the premises, was manned by a team of cooks. There were plenty of interesting cooked dishes that I considered ordering, including "maguro tail stew", kinmedai nitsuke, and their jumbo sized kaki age, which seemed to be about half the size of a Pringles chip can. In the end, I was drawn to the special's section and the restaurant's namesake kaisen (seafood) donburi which listed so many different items on the little menu paddle, I could just barely read them. After ordereing, several minutes went by and I distracted myself reading the fixed menu just to see what else they had. The waitress then appeared and when I looked up, I nearly fell out of my seat. My donburi was served in a bowl the size of a doughboy's helmet. Inside was a gorgeous array of…well, seemed to be just about everything. Around the bowl as if it were the face of a clock (photo #3):
12:00- aji (mackerel)
2:00- sakura ebi (cherry blossom shrimp)
3:00- ama ebi (sweet shrimp)
4:00- shirasu (white bait?)
8:00- buri (full grown, wild yellowtail)
And in the center, negi toro (minced fatty tuna). There are apex predators in the ocean that don't eat this well. And I'm certainly not going to claim that these were all the apex of quality sashimi (the inclusion of buri, typically a winter catch, was a little odd). Nevertheless, it was a good feed. And if you can stand the antenna, sakura ebi can be quite tasty raw. Afterwards, we spent time walking the market area. On sale, were many of the throwaway parts of the fish such as heads and sickle shaped "kama", along with deep fried versions yesterday's catch. The entire western coast of the Izu peninsula seems to be dedicated to the art of drying fish (called "himono"). So omiyage himono shops are all over the place. We stocked up on a few himono items for dinner later, headed back to the car, and made the trip back home. And now I can say, with some level of pride I suppose, that I've been to Tsukiji, Hakodate, and Numazu- a sort of triumpherate of Japanese fish markets.
After dropping everyone off and returning the car, I killed a few hours at the local depachika, loitering around the sake section, quaffing free samples, and asking for recommendations. In the evening, relaxing at home before dinner, I drank cold beers and watched a documentary on "ayu"- called in English sweetfish. The method used by the fisherman was to catch a single fish, then keep it hooked, and lure in some of it's brethren. He used a sort of large snorkling mask, that looked similar to a welder's mask, to peer underwater and snag the poor ayu that gathered around the distressed, hooked fish. I was beginning to doze off when pretty soon I caught wind of a dinner breeze from the kitchen. Grilled, lightly marinated, dried ebodai (sometimes called butterfish in English), along with some of the tamagoyaki I picked up from the depachika, and homemade pickles. I poured some of the daiginjyo sake that I had bought on my own, and dug in. Ebodai himono, rich and oily, are split open, splayed and grilled easily in the tiny Japanese kitchen fish grills you find in typical gas ranges. It was nice to have warm food. Unfortunately, my sake selection wasn't as sweet, so I switched back to beer. Just in time for the next night of the volleyball gran prix- this time Japan vs. Italy. Finally, we all had something to cheer about as the Japanese ladies fought hard and won. So they finished our trip 1-2. But through our 3-days in Izu, our dining record was all wins.
Uogashi Maruten" (魚河岸丸天) website (in Japanese):
Photo #1: Rolly, polly fish heads
Photo #2: Menu slat
Photo #3: Kaisen donburi
Photo #4: himono
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