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Kanazawa area
Kanazawa area
The area around Kanazawa is known for its own regional cuisine, called Kaga-ryori, a sophisticated style of cooking built around local seafood, sansai (wild greens), and heirloom vegetables.

Kaga-ryori dishes can be found at ordinary izakaya in Kanazawa as well as at upscale specialty restaurants. Food is often served on the brightly colored Kutani-yaki pottery of the region.

The area also produces some excellent craft sake from long-established breweries. Tedorigawa, Tengumai, Sougen and Kikuhime are some names to look for.

See the guide below for local restaurant and cafe picks from Kanazawa editor Rachel Krampfner and Bento.com editor Robb Satterwhite.

See area restaurant map.
Daiba (Izakaya). 076-263-9191
One of the better dining choices in the Kanazawa station area, Daiba offers creative izakaya fare, with lots of local Kaga dishes like jibuni duck stew and steamed heirloom Kaga vegetables. The sashimi moriawase is reliably good, and our two-person serving (Y2600) was actually big enough for three or four. Grilled chicken and pork are beautifully prepared, as is the chicken tsukune and the excellent dobin mushi (autumn only).

The sake list is relatively small but well-chosen, showcasing local breweries. Their special selection of rare and limited-edition super-premium sakes is a definite draw for sake connoisseurs. There's also a monthly selection of umeshu (plum wine) and the usual shochu and cocktail options.

The sprawling interior is modern and chic, with a gold color scheme and nice visual contrast between rough-hewn granite surfaces and polished wood. Many of the booth areas are separated by drop-down screens - you can still hear and see your neighbors, but it's a little more private and it cuts down on wafting cigarette smoke. Budget around Y4000-6000 for dinner and drinks. Daiba also has several other branches around town.
SunKanazawa, Konohanamachi 6-10, Kanazawa Miyako Hotel 1F. (The entrance to the restaurant is around the back of the building housing the Kanazawa Miyako Hotel. ) Open 11:30am-2, 5-11pm (LO) daily.
Sen (Izakaya). 076-224-1000
Good food, flashy decor and very reasonable prices draw in the crowds at this popular station-area izakaya, located around the corner from the Nikko Hotel. There's a good selection of local sake brands as well as a few umeshu (plum wines) and several premium shochu on offer. Budget around Y3000 at dinnertime. Open until 1am (LO) Friday and Saturday nights.
SunKanazawa, Showamachi 15-17. Open 11am-2:30, 5pm-midnight (LO) daily.
Ohmicho Shokudo (Japanese). 076-221-5377
When you're strolling through Kanazawa's famous Ohmicho Market, eyeing the long-legged crabs and shiny fish hooked that morning from the Sea of Japan, you will no doubt want a taste of Kanazawa's famously fresh seafood. The catch of the day is absolutely affordable at this casual canteen, and the menu is long and varied.

There's kaisen-don, sashimi, and fish cooked every which way. There are steaming bowls of udon and even jibuni, Kanazawa's signature duck stew. The "mother and child" donburi features a fan of very tender salmon sashimi and a healthy scoop of salmon roe.

Try the shiroebi kakiage, a big crunchy clump of tiny white shrimp battered, fried and served with a wedge of lemon. Tack on an additional Y400 to round out your meal with a bowl of clam miso soup, rice, pickles and two small side dishes. English menus are available.
SunKanazawa, Aokusamachi 1. Open 10:30am-2:30, 5-9:30pm (LO) daily.
Ohmicho Market (Attraction).
This open-air market in central Kanazawa is popular with both local household shoppers and restaurant professionals. Dozens of stalls sell excellent crab and other seafood from the nearby Sea of Japan, as well as local heirloom Kaga vegetables. See photo feature.
SunKanazawa, Aokusamachi 1.
Chayu (Cafe). 076-253-1715
If you're a sucker for interesting ice cream flavors, you will want to stop into this Higashi Chaya sweet shop for a lick. Miso, soy sauce, black sesame, kabocha pumpkin, yuzu, tofu - theyfre all here in ice cream form, along with kagabocha, a smoky roasted tea popular in the Kaga region.

You can have your scoop nestled in a waffle cone (plain or chocolate) or you can try something really special: a scoop of ice cream smooshed between two squishy bamboo charcoal pancakes, topped with a floppy square of mochi and a generous smear of adzuki bean paste. Grab one of these uber-Japanese ice-cream creations to take out, or head upstairs for tatami, tea and a variety of more sophisticated desserts.
SunKanazawa, Higashiyama 1-7-8. Open 10am-sunset (from 1pm in winter). Closed Thursdays.
Curiente (Japanese). 076-251-0403
As we consumed the amazingly beautiful food served in this Higashi-Chaya restaurant, we imagined our spoon as a wrecking ball. Digging into our second course, served in a highball glass, first we destroyed a colorful tower of salmon roe, rosebuds and root-vegetable ribbons, then plunged through a layer of cool, creamy salmon mousse before reaching shirako and sea vegetables enveloped in gelee.

While the presentation might appear fussy, the flavors are delicate, fresh and exciting, as local Japanese ingredients are given a modern European twist. The mix of textures and colors adds to the enjoyment of the meal, as does the lovely setting - a traditional old wooden teahouse. Prix-fixe lunches are priced Y4,500-8,400, and dinners are Y7,800-21,000.
SunKanazawa, Higashiyama 1-33-2. Open 11:30am-2, 6-8:30pm (LO). Closed Mondays.
Mishoan (Japanese regional). 076-221-0127
This teahouse overlooking a carp-filled pond in the middle of Kenrokuen Garden is a gorgeous spot in which to lunch on local Kaga cuisine. Prix-fixe lunches are priced Y1575-3150, and they're built around jibuni (duck stew) and multiple small dishes of local delicacies. Lunch is served from 10:30am-2:30pm, and later in the afternoon you can stop in for green tea and sweets (Y550). Dinner starts at Y6500.
SunKanazawa, Kenrokumachi 1-11. (inside Kenrokuen) Open 9am-9pm daily.
Ippudo (Ramen). 076-263-3331
There is the risk of falling into a pork-induced coma after lapping up a bowl of Ippudo's rich tonkatsu ramen, but the addictively tasty Kyushu-style noodle soup is well worth the crash. Ippudo may be a chain (43 shops in Japan and one in New York City) but it doesn't taste like it and the dining room is stylish, modern and cozy.

There is always jazz playing, to drown out the symphony of slurps, and the entire staff will shout their salutations when you come and go. When your bowl arrives, feel free to take full advantage of the many condiments provided: grind in some sesame seeds, press a fresh clove of garlic and scoop in some spicy greens or bean sprouts from their wooden pots. Make sure to add a soft-boiled egg when you order: the sunset-orange yolk is always perfectly creamy.
SunlateKanazawa, Katamachi 1-2-3. Open 11am-3am (Fri, Sat -4am) daily.
Full of Beans (Cafe). 076-222-3315
Onigiri junkies should plan on stopping into this artsy cafe known for its rotating selection of homemade rice balls. Grab a few to go, or hunker down in the bohemian dining room for a lunch set featuring a random assortment of ever-changing side dishes and soups selected by the cooks.

You'll most likely have a different meal from your dining companions - a hodgepodge of Japanese-, Western- and Southeast Asian-inspired fare. The a la carte menu features Thai and Japanese curries, hamburg steak and Loco Moco. This warm and homey cafe is the perfect place to sip a latte or enjoy a tea and cake set before exploring the art gallery on the second floor. English menus are available.
SunKanazawa, Satomicho 41-1. Open 11am-11pm. Closed Wednesdays.
Kaga Daiko (Yakitori). 076-263-3486
It's grimy, divey, smoky and cramped, but this, of course, is all part of the charm. The other charming bit is the ever-smiling and joking owner who will bang a drum when you leave, laugh maniacally and wish you a good night. This after you've spent the evening sidled up to the bar eating skewer after skewer and knocking back beers, available in sizes that range from normal to comically huge.

It's your standard yakitori fare but it's addictively good: chicken and leek, chunks of pork, all the guts you can handle and some particularly tasty chicken meatballs basted with a sweet soy sauce. If you want to pretend to feel healthy, order the enoki mushrooms or asparagus, but keep in mind they'll both be wrapped in little blankets of bacon.

To bulk up your meal, order a salty miso-based soup featuring chunks of soft tofu, pork and fresh scallions, served from a massive, blackened cauldron. This is the perfect place to eat cheap and feel like a local.

The menu is all Japanese but the owner can speak a bit of English.
Kanazawa, Katamichi 2-2-25. (located behind Labro)
Kabochaya (Bar). 076-225-8090
The bar in this late-night izakaya is lined with action figures and scribbled with white graffiti and Hello Kitty faces. But Kanazawa's version of an American dive bar serves up tasty (and often unexpectedly original) dishes. If you start with Kabocha's crisp and juicy kara-age (fried chicken) and end with a cup of creamy pumpkin pudding your taste buds will be happy. But this might be your only chance to sample a local delicacy: an egg yolk "cooked" with miso until it's sufficiently firm and steeped with umami.

A bowl of rich pork broth, braised pork and poached egg made us squeal like the pig it was carved from; those craving something lighter might try the refreshing avocado and maguro salad served in an avocado half. Mugs of draft beer cost less than Y400 and go down easy with a basket of fried lotus-root chips.
SunlateKanazawa, Katamachi 2-7-5. Open 6pm-5am. Closed 2nd Wed.
Iwashigumi (Izakaya). 076-224-1493
An often scowled-at and underappreciated fish in North America, the sardine is celebrated in dozens of dishes at Iwashi-Gumi, which means "gang of sardines." Try them pureed and deep-fried into golfball-sized croquettes over a pumpkin puree, or bobbing around as little fishballs in an aromatic nabe-style stew packed with tofu, greens, and shiitake and enoki mushrooms.

Sardines star as sashimi and tempura, they are grilled whole, they're stuffed into spring rolls, and they're shredded and piled on top of chazuke along with shiso leaves and nori. You can even crunch on the bones, deep-fried and presented as a sort of sardine potato chip.

The dining space itself is old, wooden and charming, and decorated with original paintings by one of the talented young servers. English menus are available.
Kanazawa, Katamachi 1-7-13. Open 5-10:30pm (LO). Closed Sundays.
Machrihanish (Bar). 076-233-0072
The friendly, English-speaking owner of this specialty bar has visited every distillery in Scotland, and he stocks an impressive selection of single-malt whiskeys here. The food menu includes simple pub fare like cottage pies and fish and chips.
lateKanazawa, Kiguramachi 2-4, Nishino Bldg 2F. Open 6:30pm-2am (LO). Closed 6:30pm-2am (LO).
Dai-nana Gyoza (Chinese). 076-261-0825
"No frills" would be an understated description of Kanazawa's most popular and gushed-over gyoza joint. But where it lacks in decor it makes up for in gyoza which, besides a couple of soups, rice and pickles, is the only thing on the menu. Dai-Nana's gyoza are addictive and thankfully cheap, setting you back a mere Y360 for a plate of ten.

You can choose from fried, steamed or pan-fried "white gyoza" seven days a week, while the soup dumplings are served on only weekdays. But don't come too hungry: even at 9pm on a Sunday night the wait was thirty minutes for a private upstairs room (there's a small table charge) and an hour for a seat at the downstairs dumpling bar.
SunlateKanazawa, Morinosato 1-259. (Located opposite the Mori-no-Sato Jusco shopping centre near the Kakuma Campus of Kanazawa University) Open 11am-2am. Closed Wednesdays.
See area restaurant map.
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Updated 2012/05/07
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