Kanazawa is about a two-hour high-speed Shinkansen train ride from Tokyo in Ishikawa prefecture, on Japan’s west coast. The city with quaint back streets and bubbling canals houses Kanazawa Castle, The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, and when in season, becomes a cherry blossom viewing destination with tourists galore and sumptuous views that center on Kenroku-en gardens. When it comes to eating, seafood is the clear focus, with a stunning variety fished from the Sea of Japan. Learn about 10 places to eat and drink coffee in Kanazawa, based on my trip from April 10 – 13, 2019, with many recommendations from trusted world travelers Dylan Ho and Jeni Afuso.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
6. Menya Taiga Ramen
This tiny side street ramen shop just four blocks from Kanazawa Station draws frequent crowds to 12 red stools at their worn wooden counter. Sadly, the owners just finished serving seasonal oyster ramen for the year, though it’s not like I suffered. Sensational black miso ramen incorporates squid ink for “deep taste” and striking color. This awesome pork-based ramen wasn’t noticeably fatty, but packed substantial flavor and hosted sweet ham-like char siu, ground pork simmered with onions, thin-shaved scallions, crunchy bean sprouts, and firm noodles with beautiful chew. The murky black broth proved it had legs, in wine parlance, at the end of my meal when I tilted the bowl to get last licks and the broth slowly slid down the side. Add soft-boiled egg with bright yellow yolk for even more flavor. When you sit down, a shot glass of juice awaits, to gird against upcoming richness.
MUST ORDER: Black Miso Ramen
Misono is a small chain from Sapporo that replaced Keisuke Ramen on Forus mall’s food-focused sixth floor across from Kanazawa Station. Three screen-separated tables overlooking the city highlight the space, which also houses a central square bar facing a light-up wall, plus white and wood panel walls. Limited edition spicy miso crab ramen hosted a central thatch of grated ginger, a nice complement to the crabmeat. Pork toro ramen with a choice of broth – I opted for miso – wasn’t quite so dynamic, but did host wonderfully fatty seared pork collar. Create set menus by adding pan-fried pork gyoza, salmon & salmon roe rice, and sweet, creamy “simmering almond tofu” studded with goji berries.
MUST ORDER: Spicy Miso Crab Ramen, Pork Toro Ramen
My wife, daughter, and I enjoyed breakfast at Morimori three mornings straight at their original Omicho Market location. The sushi bar gets rolling at 7 a.m., a great time to visit this popular restaurant before crowds fill the long counter and cozy booths. Revolving tracks deliver color-coded plates of sushi on a replica Shinkansen (bullet) train, which is fun for kids or adults. Just press a red button to return the train to the station (aka the kitchen). A reader tabulates cost at the end of the meal by scanning each plate. Pay at the register: Cash only! My wife and I scoured “Today’s Specials” along with dozens of standbys on the scrollable LED screen at our table. Plates of sushi featuring larger wasabi-dabbed rice slabs arrived fast and furious, so it was tough to keep up or keep track, but highlights definitely included nodoguro, a rich, fatty local specialty served raw or “broiling the surface.” Morimori is a great place to experience seafood varieties, flavors, and textures that aren’t to come by in the U.S., including spiny red gurnard, splendid alfonsino, threadsail filefish, fresh olive flounder, fluke fin, dotted gizzard shad, and tiny Toyama glass shrimp. Wild young yellowtail, firefly squid dabbed with ginger, and crunchy abalone should be more recognizable, but are still worth ordering. Some people might consider certain selections aggressive, including crunchy yellow clusters of seared herring roe bundled with bonito, funky turban shell (a type of sea snail), and buccinum (another mollusk, in this case a whelk). Morimori also serves impressive combo plates, including Omicho Market 3 Ways, Blue Backed Fish 3 Ways, Japan Sea 3 Ways, and Crab 5 Ways.
MUST ORDER: Abalone, Blue Backed Fish 3 Ways, Crab 5 Ways, Dotted Gizzard Shad, Fatty Yellowtail, Fresh Olive Flounder, Fresh Red Seabream, Glass Shrimp From Toyama, Nodoguro, Nodoguro (Broiling the Surface), Omicho Market 3 Ways, Spiny Red Gurnard, Splendid Alfonsino, Wild Young Yellowtail
9. Nodoguro Meshi Hompo Itaru
My young daughter was way past naptime and Nodoguro Meshi Hompo Itaru had a half-hour wait, but I pushed my family to the brink and our late lunch was worth the blowback. The restaurant’s best known for nodoguro, black throated sea perch that’s prized in the U.S., but readily available and far more affordable in Kanazawa. We squeezed into a wall-facing counter in the moody dining room. My wife and I both ordered their signature dish, broiled nodoguro served over rice in an iron pot that’s eaten in stages to get a sense for the fatty fish’s beautiful range. First, eat the fish adorned with just nori strips. Next comes wasabi, scallions, and sesame seeds. Finally, pour umami-rich nodoguro broth into the bowl. I also enjoyed intensely savory bran-pickled mackerel, another local specialty, plump boiled oysters, and tiny, lightly battered white shrimp.
MUST ORDER: Boil Oysters, Bran Pickled Mackerel, Deep-fried White Shrimp, Nodoguromeshi
10. Omicho Market
Omicho Market, a popular destination for local seafood and produce, houses more than 180 stalls and warrants their “Kanazawa’s kitchen” moniker. Most vendors operate daily by 9 a.m. From the oyster stall, I scored enjoyed steamed oysters dressed with soy vinegar and ponzu sauce, fresh-cracked uni, and two large spot prawns with blue roe dressed with soy sauce and a wasabi dab. A short stroll yielded fragrant white strawberries and a grilled sea scallop skewer, coral attached, brushed with soy sauce. I devoured a skewer of grilled skin-on atka mackerel irozuke, a glaze from the area featuring reduced soy sauce and sugar that gives seafood a tantalizing glean. The corner stall with a sun logo sold us crispy fried oysters, a curry bread stick with pork and beef, and a fried chicken skewer. The craft beer stall poured tasters of Kinuka (yuzu ale) featuring yuzu peel and silk powder and Sakura (cherry blossom peach tea) with peach juice and Earl Grey). Our daily crawls ended with sakura mochi filled with red bean paste, wrapped with salted cherry leaves.
MUST ORDER: Atka Mackerel Irozuke, Kinuka Yuzu Ale + Sakura (Cherry Blossom Peach Tea) Ale, Sakura Mochi, Spot Prawns, Steamed Oysters, White Strawberries