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      The divine flavors
      of Ise-Shima

      Near the 2016 G7 Summit venue we discovered five restaurants serving transcendent fare.

      Tofuyaとうふや

      Phone: 0596-28-1028

      Address:
      1-4-1 Uji-urata, Ise-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Year round
      Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays
      Lunch 11:00 – 14:00 Dinner 17:00-20:00
      Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 11:00-20:00
      Wednesdays and the first Monday of the month 11:00 – 14:00
      Learn more

      Spectacularly constructed without a single nail, the restaurant — winner of the Ise Landscape Design Prize — accurately reproduces the ambience of old Japan and provides a delightful view of neighboring Isuzu River.

      A generous portion of Anago (conger eel) Tenjyuzen tempura on rice.

      Slowly charcoal grilled Tofu Dengaku with red miso, yuzu or sesame paste.

      Water is boiled in kamado (cooking furnace) for locally grown organic tea.

      Tofuya is equally pleasing to visit in the daytime or evening.

      Tofu by the river

      Tofuya restaurant lies tucked away in a quiet corner of Okageyokocho, a recreated Edo-period village near Ise Shrine. The traditional building welcomes travelers who have wandered off the main thoroughfare to the banks of the sacred Isuzu River.
      Stepping within, one first encounters a wood-burning kamado (cooking furnace) and irori (open hearth) in the entrance. The waters of the Isuzu River flow gently by the many paneled windows. Not a single nail desecrates the building's traditional all-wood construction, which contributes to a tranquil atmosphere where the hustle and bustle of central Okageyokocho are quickly forgotten.
      As the restaurant's name clearly conveys, the main fare is tofu and yosedofu is the one item that nobody should miss. Incredibly delicious, it's made strictly from the best Japanese soybeans, including Fukuyutaka from Mie Prefecture. The rich fragrance and deep flavor combine with a thick, melty texture to delight the palate.
      “It takes an experienced tofu craftsman to know when to remove the soaking soybeans from water. But the most critical issue is the heating process, which can drastically affect the finish," explains executive chef Masaya Chihara. He never leaves the pot for a second while the beans are boiling. And his unwavering commitment makes all the difference in the taste of the restaurant's tofu. Ise is home to more than just great seafood and tofu deserves to rank among its hallmark cuisines.

      Phone: 0596-28-1028

      Address:
      1-4-1 Uji-urata, Ise-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Year round
      Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays
      Lunch 11:00 – 14:00 Dinner 17:00-20:00
      Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 11:00-20:00
      Wednesdays and the first Monday of the month 11:00 – 14:00
      Learn more

      Bon Vivantボンヴィヴァン

      Phone: 0596-26-3131

      Address:
      20-24 Honmachi, Ise-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Tuesdays to Sundays, holidays and the day before holidays
      Lunch 12:00 – last order 13:30
      Dinner 17:30 – last order 19:30
      Closed:
      Mondays
      Learn more

      Smoked Hiramasa (great amberjack) from off the coast with other delectable hors d’oeuvres. Kawase rested the fresh catch for 3 or 4 days before lightly smoking it. The local tomato is a Kawase trademark.

      Boiled Ise-ebi (spiny lobster) from Wagu Harbor with beurre blanc and Sauce Americaine

      Sublime roasted Matsusaka beef aitchbone with potato gratin a la dauphinoise

      The building, near Ise's outer shrine, originally housed local phone services

      Ise is Kawase’s hometown and he also runs a brasserie in the building

      Fine French in Ise

      Chef Takeshi Kawase smiles and exclaims, “Many people seem to think that Ise-ebi (spiny lobster) and awabi (abalone) are the only special foods in Ise, but there is so much more!”
      Bon Vivant is the oldest French restaurant in Ise City and has been attracting connoisseurs from near and far for over 30 years. They come to savor his French dishes, crafted from the finest local ingredients. On the day we arrived, he had just met with a local fisherman who had contacted him that morning. He can frequently be found examining produce at local farms and is always on the alert for local game. His strong relationships with local fishermen, farmers and hunters keep him well informed with privileged information and he returns the favor by spreading the word on their wonderful ingredients.
      Smoked hiramasa (great amberjack) may highlight his plate of hors d’oeuvres, but it also features a locally grown tomato that is astonishingly delicious. These items are accompanied by pearl shell muscle, mousseline of aori ika (bigfin reef squid) and other complementary fare that exhibit Kawase's flair for flavor combinations. This same confident mastery is expressed in his single dish of deer carppacio and Matsusaka beef.
      Naturally, Bon Vivant's charms extend beyond its cuisine to its nostalgic architecture (circa 1923), colorful history and refined yet unpretentious service. But what stands out most is chef Kawase’s resolute passion for every ingredient in every dish.

      Phone: 0596-26-3131

      Address:
      20-24 Honmachi, Ise-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Tuesdays to Sundays, holidays and the day before holidays
      Lunch 12:00 – last order 13:30
      Dinner 17:30 – last order 19:30
      Closed:
      Mondays

      *Reservations required

      Learn more

      Wadakin和田金

      Phone: 0598-21-1188

      Address:
      1878 Nakamachi, Matsusaka-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 11:30 – arrival no later than 20:00
      Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 11:00 – arrival no later than 20:00
      Closed:
      The 4th Tuesday of the month (may vary by month)
      Learn more

      The sukiyaki course includes a big plate of Matsusaka beef, three plates of appetizers (Shigureni beef with seasonal vegetables) and Matsusaka beef soup. Three grades of sukiyaki are available (ume, take and matsu).

      An attendant expertly prepares everything at your table.

      Private tatami mat rooms are available with various types of tables and chairs.

      Matsusaka beef soup. The meat is ready when it becomes pink.

      Wine pairs excellently with Matsusaka beef. Seven brands are on the menu.

      Best of the best

      To say that Wadakin knows everything there is to know about Matsusaka beef may be no exaggeration. The restaurant has been in the Matsusaka beef business for over one hundred years. Its founder, Kimbee Matsuda, spent five years as a butcher in Matsusaka (his hometown) after training at Wadahei ryotei restaurant in Tokyo. Then he opened Wadakin sukiyaki restaurant in 1883 and it became the most exclusive sukiyaki restaurant in the city of Matsusaka. Throughout Japan, Wadakin is the best known brand of Matsusaka beef.
      Wadakin gains further insight into the depths of Matsusaka beef by raising its own Matsusaka cattle at company-owned farms. The cattle are of the Tajima kuroge (black hair) wagyu (Japanese cattle) variety, born in Hyogo Prefecture and raised in Matsusaka. Only heifers are procured and raised attentively by specialists at the farms. Wadakin is officially committed to "serving only the best beef that fully satisfies guests.”
      For this reason, an attendant handles all the cooking, rather than guests. First she melts the beef tallow in an open pan over charcoal. Then she adds the beef and cooks it to perfection. When you finally dip the meat into raw, beaten egg and raise it to your mouth, you experience the wondrous combination of intensely flavorful lean meat and sweet, juicy fat that literally melts in your mouth — a quality for which Matsusaka beef is renowned. The elegant private rooms at Wadakin further heighten the pleasure of impeccable sukiyaki steeped in tradition.

      Phone: 0598-21-1188

      Address:
      1878 Nakamachi, Matsusaka-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 11:30 – arrival no later than 20:00
      Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 11:00 – arrival no later than 20:00
      Closed:
      The 4th Tuesday of the month (may vary by month)

      *Reservations required

      Learn more

      Kawaume川うめ

      Phone: 0599-55-0007

      Address:
      3-3 Sakoma, Isobe-cho, Shima-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Year around 11:00 - last order 19:15
      Closed:
      Irregular
      Learn more

      Kawaume Don is the creation of fourth-generation owner chef Taichi Yamaji. Its rich and flavorful sauce was handed down for many generations.

      Plump, grilled Matoya oyster with lemon is available from November through mid March.

      Shirayaki (plain broiled) unagi tempura, deep fried lotus root and other vegetables.

      Kawaume was a teahouse and ryokan (inn) before becoming a restaurant.

      Kokichi Mikimoto, founder of the pearl industry, wrote calligraphy for the bento wrapper.

      Mikimoto's favorite unagi

      “In the old days, unagi (eel) was the most popular dish at local community gatherings. It was deeply rooted in our culinary culture,” says Taichi Yamaji, owner chef of Kawaume.
      The town of Isobe-cho in Shima City was famous throughout Japan from the late Edo period to WWII when it boasted one of Japan's largest eel farming industries. So it comes as no surprise that Isobe-cho residents love unagi. Yamaji tells us there were more than 50 teahouses lining the main street toward Ise and several of these establishments served unagi. Kawaume, founded in 1830, was one of the most popular among them. However "Local industry changed after WWII and only three Isobe-cho restaurants specialize in unagi today,” he tells us.
      Determined not to rest on the restaurant's laurels, Yamaji created a new dish that bears the restaurant's name. The dish, called Kawaume Don, consists of a bowl of rice topped with a layer of shiso (perilla) leaves, then another thick layer of ample broiled eel. Supremely refreshing wasabi-flavored soy sauce brings out the contrasting flavors.
      Kawaume was the favorite restaurant of Kokichi Mikimoto, the pearl industry pioneer who founded world-famous Mikimoto in Mie Prefecture. He was a man of taste, as one might imagine. Yamaji's new dish derived from the traditional flavor of Isobe unagi, has become a favorite among discriminating local unagi lovers.

      Phone: 0599-55-0007

      Address:
      3-3 Sakoma, Isobe-cho, Shima-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Year around 11:00 - last order 19:15
      Closed:
      Irregular
      Learn more

      Sazanami

      Phone: 0599-25-2220

      Address:
      3-5-28 Toba, Toba-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Mondays, Wednesdays to Fridays
      Lunch 11:00 - last order 15:00 Dinner 16:30 – last order 19:00
      Saturdays, Sundays and holidays
      10:30 – last order 19:00
      Closed:
      Tuesdays
      Learn more

      All shrimp is caught at sea and immediately frozen on the vessel to lock in freshness. Extra-large fried shrimp sets are limited to 20 per day.

      Fresh seasonal sashimi includes ishidai (parrot bass) and sawara (Spanish mackerel).

      Executive chef Ryuji Hayashi polished his craft at kappo restaurants in Ginza and Roppongi.

      Table seats (1F) and private rooms (2F) are available.

      Spiny lobster, abalone and oysters are served in various delectable styles.

      Fresh jumbo fried shrimp

      “Toba sits at the entrance to Ise Bay where the Kuroshio Current meets nutrient-rich freshwater flowing down from the mountains to create a perfect fishery. The oysters are most famous, but all seafood from this area is delicious,” explains executive chef Ryuji Hayashi.
      The more we learn, the higher our expectations rise. For 78 years, Sazanami has served customers at this same location facing the canal near Mikimoto Pearl Island. It's the most popular seafood restaurant in town, where locals and tourists from other cities and prefectures gather. Some customers come thinking sashimi is the must-try dish, but fried shrimp has been the restaurant's specialty since its founding.
      “Why fried shrimp?” you may ask, but one glance will tell you half the reason. The shrimp are huge, over 20cm long, and truly impressive to behold on the plate in the standard set meal. Sazanami splits open the shrimp before dipping them in batter to spread them out for faster frying. This technique makes the shrimp even more delicious.
      The first crunchy bite is deeply satisfying and you begin to realize, with delight, that the serving size is huge. Anywhere from two to four shrimps are served depending on their combined size. So if you do have the fortune of visiting Sazanami, be sure to bring along your family or friends. Otherwise, the fried shrimp will fill your stomach so thoroughly that you won't have any room left to try other delicious Toba Bay seafood.

      Phone: 0599-25-2220

      Address:
      3-5-28 Toba, Toba-shi, Mie-ken
      Open:
      Mondays, Wednesdays to Fridays
      Lunch 11:00 - last order 15:00 Dinner 16:30 – last order 19:00
      Saturdays, Sundays and holidays
      10:30 – last order 19:00
      Closed:
      Tuesdays
      Learn more

      *Articles are written based on information available at the time of publication.

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