Tanaka - how to find good restaurants in tourist resorts
Entrance of Tanaka - In the right corner of the doorway, you can see a white stain. It is salt - see footnote.
Counter of Tanaka - Cook was working in the grill space. Rather many guests sat at the counter this time.
It is not easy to find good restaurants in tourist resorts. Many tourist restaurants offer bad quality foods at high prices, as their owners believe that their guests come to their restaurants only once, I presume. Therefore, it is desirable to hear judgments of local people on restaurants they frequent and to decide where to go.
The entrance of Iwate.
After a series of interviews in Ito, I found a restaurant, which met my requirements. It was called "Iwate" and its "Kaisen-donburi" - rice bowl with raw fish meat of various kinds -
was delicious and cheap. A rice bowl was assorted with a miso soup, a side dish and a small dish of pickles, a cup of cold or hot coffee was included
in the course and the total price was only 1000 yen (plus 5% consumption tax). Whenever I went to Ito, I took lunch in Iwate. Therefore, it was a great shock when I recently visited Iwate and found its door closed and on a placard affixed to the door was written "House for rent". When I visited Iwate a few months before, it was filled with guests and any unusual thing could not be sensed.
In face of this painful reality, I saw a need to find new restaurants satisfactory to me in their quality and pricing. From my experiences, I was sure that the restaurants near the Ito JR station were typical tourists restaurants. Restaurants, which were newly opened and won good evaluation in the media, usually disappointed me. The restaurants recommended by media are very suspicious. In many cases I suspect that the media people might demand a sort of bribery in return to their report. Those restaurants might have interior and menus, which could appeal to inexperienced people, but their foods usually lack the essence of good food, which only well trained cooks can realize. In other words, those restaurants tend to have a taste of manual-cooking of McDonald or Wimpy.
I found Restaurant Tanaka in a community magazine. Community magazines are not mass media. Therefore, this was not a negative point. The chef was reported to have worked long in a prestigious spa hotel in Ito, before he opened his own restaurant in 2001. This was good information and I decided to go to Tanaka. However, when I saw the restaurant from outside, I was not much convinced, because the large and partly showy menu boards in front of the doorway were not much tasteful and did not fit to the architecture.
The small salt mountain was broken and salt lay scattered.
- Small salt mountains are often made by restaurants in both corners of the doorway as a charm to attract guests. The one in the left corner kept its original shape (photo right).
Anyhow, I entered but saw only a few guests, though it was lunch time. There were a long counter on the left with a fish grill space at its end, and two tables with chairs and another two low-height tables in a tatami mat space on the right. The whole interior looked relatively modern, but was not sensitive enough in its details.
As the impression of the interior space was also not much convincing, I felt a bit of uneasiness when I ordered Kinmedai-nitsuke - splendid alfonsino poached among others with soy sauce and sugar
. When the fish was served, I found its color awfully dark, which was unusual for this menu. However, when I tried the first piece of meat, I was delighted by the thick and rich taste. My partner had a grilled Gindara - sablefish -
and found it also very delicious. They small side dishes were interesting. In every dish I could feel the eagerness of the owner-chef to prepare good quality food for his guests. After all, we found the restaurant satisfactory, though not so perfect as Iwate once was. I visited it again after a few weeks and ordered once again Kinmedai-nitsuke. Maybe I became addictive of this dish.
Maybe, Tanaka is for the time being the only Japanese style restaurant in Ito which I can recommend to the visitors in Ito. If you find a middle-aged couple indulging in eating in Tanaka, please do not hesitate to say a word to them!
Kinmedai-nitsuke at Tanaka - Kinmedai menu costs 1,800 yen. Dark color of the sauce comes from soy sauce. A piece of tofu (right) and burdock slices are cooked together. Fine strips are raw ginger.
The whole kinmedai-nitsuke menu consists of a main dish, a miso soup, a bowl of rice, three small side dishes and a portion of pickles. This photo was taken at my first visit.