Kitchen House Furin (Ogitsu)
Ice cream parlor or izakaya?
Just a stone's throw away from Ogitsu station, one stop north of Hitachi, on Route 10 is the most unlikely looking "izakaya" (Japanese pub) that you could ever find. If you drove past "Kitchen House Furin" on your way to Juo, the giant ice cream-shaped pillar rising up from the car park could quite easily deceive you into thinking this shop was an ice cream parlor. In fact, it was until about 5 years ago.It was reincarnated as a "bar/restaurant" in March 2010. However, it did not lose its ice cream pillar and the shop building itself remains a somewhat quaint pink cabin-style house, complete with its own wooden decked verandah.
On entering the shop itself, the airy, pine-clad interior would still leave you wondering whether it really was an "izakaya" or restaurant and not in actual fact a tea shop. It feels like you could sit down to tea and cakes in some chintzy "Nasu" cafe. Well, that would not be so far from the truth, as this so called "izakaya" is also a bakery. A variety of bread, cakes and pizza are all made on site by the resident baker, Akko. The bread and cakes, which are immensely popular in the locality, tend to get bought up at lunchtime, but the delicious mixed pizzas are available in the evening too.
Kitchen House Furin can also fully justify the name of "izakaya". It offers all the usual choices of alcohol. The humorous drinks master, Masayan, will even create new cocktails on the spot, if you request it. The chef, Chiyorin, has created a surprisingly varied menu of Japanese cuisine. The bento boxes available at lunch and in the evening are particularly good and satisfying at a very reasonable price. They feature hamburg steaks, locally caught fish, fried pork cutlets, ginger pork and curry rice, all for around 600 - 800 yen.
Of course, the wide selection of food and drink is very appealing, but the thing that brings all this together seamlessly into one warm-hearted whole is the atmosphere of the place. The three staff and regular clientele are extremely friendly and welcoming to everyone without exception, whether you go there alone or in a group. Have you ever been to a Japanese bar or restaurant and, while the food may be excellent, no one has talked to you? Well, that is not going to happen at Kitchen House Furin. It is a real community that welcomes everyone with open arms.
Another important feature of this shop is music. The owners have their own folk band called "Furin" (Wind chimes) and they will break into a performance at the slightest provocation. There are guitars and hand drums within easy reach around the shop. So, if you want to perform, the owners will certainly encourage you, and may even provide backing. You could almost say that this bar was a free space for musical exchange.
As you can probably gather, it is very difficult to pin one label on Kitchen House Furin. It is an intriguing concoction of pub, restaurant, community center and live house. It definitely defies the notion that there is nowhere to go or nothing to do in Ogitsu. So, look out for the giant ice cream cone on Route 10. You may not get an ice cream, but you will without a doubt get a unique and satisfying experience.