Would you like to eat a delicious, artfully prepared lunch in an old sake brewery? For a very reasonable price? I certainly would. I got my chance when I visited the old section of Uwa known as Unomachi, home to the old Ikeda Brewery.
Whenever I visit a new place, I make a habit of asking somebody where I should have lunch—I don’t recall ever being sent to a bad place. When I went to see the Uwa Philosopher’s Museum, I asked the young lady at the reception for her recommendation, and without hesitation she said, “Next door at Ikeda-ya. Their daily lunch of local specialties is very good. Shall I call to make a reservation?”. How could I refuse? I looked around the museum and then went next door for my lunch.
Like all sake breweries, the building itself is very attractive, with dark wood, earthen floors, and an atmosphere of virtuous, craftsman-like activity. Sake is no longer brewed at Ikeda-ya—it’s now a restaurant and a venue for live music events and parties. A sign outside mentioned a ‘toy camera’ exhibition, which consisted of a little gallery of local places shot with a simple film camera. The photos were pretty good.
My pre-ordered lunch arrived almost the moment I was seated. Served on an old wooden tray that may once have held silkworms, it comprised a bowl of pork seasoned with soy, runner beans stewed with fried tofu skin, a good-sized lump of rough, handmade tofu with a dab of spicy yuzu kosho, cucumber with miso, vinegared carrot and cucumber, and fried potato and bacon with cheese. There was also narazuke, a kind of alcoholic pickle. Each of these little dishes was delicious without exception. As I was finishing my bowl of rice, the gracious old lady who was serving offered me a very welcome second serving.
I chose a seat near the entrance so that I could watch the comings and goings of a swallow whose nest was right inside the shop. A nest built of mud and straw was sticking to one of the beams and three or four chicks chirped excitedly whenever their parents flitted in with some new airborne morsel.
Ikeda-ya also serves coffee, tea and cake, and you can buy sake and local bottled orange juice there too. A visit to Unomachi isn’t really complete without a stop here.