Route 347 is the old road between Matsuyama and Imabari. It winds in a leisurely fashion along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, offering magnificent views of the islands that dot this stretch of water. There are restaurants and cafés at intervals along this route, each with its own style and flavour.
Isonokawa Restaurant stands just behind the sea wall in Hojo, next to a picturesque river and harbour. When the tide is low, you can see schools of fish at the mouth of the river. These include the strange looking fugu pufferfish. The restaurant is partially hidden by a massive old tree.
Isonokawa is absolutely typical of old-style Japanese mid-grade restaurants — a slightly dark interior, very square, simple furniture, tatami mat seating arranged around the walls with table seating in the middle, and a very extensive but inexpensive menu of all-Japanese food. Also, not infrequently, lumpen poker faced waitresses in Hello Kitty slippers. You’re inevitably served a hopelessly small glass of water, and the grace or otherwise with which the staff can be persuaded to supply you something larger to quench your thirst is a good test of quality. At Isonokawa, I was promptly given a big jug of iced water, which did the job nicely.
It took a while to peruse the menu fully since it offers a wide choice of fish and tempura dishes, as well as sashimi, fried oysters, and grilled fish. I ordered the tempura lunch set for 800 yen. The meal arrived surprisingly quickly. The tempura consisted of two shrimp, a piece of white fish, and some seasonal vegetables. The batter was light and crispy, although everything was a little on the salty side. There was also rice, pickles, a clear fish-flavoured soup, and vinegared octopus and cucumber. Everything at Isonokawa is of reasonably good quality, although at busy times, the sashimi may be a little on the cold side, suggesting recent defrosting. The kamameshi — chicken or seafood cooked in rice — seems to be a particular specialty of Isonokawa.
This isn’t a high class dining, but you get a decent value Japanese meal in a good location. There are no sea views from the first floor of the restaurant, but after your meal, it’s pleasant to take a stroll along the sea wall in either direction, or clamber down the steep steps to the strip of sand below.
Name in Japanese
お食事処 磯之河 — oshokujidokoro isonokawa — Restaurant Isonokawa