By Meg Sing
The city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture offers visitors an abundance of riches, from fresh fish caught in the Sea of Japan to unique local vegetables to the stunning handicrafts that have brought the city nationwide fame. There’s no better place to enjoy all of these gifts than at Nouka Banzai Kyo, a high-quality eatery that focuses on fresh local food from the Kaga region and beautiful crafts.
The menu (available in both Japanese and English) covers a range of dishes, heavily featuring local ingredients. One of the restaurant’s major aims is to reduce food waste and adhere to the Japanese concept of mottainai (“waste not, want not”). This is especially evident in the hassun, a highlight of the menu. Modeled after the appetizer course in kaiseki cuisine which offers multiple tiny bites, Kyo’s hassun platter comprises at least a half dozen small dishes. While the ingredients may vary by the season, a recent visit in late June featured amberjack with yuzu in a sweet vinegar, minced fishcake with green beans in a sesame sauce, a unique fish and bean “miso” topped with local pumpkin and tempura-style Ishikawa sweet potatoes. A number of the selections used ingredients that might often be overlooked by other chefs or simply discarded. Here at Kyo, they’ve been repurposed into a delicious starter.
Kanazawa is renowned for the quality of its seafood, and this is certainly evident in the sashimi platter. On my visit, I dined on delicacies such as swordfish, sweet shrimp, mackerel with vinegar, octopus and flounder, all at rock bottom prices compared to Tokyo. What can’t be found in the Japanese capital is the sprinkling of edible gold flake on top of the fish, a nod to the region’s superior production of the valuable alloy.
It would be criminal to overlook the Kaga region’s quality vegetables, many of which star in the simple but hearty obanzai (country-style cooking) dishes. Select from one of the many choices on the menu or have the staff put together a sampler.
Kyo’s commitment to showcasing local artisans is clearly evident in their tableware, which is mostly comprised of local Kutani pottery. Order sake, however, and your beverage will be poured into feather-light wooden cups from nearby Yamanaka Onsen. The walls of the restaurant are decorated with intricate geometric designs by local craftsmen. The complex patterns are even more impressive for the fact that no glue was used at all in the construction process.
Kyo sits just a six-minute walk from the east (main) exit of Kanazawa train station. With the recent start of shinkansen service to Kanazawa, the city has made significant efforts to welcome both Japanese and foreign visitors alike. Kyo perfectly embodies this spirit, making it an ideal place to enjoy the Kaga region’s famed food and crafts.
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