Utsuki (卯月) in Kamakura is far and away my favorite restaurant, and that’s saying something since I have lived here in Japan for over 30 years. I first ‘discovered’ Utsuki about 20 years ago when a friend who has lived in Kamakura his whole life took me there. I’ve been going back ever since and have always had a great time. The food is incredible, the interior very Japanese, and the people (both customers and master chef/owner Hiroshi-san and his wife and son and staff) all very, very friendly.
Utsuki is a robatayaki style restaurant, which is about as authentically Japanese as you can get. Koto music plays in the background while customers sit at a long wide counter. In front of you on the counter is almost all of the food that is on the menu, and beyond the counter is the grill where almost all of the food is cooked. Simply point to what you want to try.
When the food is ready, Hiroshi will put the plate on a long-handled wooden paddle, reach across the counter with it and hand it to you. They have almost 15 types of vegetables that they grill up in one way or another, sometimes seasoned with a little salt and pepper, sometime smothered in butter. Imagine grilled eggplant, grilled green pepper, grilled green asparagus, grilled potato, grilled mushroom and so on. They also have grilled pork, grilled tongue of beef, and grilled fish. Add to that other dishes like raw fish, soba, some simple salads and so on.
Every now and then Hiroshi also has ‘kujira steak’ on the menu—grilled whale meat. I once invited high school buddy Bob (who was staying in Japan with his family for business for a few years) to Utsuki. “Bob,” I said, “I’m going to order some steak for us, but I’m not going to tell you what kind of meat it is. You try to guess.” It finally came, and the look on his face at his first bite was one of pure astonishment: Bob said it was the most delicious steak he had ever had in his life: thick, juicy, and soft. Prepared perfectly. He guessed until he was blue in the face but never even came close to guessing whale.
Finally, I have to mention the sake. They serve a few different types, but the one I like best is ‘masu sake’—sake served in square cedar cups. The aroma and flavor of the wood mixed with the sake is heavenly.
Give it a try, and you’ll know why I keep coming back for more, and will likely never stop!
Utsuki also serves lunch from 11:30-2:00 everyday (They are closed on Tuesdays). If you’re only going to be in Kamakura in the daytime, then by all means, drop in. But it is at night that they really shine!