By Nate Hill
Kachin'en is a very popular Chinese restaurant just a short walk north from Sunday Market street in downtown Kochi City. With an open two story plan with a high ceiling, and plenty of side rooms with sliding doors for private parties, you can't help but get the feeling that you're about to be part of a kung-fu action scene at any second. The place just seems ready for screaming men to come flipping out from the private rooms upstairs from all directions, bounding off the banisters, and quickly resuming their battle to the death--potentially even exchanging blows mid-air. While this has never actually happened, the wish that it would, and the surprisingly scrumptious fried chicken keep me going back for more.
Back to reality now. The best time to go to Kachin'en is lunch as you can get a relatively cheap meal for the volume. For example, you get a choice of entree with soup, salad, and rice for 850 yen. If you're in more of a ramen mood, a bowl of noodles and fried rice set will cost you 880 yen. If you're a big spender, or just incredibly hungry after trotting around Kochi on foot, you could go for the full lunch course. This is a meal fit for an emperor, and at 2500 yen, it is priced accordingly.
Dinner time is not that much more expensive than lunch if you only get one entree and hold it there. Unlike lunch, however, there are no set deals, so what you order is all you get. It's better to eat as Asian food is meant to be eaten, and go family style. Go in with whoever you're with and get a variety of dishes. They have a huge menu with quite a few pictures to aid you as there is no English. If you're not vegetarian, the fried chicken, called kara-age (pronounced kara-ahgay), should be part of your order no matter what. I don't know what makes it so good, but trust me.
Again, if you've got it in your budget, there's a course option you could go with for up to 6200 yen.
The atmosphere is really nice. I love the open plan mixed with the private rooms. The interior is all white, and except for the occasional wood, is all stone and tile. The best part for me personally, is the kitchen. The kitchen is right there in the open. You can see the unusually large number of cooks and chefs scurrying around, lighting up huge delightful woks to stir fry something very special for you. Being able to see where and how the food is prepared at a restaurant is a big plus for me as it reassures me of the quality and cleanliness of what I'm getting. The only draw back seems to be a problem with ventilation. The restaurant is very smokey as a result, and you will come out smelling like you took a bath in oil and soy sauce.
Kachin'en is a family favorite, as well as a Kochi favorite. Be sure you have enough time as there is usually a wait, even at lunch. If you're driving, their parking lot fills up very quickly, but there is a parking garage just down the street.
If you get to be part of a martial arts action flick when you go, please post your pictures here! I promise not to be too jealous...
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I've been living in Kochi since 2006. I enjoy taking every chance I can to ride my bicycle, camp, swim in rivers, relax on the beach, and explore the surrounding mountains -- all of which can easily be done in Kochi. We're out of the way, but worth it.I'd love to connect with you on Twitter @KochiJPTouristor Facebook.