Shizuoka Izakaya: Waga

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Waga is your typical new wave izakaya. Opened a little more than two years ago by the very young at heart (a fan of the Beatles,Queen and Led Zeppelin among others) Shuhei Ichikawa it seems very popular as I managed to enter it only at the third try and this somewhat late at night. In any case if you plan to patronize the place before 9:00 p.m., you had better reserve in advance!

The staff in their late 20’s (30’s?) are a smiling hard-working bunch, but nonetheless extremely welcoming and attentive.
Now as any good izakaya, Waga always has at least a couple of remarkable jizake on offer, although they do change regularly.

The first I ordered was a Hakuin Masamune Junmai by Takashima Brewery in Namazu, a real beauty!
It just drank like wine! Pity I could not stay too long this time, or I might have contributed to the bottle death!

Actually you had better keep your eyes wide open! Not many izakaya offer French Pernod and Ricard, and Portuguese Porto wines!

Now the first indication of a good izakaya, and especially in Shizuoka Prefeture, is its sashimi offering. If you ask for “moriawase/plate”, you will get a good idea of the establishment.
Now, the “Katsuo Tataki/Bonito slightly cooked”, “Kanpachi/Yellowtail” and “Maguro/Tuna” were simply of the higher level that would put a few vaunted Tokyo places at shame, but at very kind prices!

As I said, my friend and I were in a bit of a hurry, but we opted for dishes representative of the establishment. The seasonal dish was “Jukusei Tsurushi Buta Saute to Kisetsu no Kinoko Ankake/Sauteed matured Pork (with tofu) and seasonal mushrooms in sweet and sour sauce”. A hearty dish which should satisfy a big appetite!

Talking of solid appetites the “Karaage/Deep-fried Chicken)” was not only succulent but absolutely enormous. You would problems closing your hand around any of them!

When it comes to sake I’m a big drinker. I asked for the other Shizuoka Sake available, Takasago karakuchi Junmai by Fuji Takasago Brewery in Fujinomiya City. Very dry indeed, but so easy and pleasant to drink!

“Tamagoyaki/Japanese Omelette” is also another preriquisite at any good izakaya, and the one concocted by Waga is also a beauty. We certainly did not need any dessert!

Blimey! There is no way we could sample all the offerings. Which means I will have to come back in a hurry!

420-0839 Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Takajo Machi, 2-1-20, Kuroyanagi Bldg., 1F
Tel. & Fax: 054-271-7121
Opening hours: 17:30~23:30 (Monday to Thursday), 17:30~26:00 (Friday, Saturday and day before any National Holiday).
Closed on Sundays and National Holidays.
Set menus and parties possible.
Reservations recommended.
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)

Today’s Lunch Box/bento (27)

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It must be the first this year that I requested a bento on a Saturday! Usually I have time to come for lunch (I work on Saturdays), but not this time as I had a lot to catch up with after our (short) summer holidays!

Usually the Missus prepare curry or stew on Saturdays. Accordingly she steamed rice mixed with mild curry paste and finely chopped red and green pimento. On top of a generous portion she placed “tonkatsu/pork schnitzels. She always makes plenty of them as they freeze well. She brushed them with “katsu tare/bulldog sauce” and added some cress for the greens.

The salad was a bit unusual: slightly boiled “renkon/lotus roots” salad with “Tobikko/Flying fish roe”, a half boiled egg, cherry tomatoes and plenty of mini cress. Hearty and well-balanced, I must admit!

Gastronomic Destinations: Hokkaido (2)

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After our remarkable cruise along the World Natural Heritage of Shiretoko Peninsula, we leisurely drove away from the centre of Abashiri into the neighbouring forested hills in search of the Hotsprings Auberge/Inn called “Auberge Kita no Dandan”/”Warmth of the North Inn”.

It is surrounded with a pristine forest of white birches and fir trees (I was told there are plenty of wild mushrooms to pick inside!). It was built about two years ago with the view to offer guests a traditional glimpse of Japan. It is replete with antiques and local crafts of every possible kind.

The bedrooms are quaint and delightful combination of tradition and state-of-the-art equipment.
The place itself is worth hours of exploration. They even leave cold snack and food all night in the “lounge” for hungry night owls!

Each room has its own individual bathroom, but you may also use a private hotspring bath. or even better take a dip 24 hours a day in the “Rotenburo/Open air bath”! This alone is worth the visit!
Now, you might have wondered why it bears the French appelation of “Auberge”?
Fairly simple: all the food is of French concept with whenever possible local Japanese ingredients accompanied by a short but well-balanced French wine list! (and local sake, and so on!)

We had reserved our dinner and breakfast on the Internet. In any case the deal includes them and eating out would have been a bit problematic. We certainly did not regret it!

The four of us opted for local sake as aperitif to accompany the amuse-bouches/starters (see above pics): Taitetsu no Kura, honjozo, and Kita no Katsu, futsuhu, both sake from Hokkaido.

From the wine list we started with a refreshing Kuentz Riesling 2005 from Bas Alsace.
Only then could we seriously commence the feast:

“Ao Soi to Mizutako no Arai, O Tsukuri Fuu”: a sashimi salad consisting of “blue soi”, a fish caught off Hokkaido island and mizutako octopus, a small variety with vegetables grown in the Auuberge garden.

“Ke gani no reisei kappriini/Cold Cappellini with spider Crab”. Alright this is not French, but Italian in concept and taste. Absolutely succulent crab legs (enormous!).

“Taihei no nama Ham maki/Braised Raw Ham Roll”. Someone will say it’s Italian again! And I don’t mind as long as I can get my hands on that morsel again!

“Yaki Nasu to Masu Yamato Mushi/Grilled Aubergine/Egg plnt and Trout Steamed in Tradtional Japanese manner/: this both Japanese and Italian in concept. After peeling off its skin the grilled aubergine is rolled into a paste of trout before being steamed and served hot with a slightly sweet translucent sauce.

“Hotate no Poare/sauteed scallops”: I won a little contest on that one. I was the only one to understand that fresh cream and sieved seaweed has been included in the sauce!

I don’t have to explain that the wine had disappeared by then! We contued with a Cote du Rhone, 2006, Parallele 45 distributed by Paul Jaboulet. Just what we needed for the meat!

“Shari Machi, Tamura san ga sodateta Sanrokuton/Sanroku pork from pig raised by Mr. Tamura in Shari Village (nearby village)”. It almost looked like a big sushi on a ball of vegetables. It melted inside the mouth!

“Kasupe Hoppe Moromi Yaki/Kasupe Fish Cheek grilled with a moromi coating”. Kasupe is a local fish big enough to have its cheeks grilled. A discovery!

“Gohan.Kaori no Mono.Shirumono/mixed rice, soba buckwheat noodles in light soup with a piece of grilled herring”. No need to say this was a turn around to Japanese cuisine! Surprisingly good herring with soba. A common dish in Kyoto, this is the first time I really appreciated it!

Now I defy Rowena, Bentoist and Tom to describe our dessert:
Wild Wasabi Sherbet and Creme Brulee accented with String Beans (first boiled and and sieved!)

Alright, we also had coffee, mignardises and a nightcap!

The next morning, the breakfast was served on plates course by course. But I forgot to bring the camera (mobile phone)! Sorry guys as this was the best-ever hotel breakfast!

Auberge Kita No Dandan
093-0045 Hokkaido, Abashiri Shi, Oomagari, 39-17 (3 minutes by car from Abashiri JR Station)
Tel.: 0152-45-5963
Fax: 0152-45-5995
Credit Cards OK

Gastronomic Destinations: Hokkaido (1)

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Every year, preferably end of August and beginning of September I embark on a gastronomic tour away from Shizuoka Prefecture. Last year I went home in Bogurgogne, France and immersed myself in my birth place wine and home-made food.
This year, travelling abroad having momentarily become too an expensive proposition, we (the Missus and I) decided to visit a favourite destination of ours, namely Hokkaido.

Having disembarked at Memanbetsu Airport (leaving from Haneda) near Shiretoko Peninsula, one the three Japanese World Natural Heritage, we rallied Abashiri City by rented car and stayed ther overnight in an unremarkable hotel.

The next day, we boarded a ferry on a three-hour trip till the very tip of Shiretoko Peninsula. This is a rare place of Japan where you can admire a pristine untouched nature and would recommend anyone to visit it if you come to Japan!

Some of the best Japanese sea salmon is caught there by local fishermen who actually unload their catch onto our ferry every day for quick delivery to Abashiri, the nearest harbour and market of note. You can be assured that it comes fresh onto your plate!


By the time we were back in Abashiri we were starving. We just had time to admire the local scenery before we (after some driving around) found one of our destinations, Ikyuya, located in a small city called Shari (some of the place names in Hokkaido can become a real puzzle as they are mostly very local names written in Kanji that fit the pronunciation instead of the meaning!).
We (the Missus) had chosen this establishment as a representative of the local cuisine favoured by local people.

THe Missus oredered the “Oyako Don”/”Father-Mother and Son-Daughter Bowl”.
In Shizuoka it means chicken omelette (the Hen and the Egg!) spread on a bowl of rice. In Hokkaido, it stands for Shake sahimi”/salmon sashimi and “Ikura”/salmon roe spread over a bowl of rice. It must have been good as for once silence reigns around the table!

Our two friends (which included our gracious driver) opted for “Uni don”/sea urchin spread over a bowl of rice,

“Uni to Ikura Don”/sea urchin and salmon roe spread over a bowl of rice.
Extravagance at a very reasonable rice, absolutely fresh and sweet seafood away from metropolises, what more can you ask?

As for myself, I chose the “Ebi Frai Teishoku”/fried prawns set lunch as I felt in need of hot food on a rainy day. The Missus could not stop ogling at the enormous prawns! LOL.
We certainly felt revived for the rest of our trip!

Hokkaido, Shari Cho, Utoro Higashi, 13 (2 minutes walk from Utoro Hotsprings Bus Terminal)
Tel.: 0152-242557
Opening hours: 11:00~18:00 (might get closed in the afternoon on busy days. Come early!)

Bryan Baird’s Newsletter

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Baird Beer & Taproom Events Bulletin 2008 #19

Dear Taproom Friend & Baird Beer Enthusiast:

The sublimity of beer resides not just in the drinking but also in the historical, cultural and social tales it tells. Japan Tale Ale is our conception of a beer that tells, in its liquid way, a story of Japan. Today’s release of Japan Tale Ale 2008 represents the second installment in what promises to be a long and interesting story.

Japan Tale Ale 2008 (ABV 6.1%):

Brewed with a host of indigenous Japanese ingredients (umalted wheat, rice, sudakito sugar and plums), Japan Tale Ale is lightly hopped, highly attenuated, pleasantly tart and extremely refreshing. It almost drinks like a beer version of a well-made Ume Sour (a popular drink served in traditional Japanese pubs that is made with distilled shochu and plums and served carbonated on ice). It is now available on draught at both of our Taprooms and at other fine Baird Beer retailing pubs and restaurants. 633 ml bottles also will be available for purchase at Baird Beer retailing liquor shops throughout Japan and via our own estore.

Please mark your calendar for this Saturday, September 6. Beginning at 7:00 pm the Fishmarket Taproom will be hosting a live acoustic music show by the blues-inspired singer, Mexico. A 500 yen music charge will be collected at the door. Please plan to join us.


Bryan Baird

Baird Brewing Company
Numazu, Japan