Cerry Blossoms 2017

Finding Fugu at Nakadori in Yokohama

Finding Fugu at Nakadori in Yokohama

Fuad Olajuwon

Dark alleys and winding streets. That’s the first thing one thinks of when visiting Nakadori Street in Yokohama. The area has an array of shops and eateries that can help to relax the mind, calm the soul, and put a smile on your face. Going during the dusk is best, as the place comes alive. Advertising neon lights, laughter from passing couples and friends, as well as smells of yakitori restaurants fill the air with a sense of life and experience. For our occasion, we decided on a quaint establishment near the middle of all the festivities. Most excellent.

With an array of restaurants and watering holes as far as the eye could see, there’s no better way to celebrate a day of honest work than going to Nakadori Street. When the cat is away, the mice will play in this part of the city, where the hustle and bustle starts after sundown. Being a popular place for Japanese and foreigners alike, make sure to get there a little earlier than usual, as most of the establishments will be teeming with satisfied customers. From fish and chicken to roasted vegetables, you can find all sort of culinary goodies that satiate the palate. So roll up your sleeves and get in there!

Our group decided to have a little fun and picked one of the quieter venues in the district. Going into the restaurant was an experience in and of itself, as one man methodically strode back and forth across the restaurant. With plates stacked on the counter, the television we sat in front of blared with the audio of some game show. Nevertheless, it was time to get down to business and let the ordering of the evening meal begin.

As you can see from the image, our host started us off with a little dish of freshly prepared kimchi. While tasty, I gathered it was more along the lines of the Japanese style of pickled cabbage, as it tended to be more sweet than spicy. Afterward came the tsukemono, something we were all too well familiar with. The mixtures of the vegetable medley were an excellent way to introduce the menu.

Securing our kozara (small dishes), then came the main meals. It consisted of a chicken nabe (hotpot) prepared in a sensational bone broth, a mix of seasoned cabbage, bok choy, and maitake mushrooms, as well as two generous cuts of 100% grade A Japanese tofu straight from Kanagawa prefecture itself. Next was a roasted fish simmered in a soy-sauced based marinade with maitake as the surrounding garnish. Finally, the signature fare of the restaurant was nothing short of amazing. Deep-fried fugu, with lemon and black pepper. The fugu was fresh, as the owner purchased it that morning.

Deep-fried fugu pufferfish

For those who are unaware, fugu is a type of puffer fish that has a deadly toxin but is light, and full of flavor. Chefs in Japan have to have years of training to get a license to prepare the fish the correct way, so eating it is a real treat. Don’t worry too much about the risks, as most places (and the local government) are strictly regulated. Then again, that’s what makes it fun, right?

Overall, if you’re looking for a night out on the town away from the hodgepodge of Tokyo, but still want to have a city-like atmosphere, then look no further than Nakadori in Yokohama. Drink, make friends, and even try a little fugu on the way.