Sometimes, Japan feels really traditional with their cuisine arts. Tempura is always made with the same ingredients, soba noodles are never paired with any other sauces but tsuyu. Don’t get me wrong though, the pros in the line really mastered the skills in making each dish the best they can be, but sometimes, I do crave for a twist on the traditions.
Then there are the times when you find a restaurant that turns the formula around and impresses you with their creativity. Hanakushian, one of the best restaurants in Gifu is a prime example that put their own tastes into the two traditions the shop prides on: deep-fried skewers (kushiage) and boiled cuisines (oden).
This old restaurant has several branches throughout Gifu city. The interiors are like classier version of an izakaya, except for the Nagara-Aoyama branch which is dim, fancy, and perfect for the special occasion. The popularity is phenomenal, because the customers who visit understand that the restaurant offers what you can’t find in many other shops of the same genre: unconventional creativity.
Multiple deep-fried skewers.
Deep-fried skewers, or kushiage, traditionally include pork belly, veggies, seafood, quail eggs and other kinds of simplicities fried with a batter. What Hanakushian serves, however, is next-level. The shop’s most popular choice, asparagus skewer, wraps a full-length asparagus with prosciutto. Topped with ground-up radish and citrus-vinegar, the 30 cm long fried asparagus is served fresh to you.
Another customer favourite is the prosciutto-wrapped cheese. You have a choice between mozzarella or camembert cheese (my recommendation: get BOTH). Either one you order, the fried cheese block is served with maple syrup and raspberry dips that pairs surprisingly and extremely well. Other creative-kushiage include curry-filled lotus-roots, eggplant stuffed with minced meat, and all sorts of fun surprises.
On their oden-side of the menu, their fresh ingredients boiled in a light broth serve as a perfect balance with the fried items. The good-old daikon radish, tofu, and egg oden are of course all there. To step things up, try their bacon-filled cabbage-roll or their cheese oden. If you are looking for some carbs to fill your stomach, their oden ramen is also an excellent choice.
Extra side dishes.
Besides kushiage and oden, the restaurant offers a whole lot more: freshly sliced sashimi, tofu-skin (yuba) cuisines, Hida beef sukiyaki on top of rice,corn soup puff pastry, desserts, and of course, a full bar to get your drinks on.
For those visiting the first time, booking a dinner-course is highly recommended. The affordable courses start from ¥2100, and they include many of the restaurant’s best-sellers. The quantity is also nothing to worry for, as even the cheapest course will surely satisfy you to the top in both the amount and the quality.
Ordering a la carte has its fun too. Just a word of caution: the menu does not include photos, so bring a dictionary or a friend if reading Japanese is not yet your specialty.
After the meal, you will receive some cash coupons to spend on your next visit. If you sign up for their e-mail list, you get a free drink too. Reserving a course-meal a day ahead also nets you extra goodies. The restaurant sets out to satisfy their customers, and the masters at Hanakushian does it perfectly and creatively. If you are visiting Gifu-city someday, seek this restaurant out and have it in your plans.