Sakanaya – Shimoda, JP

Bay Station 1F
1-1 Gaikaoka, Shimoda City
Shizuoka, Japan
+81 0558 23 0358

Having lived in various places when it comes to closer to home (Canada), please have often asked me which I prefer among my two latest stops… the coastal environment of Vancouver with its proximity to the ocean, or the majestic mountains that are a short drive away from a place like Calgary.  Put simply, am I a ‘water’ guy or a ‘land’ guy?

In response I’m apt to say, that as much as I enjoy outdoor hiking and think the Rockies are one of the most amazing natural surroundings any place on the planet, there is something about the beauty and calming sensation that comes with strolling along a beach with the waves crashing against the shoreline and the distinct scent of sea water that permeates the air.  Perhaps its also the Pisces in me, but that draw to the ocean always beckons me when I travel.  So whenever I come across a harbour with various boats as well as larger ocean liners, I always imagine what it would be like to travel the seas on a daily basis or over long periods of time.  Shimoda City is one such place that struck my fancy with its quaint little waterside marina and the following is a report on a simple meal I had there.

Literally translated as “the fish place”, Sakanaya is fittingly found in an industrial area close to the local seafood auction market.  Much like those small eateries found in and around Tokyo’s Tsukiji market that cater to the hard working laborers who make these places run, this place was no beauty in terms of appearance, having been built inside one of the warehouse structures.

A hand written menu on large sheets of paper were taped to the walls inside, with all of the choices featuring fish – either braised or fresh (sashimi, sushi).  It really had a down-to-earth sensibility about it, and I was convinced that the people who worked on a daily basis in the market across the way were some of their best and regular customers.

And in that case, being the blue collar folks the are, they’ve probably developed a keen sensitivity and demanding food tastes through years of handling, whole selling, actively participating in fish and seafood auctions, and selling direct to restaurateurs and finicky food hounds from their in-market stands.

As a stand alone item, the menu listed the Ise Ebi Miso Shiru (Japanese Spiny Lobster Miso Soup), and given its a popular delicacy in this area, I knew I had to have a taste.  A good sized tail was split in half and fully submerged in the soup (pictured above out of the liquid) and the distinctive essence of the crustacean had been enveloped throughout the miso shiru, rendering it a delicately rich and flavorful broth.  This was excellent, though I must admit I probably enjoy Ise Ebi more in sashimi form.

The Nikomi Sakana Teishoku, with the braised fish being Kinmedai (golden eye snapper), was nicely flavored with the requisite balance of the saltiness of the soy sauce, and the sweetness of the mirin and probably a little bit of sugar, both evened out by the sake and water used in the cooking process.  The side bowl of sashimi was comprised of some maguro (tuna), ika (squid), and some ebi (shrimp).  As expected, very fresh and flavorful.  I could have easily used more but given the fact that I had downed that bowl of miso shiru early on, I found myself quite full from all the liquid.

The matter-of-factness that accompanied by visit to Sakanaya was both pleasant and refreshing in its simplicty.  The fresh-off-the-boat seafood that made up every element of my entire meal was clearly felt and at a reasonable price (in total, just over 2,000 yen).  I am quite sure this won’t be the last of my explorations for the freshest of seafood whenever I am in an area or country for that matter, that presents this kind of opportunity.  Like the water in which the fish swim, I too will continue to seek open waters on my ongoing food journey through life…

2 thoughts on “Sakanaya – Shimoda, JP

  1. So do you know Japanese or did you have someone there who could translate for you? I’d like to go for a trip there in the next few years but I admit I’ve been wondering about the language barrier.

  2. >bruleeblog
    A somewhat difficult topic to address, as with any country that I’ve been to, there are always going to be areas (especially urban) that are more barrier-free when it comes to language issues, and this holds true for Japan. Given the rush of tourists who come to a country like Japan, already holding some understanding of the cuisine, there are occasions when pointing and body gestures can help overcome any communication challenges – the well developed “food model showcase” that can be found in many eating areas that accurately show what the dishes are all about, is also a great “translation” tool.

    That said, many places that you won’t find listed in a guidebook or reviewed in English on the Internet, or some random place you enter off the street (even in the bigger cities), will arise in language difficulties for you and of course the proprietors if they are not used to having foreign customers. Its not to say you will be hushed out the door, but that you might find a little hesitation on the servers part, and some discomfort on your side for “intruding”.

    To sum, I’d suggest you do your research before going, and try to limit any such “difficulties” as best you can ahead of time especially on a first-time visit and without any local friend assistance, if you want to ensure a painfree, and completely smooth eating experience there. But if you’re more adventurous, feel free to jump into any place that catches your fancy, I have plenty of friends who have gone to Japan for the first time with no language ability and done just that! 🙂

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