Note: Itchibaten has since closed its restaurant doors.
I have been neglecting the wonderful local produce synonymous with Numazu and in particular its popular fish market area. While this time I did not indulge in Numazu’s calling card, Himono (nope not a fish dressed in silk), I was hungry for sashimi. Not inclined to getting up in the dark of the morning to indulge in the fresh catch being unloaded from the boats onto the open air market shed, I settled for the comforts of a restaurant that overlooked the fish market floor. Perhaps in this way an early rising alter ego could be sated with visual props and a sound imagination.
This time I was off to the Itchibaten. The Itcibaten is a restaurant that had caught my attention in the past, but I never really got around to visiting. From the outside it is easy to see why it would catch my attention. With is pastel blue wall and cheerful seafood art, it would look at home in Shibuya (perhaps with something mechanized like a giant crab, a fishmonger chopping a fish, a trawler taking in a net. Alas the joys of gaudy animatronics could go on and on.). However, in Numazu this place stood out like…well…me in Numazu. This looked like a fun place.
As I entered I was ushered to a table and give some large picture menus. The menu offered a range of sashimi, sushi, soups and other seafood dishes starting from about 1300yen and finishing at around 3000yen. Taking note of what the other patrons had ordered I chose a midrange sushi set and settled back and enjoyed my surroundings.
Although I think I would much rather have liked to have dined upstairs where there were better views of the fish market port and the enormous croquet hoop, View-O, their downstairs dinning area displayed the chef’s at their work and the clean light wood decor offered a hint to the freshness of the meal to come.
The sushi set and accompanying soup that arrived at my table was decked out on a a large wooden board with large pieces of sushi splayed across it. There was no pretense of delicate mouth sized portions arranged in dizzying designs. This was plain, simple fair and ideal for the feel of the restaurant. You could almost imagine standing next to a fish monger as he carves the morning take and offers you a slice of fresh mouthwatering fish.
The fresh flavors of the set were fantastic. From the bottom left; The sweet egg sushi was a solid palate cleanser between fish , the juicy bursts of oily saltiness of salmon roe (ikura) were amazing, the prawn was tender, the white fish, aji was clean and un-presuming, the mackerel a rich smoky flavor, the buttery tuna was a delight, the crisscrossed calamari brilliantly white, the red salmon a treat and contrary to appearances (note the across grain cut along joining tissue) soft and free of any stringiness. Finally the the six small sushi rolls half of which stuffed with fatty minced salmon and the other cucumber, were an unnecessary filler but a treat all the same.
The only real thing of note was the bone in the pink salmon. By some, thought of as a cardinal sin for the sashimi/sushi chefs but by others, shit happens. Note: for more information on Shizuoka sushi and sashimi please visit the Shizuoka Sushi and Sashimi blog, one of the homes to the big daddy of Shizuoka Gourmet writing Robert-Gilles Martineau. Oh and RG, I am pretty sure I have all the fish right but if you could give it a once over that would be great mate.
For a warm and pretense free experience in Numazu’s seafood you can’t really go wrong with Itchibaten.
Style: Seafood featuring sashimi and sushi fresh from the fish market across the road.
Picture menu: Yes for the mains but the side dishes are in Japanese.
English menu: no but you can work out most of it with the pictures.
Gaijin Friendly: Yep, but a little nervous about the potential of having to try and speak English. Poor buggers they do try.
Prices: Sushi and Sashimi sets start from around 1300yen and finish around 3000. Remember these meals have big portions.