Maruten no Honten – Numazu, Shizuoka

20 04 2011

Maruten no Honten

When it comes to queues for restaurants I break down into a puddle of cognitive dissonance. Two strong emotive forces compete for dominance in my mind. One is a very distinct loathing for waiting in line particularly for a leisure activity. I don’t know why I can justify waiting in line at city hall or the bank but for leisure pursuits such as theme park rides and restaurants I resent, to the point of rage, having to pay money to queue.

In strong competition to this disdain for queues is the core gourmet instinct that screams at me that if the locals are patiently making a line for this food then you know it is going to be good. However it is usually by dislike of queues that wins control and I leave embittered by the fact that I have missed out on what would a probably be an epicurean delight.

It has been this way many times with Maruten no Honten – Maruten to the locals – every time I pass it by when I wander throughNumazu’s fish market area. whenever I mention to a Numazu native that I have been down to the fish market area always ask me if I lined up for Maruten. They don’t even ask me if I went there; ‘lined up’ is the term of choice.
Maruten 01

However on a recent passing of Maruten I was pleased to find no queues and an open welcoming door which lead to an autopilot beeline for the entrance. A lucky break.

With my wife and a friend in toe we took a squat table in the tatami area and sat down to order. The décor is pretty similar of these establishments; homely comfortable, nothing ostentatious and just enough to keep you focused on the plain good seafood before you.
Maruten 03

The darling obaasan’s in their t-shirts and aprons sqwark out orders to the cooks as we sip green tea and decipher the menu. There are a few picture in the menu that highlight their specialties and the three of us hone in on these.

My friend orders a large bowl of tuna sashimi that is served in thick slices and garnished with Japanese sweet omelet, nori wasabi and pickled ginger. This is accompanied by delicate crab and miso broth that has a knobby piece of carapace floating on top just to dare you to say that it wasn’t done properly.Maruten 08

My wife and I order a starter of tuna sushi that is presented to us on a wooden board. The tuna is vibrant in colour and rich in taste. A large clump of some wickedly fresh grated wasabi from the nearby Ito area takes me by a pleasant surprise on my way down through the tuna and downwards to the sushi rice. I am already reaching down for another piece before I have finished chewing.

A lightly crumbed seafood set was my wife’s selection. Crispy king prawns, calamari, crab croquet, horse mackerel and a small nondescript bait fish with a side of cabbage mashed potatoes. Simple plain fare done well.

Maruten 07
I order the kin media, or Golden Eyed Snapper, is a rich sweet soy and mirin based sauce. The fish sits boldly pink on my plate with a simple garnish of shredded scallions (or what we misname shallots inAustralia). Using my chopsticks I break free large flakes of beautifully white flesh. The fish has a delicate sweetness but the sauce, a treat in its own right, is a little to overpowering to get a true taste of this fish’s special flavour. Nevertheless, I enjoy the meal enormously.

After our meal we head out to pay and call our thanks through the open kitchen to the cooks while dodging the low lighting not made for someone six foot four. At the cashier counter is a selection of preserved marine goods that has me thinking that I during my dining I did not quite avail myself of the full experience that Maruten could offer.Maruten 04

As I go out the front of the restaurant I look at the displays of dishes on the outdoor tables and around reed covered sake drums. I missed the deep fried towers of breadcrumbs fish and crustaceous goodness, tuna tail stew or even an uber fresh plate of sardines. I will have to come back but if the queues are like they usually are, and rightly so, it may be some time before chance another lucky break.
Maruten 02

Style: home style seafood

English menu: no sorry.

Picture menu: there is a selection of items in pictures but if you want you can do a Google translate on their website to get a better idea of whats on the menu.

Gaijin friendly: for sure. The staff are encapsulate the identity of the fishing industry.

Phone: there are a number of stores around Shizuoka prefecture and two in Numazu. The one we went to is phone 055-954-1028


Hours: 10:00-21:45hrs. Last order 21:00hrs.

Directions: south side of Numazu in the Port district.

Malt Cats – Numazu, Shizuoka

16 04 2011

Malt Cats – Numazu

Some of the best places in Japan are the hardest to find. Or maybe it is just the pleasant little sense of satisfaction that you get when you find one of these gems that makes the experience all the more enjoyable. But up dark ominous stairs, down shabby alleys and in nondescript buildings are some places far beyond the little bag of powder or another bout of crabs. When a friend guides you in this direction you are especially hoping it is not for the latter.

Last weekend’s bender resulted in a friends suggestion that we take our respective wives to dinner at AiAi followed by a game of pool. My friend led us to the south side of Numazu near the train station and suddenly veered left down a narrow alley that merged into a building. Ooh an adventure, I thought. We took a lift to the second floor and were met by muffled singing and a sole wooden rocking chair that was guiltily resting by the door. Through the door was the ‘Malt Cats’.

For some reason adding ‘Cat’ to the title of your restaurant, bar or café is the thing to do in this country. Perhaps it’s some vintage 70’s slang spending its twilight years in the nights of Japan.

Entering Malt Cats you are greeted by an illuminated bar that stands as an oasis for the thirsty amidst the subdued warm drop lighting. The bar space is split into two seating areas one around the side of the bar and the other directly across the bar and raised providing some clever depth to the place. What is most striking about the seating is the open spaces between communal gatherings of mish mashed couches. This creates a nice little level of intimacy for your party without feeling isolated from the general vibe of the bar. An open space such as this is so different from the usual cramped confines of what I am used to in Japan but may feel warmly familiar to what you might experience back in your own country.
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Illuminated in competition to the bar is the pool table with, again, the perfect amount of space to play. The table is in pristine condition far distant to its sorely abused cousins in Australian pubs. My friends and I played a few games of pool, intentionally missing shot’s, pocketing the white ball every second shot and in one case acting like it was our first time playing.
photo 1
Yes, I think I will stick the word ‘intentionally’ merely to rescue the last dregs of self-esteem that we all left behind on the table. Well at least one of us had a choice. It was actually her first time.
photo 2

Our little group noticed some board games on the wall and we settled down to a couple of rounds of Jenga over a few beers.

Drinks were a little pricy starting at 800yen for beers with the obligatory surcharge for a few nibblies that gets the establishment out of paying a liquor license. The staff were friendly and a couple of them were even trying to use a bit of English which was very kind.
photo 3

My friend tells me that the Malt Cats can get packed easily and the pool table is often difficult to get on but this is definitely an excellent bar well worth many return trips in the future. I hope to see you there – if you can find it

English Menu: sorry no English and no pictures but with the open bar you can do a bit of pointing and gesture.

Gaijin Friendly: Yup very. The seemed delighted to have us there. Very sweet.

Links: None

Costs: Beers start around 800yen

Directions: South side of Numazu Station heading towards the library.