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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.