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

Link: www.uogashi-maruten.co.jp

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

Directions: south side of Numazu in the Port district.

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Numazu Fish Markets and the opening of the Numazu Minato Shinsenkan

18 05 2009

I have to say that I was driven by the potential of freebies. I had never been to a shopping centre opening before so what better way but to cut my teeth and start small on an opening of a little shopping complex at the Numazu Fish markets called the Numazu Minato Shinsenkan.

Numazu Minato ShinsenkanNumazu Minato Shinsenkan

It was the weather that set the mood for the day; pushy gusts of cold ambushing my wife and me on our bikes as we made our way to the fish market port. The static in the air charged the mind and triggered every kid in the vicinity to foam at the mouth and send their parents to an early grave.

Our arrival at the port was greeted by a group of Lucha Libre’s, Mexican wrestlers, plugging in guitars and keyboards and setting up drums. Of course, I didn’t immediately get their connection to the opening of the shopping centre until my wife pointed out that one of the masked men was wearing a mask that could be a loose depiction of Himono, a type of dried fish. Mind you, he could have also been wearing a giant squid on his head with two holes cut into it so he could see out.

Numazu Minato Shinsenkan

It was around ten-thirty in the morning and the centre was starting to fill. We made our way into the shopping centre. The centre extended out in a straight line for about 100 meters. On either side of the main walk way ran café’s, restaurants, grocers, fish mongers (of course) and food stores featuring Numazu’s regional specialties. I could see all this easily from the entryway because of my six foot four height and the four foot nothing swarm of hunched over grannies filling up the walkway with wisps of grey and black.

My wife charged on into the foray as I hesitated. I have experienced the sheer power of Japanese grannies in the past. Most of these interactions have been during grocery shopping. They are surprisingly nimble and their short stature puts them under my radar as they squeeze their way in front in the check out. If I do however, manage to catch them before they push in, they resort to using their sharp deadly elbows that dig holes into my ribs startling me enough for them to get in front. All the while they tactfully act like sweet little grannies in complete ignorance to the cracked ribs they have just given me. These are the modern day ninja and their name is obaasan. Fear them.

Now I stood before a plague of obaasan’s, jostling each other for potential freebies and the best deals of the day. Was I stupid enough enter this frightening mass of predators? For you, dear reader, yes. No more than a few paces into the crowd I took and elbow to the ribs as I was jostled about from stall to stall making sure that every obaasan had a shot at me, all the while my wife danced and dodged the crowd. An ice cold chill ran down my spine as realization dawned, some day my wife will be an obaasan with frightening abilities.

Numazu Minato Shinsenkan

As my ribs numbed to the jabs, I started to appreciate what was on offer in this shopping mall. The mall was a display of all the delicacies and local produce of Numazu. Each stall specialized in something. One store I was propelled towards sold a selection of dried seafood goods all packaged and ready to be sent on their way as gifts. Next to each type of packaging was little sample taster jars. I tried a number of dried seaweed and was surprised with their delicate nuances of flavour.  In another jar was tiny little fragments of dried fish which exploded with sardine and soy flavours under each crunch.

Further around the store I was greeted by a grinning obaasan, a sales woman this time, with an open jar shoved under my nose. It seems to be an universal phenomenon I have noticed during my travels. If you are in a foreign country and the locals can see you are a tourist, then expect their most foul tasting delicacy to be thrust into your face as a challenge. There is no way for you to really win in this predicament. The local has all the cards. If you decline the offering, then you have insulted their culture and they have won. If you taste the offering and spit it out, vomit or even show a hint of displeasure then you have insulted their culture, but at least you tried. The last option is the best for your ego but this time your stomach looses. This is what I have chosen to employ in these situations. It is simple; take the ‘food’ offering eat it while showing absolute delight and then help yourself to more. You have just earned cultural brownie points (of which you may need to eat said brownie as soon as you are out of site to take away the horrid taste) and possibly a new friend.

So without looking at the contents, and putting on a big smile, I took the food from the jar and chomped away, and away…and away, at the very crunchy, dried baby crabs covered in sesame seeds and tasting exactly the same way that aquarium fish food smelt when scattered over vomit. It took everything I had to reach in the jar for another, but I did, and that wiped the grin of the obaasan’s face. It seemed like she told the rest of her kind because I noticed far less jabs in the ribs for the remainder of my time in the shopping centre.

Traveling up the main aisle I came across a stall that specialized in wasabi, the sinus blasting florescent green mustard most commonly found as an accompaniment to sushi or sashimi. The Izu Peninsula is famous for growing top quality wasabiThis little shop was displaying more that its common paste form you see chugging on you local sushi train. Wasabi rice and prawn crackers were a spicy treat. Though, my favorite wasabi product was the oil. The oil was light on the palate and ended refreshingly well, in a similar way that a good quality extra virgin olive oil leaves your mouth clean and ready for more tastes.

Yet further along the shopping centre there was an interesting fish monger with squirming octopus, crab and crayfish. Each fish eye was brilliantly clear with freshness. Even the giant tuna head sitting on totem display for customers to appreciate looked a little curious as to where the remainder of its body went.

Numazu Minato ShinsenkanNumazu Minato Shinsenkan

On the port facing side of the market ran half a dozen restaurants, taking advantage of the view of the port with its dramatic View-O tsunami gate in the distance.. A seafood broth was the purvey of one restaurant, while another offered sashimi. One café that caught my eye had cozy little spaces for couples to look out over port or even sit outside on a calmer day (it looks like my old gripe about the lack of balcony dining is going by the wayside). The restaurant’s accessibility to such fresh produce will tempt me back there for a tasting very soon

Finally to top off my tour of the Numazu Minato Shinsenkan, I was greeted by cheeky little characters wearing masks with the funniest expressions I have ever seen. Exaggerated smirks and grins beamed from their masks. Accompanying pelvic trusts and playful trickery heightened their display. Were these the dirty old men sent to frighten the obaasan’s out of the centre before they tore it apart? I never quite figured out the story behind the masked frivolity. But I certainly enjoyed it.

Numazu Minato Shinsenkan

All in all, the opening at the Numazu Minato Shinsenkan was a great way to waste a couple of hours until lunch. While the shopping centre is unashamedly focused on the Japanese tourist market, it was really a great way to see what seasonal food offerings there are in the Numazu local area. Not to mention, the really great dining on the boardwalk running along the centre.

The Numazu Kaijinsai and Numazu Port Festival is going to be a big event for the Numazu Port area and is happening on the 23 May 2009. So take a trip down to explore, get festive, get cultured and wear your stretchy pants, the food is great. 

For more information check out the Numazu City Hall, April Newsletter, here.

Getting there: From the south side of the station continue to head south directly down the maim road for about a kilometer or so.  Check out the MyMaps at MapBuilder.net here for more details.