Welcome to winter in Fukuoka! We have had snow the past two days (at an unprecedented amount), and the air has been colder than almost all the previous winters. Though I have been enjoying the beauty and whiteness that has transformed the city around me, I am most certainly not used to the biting chill that has also come. A long coat, beanie, scarf, and gloves make up my daily attire, and are the only things keeping this California girl from becoming a popsicle.
Today marked the end of my first week of classes, so I was excited to celebrate with a special lunch. I’ve been keeping a long list of restaurants and foods to try during my stay, with mizutaki (chicken hot pot), at the top for a frigid day like today.
At 2:15pm I arrived at Mizutaki Nagano, a long established mizutaki restaurant located in Hakata Ward. As this location is very popular, reservations are recommended before going. Luckily, I was able to be seated without a reservation as I had arrived after the lunch rush and was dining alone.
After choosing what kind of chicken style I wanted in the soup (on the bone or minced), I waited for a few minutes before being shown to my table. Once seated, a large pot of soup was placed on the burner where it began to heat up. I hungrily gazed at the soup before me in anticipation.
After a few minutes, the pot was bubbling and delicious soupy steam was wafting all over the table. As the chicken cooked, the server offered me a small cup of broth, recommending I add a bit of green onion and salt to taste. The soup itself was delicious – full of flavor but light enough that you just wanted to continue drinking, sip after sip. My insides slowly warmed as I consumed the soulful liquid, and before long, I had peeled off most of my winter layers. Was it spring already?
Once the chicken was cooked, I was told to enjoy it dipped in a light vinegar ponzu sauce. The sauce was so delicious and complemented the chicken well. Spicy grated radish was also available for a different flavor, but I didn’t use it much – the ponzu sauce was all I needed.
An additional small dish was provided. At first glance it looked like chicken skin, but after tasting it, I knew it was something else. Only after researching later did I find out it was gizzard! Soaked in a slightly different vinegar sauce than the one used for dipping the chicken pieces, the gizzard was surprisingly tasty and provided a refreshing change during the meal. This is one of those times I was glad to have tasted something before knowing what it was. ?
Since this was my first time eating mizutaki (and I couldn’t really understand what the server was telling me in Japanese), I was a bit unsure the correct way to proceed through the meal. “Am I supposed to eat the chicken yet?” “When do the veggies get added?” “Which sauce do I use?“…. it was slightly overwhelming to take everything in, but I relished the new experience. (It’s not every day you get to try something completely new.)
After I had eaten most of the chicken, my question about the veggies was soon answered – the server filled the rest of the hot pot with an assortment of crown daisies, leeks, wheat gluten, tofu, cabbage, and konjac (gelatinous yam) noodles. It felt like a whole new course.
I appreciated the simplicity of the fresh ingredients, and it felt nice to fill my body with such good nutrients. After finishing all the additions, I drank a few more cups of broth – I just couldn’t get enough. Finally, with my belly full, and the pot almost entirely consumed, I was given the check and some hot tea. *note: people have mentioned having porridge after their meal (sounds really good!!), but at the time I was very full and didn’t know how to order it. I would try it next time though!
While knowing that mizutaki is considered a somewhat fancy meal, I still found my lunch to be on the expensive side at 3,000¥ ($29). Regardless, it was a memorable experience and I know I’ll be craving the savory chicken broth again soon. With my meal finished and my body warmed, it was time to head back out into the cold.
Hungry For More? Check out some of my other favorite restaurants I’ve visited in Japan!
- Katsuretsu Tei– Kumamoto | Kurobuta (black pork) tonkatsu. The best tonkatsu I’ve eaten so far…
- Cafe Relair – Fukuoka | Lots of Umeshu (plum wine)
- Kapp? Yoshida– Fukuoka | Tai (sea bream) ochazuke (marinated sashimi over rice with a tea broth)
- Kobe Beef – Kobe | My first Kobe beef experience! A delicious 9 course meal of the highest grade Kobe Beef