Pretty Nagano, home to an excellent shabu-shabu restaurant
September 13, 2014
Nagano | Japan
for 3/4 day, 1 night | in August | ~33 C, occasional rain
A small city near the base of the Hida mountains. We explored the entire main street and Zenkō-ji Temple and grounds in a couple of hours.
It's a very pretty place. A tree lined main street with flowering hanging baskets lead up to the Zenkō-ji Temple. The architecture is traditionally rich in comparison to the big cities, Kyoto and Tokyo. I can imagine in winter the scene is stunning with snow covered ceramic roofs and footpaths.
One thing we couldn't help but notice here was the extraodinary care taken to dress ones canine for an outing up this humble tree-lined lane - pink shoes, herringbone trousers and top hats. Maybe it was because the 'head monk' came into town the afternoon we were there under a red handheld umbrella - you see, no one could speak enough english, including the two information centre ladies, to tell us exactly who this monk was that hundreds of people were hurrying to line up and kneel before.
I was mesmerised watching this soba noodle master in action through the window. We went in and enjoyed his art in the form of cold soba noodles for lunch, then came out and watched him make his next batch of soba.
Nagano is tiny, so you really only need one night here, and don't skip the sleepover and do a day trip because you need to try this place - Sukitei for traditional shabu-shabu.
We had a lovely classic dish here served in this really lovely restaurant. I highly highly recommend the Omakase set meal; you end up with 5 interesting and delicious courses in total, finished with udon noodles which mop up the shabu-shabu broth. We went for Hagi beef, but as you can see below you can choose from 5 cuts of meat, with the Gokujo being the best.
First we had a bite size portion of slow cooked beef marinated in a rich salty sauce accompanied by tofu, cucumber and wasabi.
Next was an assortment of 5 flavours. On the right is a softened cherry tomato in a crispy outer, then noodles wrapped in cucumber, a prawn, the yellow one which was my least favourite and too daring to finish and lastly, a piece of smoked fish.
Then we were served 3 slices of cold seared wagyu beef with ton kotsu sauce, whole grain mustard and a radish salad. It was super yum!
If that doesn't sound like enough, we were only just getting started. The kimono wearing waitress came and fired up our personal gas cooker and began to show us the technique for shabu-shabu'ing. Between the razor thin slithers of marbled beef and onoki mushrooms (aka my new absolute favourite vege), cooked and then dipped in a sauce of soy, garlic, radish and spring onions, I was in utter food heaven. And of course this was all accompanied by lashings of plum liquor!
We were into bed early so we could get up first thing to make our way to Shibu Onsen which you can read about next.