Tohoku Restaurants

Tohoku is a great place for fresh food, whether from the fields, mountains, forests, or seas. Restaurants range from local sake shacks to upscale sushi bars and steak houses, and dress may be street-casual to office attire. Rarely will it be formal. Menus may not always be in English, but you can often find window displays full of plastic representations of the menu. Credit cards are fine in cities, but they are not always accepted in the countryside, so bring along enough cash. In many restaurants you'll take your shoes off at the entry and place them in a cubicle.

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  • 1. Akita Kawabata Isariya Sakaba

    $$$

    This restaurant lives up to its promise of "All of Akita in one building." Delicious, unique regional dishes such as the highly recommended pickle selection...

    This restaurant lives up to its promise of "All of Akita in one building." Delicious, unique regional dishes such as the highly recommended pickle selection topped with a tiny paper scarecrow, are served on antique plates by friendly staff. Look for the statue of the namahage (a fearsome monster from Akita's mountains) outside the entrance.

    4--2--35 Omachi, Akita, Akita-ken, 010-0921, Japan
    018-865–8888

    Known For

    • Seafood-focused menu
    • Excellent pickle selection
    • Popular statue of the namahage out front

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch
  • 2. Azuma-ya Soba

    $$

    Hearty soba is made from plentiful northern buckwheat, and Azuma-ya is easily Morioka's most famous place to eat these healthful noodles. The second level is...

    Hearty soba is made from plentiful northern buckwheat, and Azuma-ya is easily Morioka's most famous place to eat these healthful noodles. The second level is devoted to the courageous and hearty of appetite, where wanko soba courses—all you could possibly want to eat—are served. The ground floor is for a more casual (and less competitive) dining experience. If you don't want the eating challenge, order from their many other dishes. Keep in mind that they close for a two-hour break at 3 pm and stop taking orders before 7 pm. There is another location closer to the station that takes orders until 8 pm.

    1--08--3 Nakanohashi Dori, Morioka, Iwate-ken, 020-0871, Japan
    0120-733--130-for all locations

    Known For

    • Continuous bowls of soba
    • Lively atmosphere
    • Sets of seasonal local dishes
  • 3. Maruhachi Yatarazuke

    $$

    Housed in a converted warehouse in the Maruhachi Yatarazuke complex, the Komian Maruhachi restaurant serves traditional Yamagata dishes such as soba noodles and imoni potato...

    Housed in a converted warehouse in the Maruhachi Yatarazuke complex, the Komian Maruhachi restaurant serves traditional Yamagata dishes such as soba noodles and imoni potato hot pot, as well as unusual sushi made with pickles from theYatarazuke shop right next door. You can try them all in the "Three tastes of Yamagata" set (¥1,620). For a drink try Tachinomi-dokoro, the standing bar on the far side of the shop, offering all the pickles you can eat for ¥300.

    2-1-5 Hatagomachi, Yamagata, Yamagata-ken, 990-0047, Japan
    023-623–0310

    Known For

    • Unique local pickles
    • A Three Tastes of Yamagata set (soba, potato hot pot, pickle sushi)

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Restaurant closed 1st Wed. of month. Bar closed Sun. No lunch
  • 4. Aji Tasuke Honten

    $$ | Aoba-ku

    This birthplace of Sendai's famous gyutan (grilled beef tongue) proudly serves excellent and inexpensive meals. It is a very casual environment but can get crowded...

    This birthplace of Sendai's famous gyutan (grilled beef tongue) proudly serves excellent and inexpensive meals. It is a very casual environment but can get crowded with lines forming before opening.

    4--4--13 Ichiban-cho, Sendai, Miyagi-ken, 980-0811, Japan
    022-225–4641

    Known For

    • Grilled beef tongue
    • Inexpensive lunch sets
    • Oxtail soup

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Tues.
  • 5. Al-ché-cciano

    $$$$

    Acclaimed executive chef and owner Okuda Masayuki prepares Italian dishes that are totally original and unique and reflect the region. The style of Italian comes...

    Acclaimed executive chef and owner Okuda Masayuki prepares Italian dishes that are totally original and unique and reflect the region. The style of Italian comes with a commitment to the freshest ingredients, including the produce, fish, and meat. The menu varies, but everything is reliably great. The aim here is to bring out all natural flavors and aromas of Shonai foods by using few condiments, to create a perfectly combined dish where delicate flavors are more important than heavy sauces or big portions. It's often a good idea to make reservations for dinner and that also lets you confirm that they are open since they do keep a have a sporadic schedule in winter. 

    83 Ichirizuka, Shimoyama-zoe, Tsuruoka, Yamagata-ken, 997-0341, Japan
    0235-78–7230

    Known For

    • Delicious and creative interpretations of seasonal dishes
    • Fresh local ingredients
    • Courses divided up by price

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon., Reservations essential
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  • 6. Anzu

    $$$

    Avant-garde performances of live shamisen—an instrument similar to the banjo—by promising young performers and seasoned experts are the main attraction here. Arrive early to sit...

    Avant-garde performances of live shamisen—an instrument similar to the banjo—by promising young performers and seasoned experts are the main attraction here. Arrive early to sit on cushions on the floor and enjoy the regional fare. Many items on the menu are incomprehensible even to native speakers, as they go by local names; if you are an adventurous diner, point and anticipate.

    44--1 Oyakata Machi, Hirosaki, Aomori-ken, 036-8191, Japan
    0172-32–6684

    Known For

    • Lively atmosphere
    • Local cuisine from Aomori's Tsugaru Penninsula area
    • Shamisen performances

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Often closed Sun. (call in advance). No lunch
  • 7. Banya Nagasawa

    $$$$

    When you slide open the door to what looks like a little house, you may notice the fish tanks and the freezer packed with flounder,...

    When you slide open the door to what looks like a little house, you may notice the fish tanks and the freezer packed with flounder, sea bream, and sea creatures you might not recognize. But you'll instantly know what you'll be served here: all manner of seasonal grilled shellfish and fish, crisp and brown on the outside but white and tender inside. You'll be eating warabi (fiddle ferns) in spring, and drinking excellent local sake with friendly regulars any time of the year. It's a bit pricey, but if you're a seafood fan this won't disappoint. From JR Morioka, follow Odori to the Iwate Bank and turn right at the statue of Takuboku Ishikawa. The restaurant is 2½ blocks ahead on the right.

    2--6--1 Saien, Morioka, Iwate-ken, 020-0024, Japan
    019-622–2646

    Known For

    • The freshest seafood
    • An excellent sake selection
    • Dishes to match the season

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and a few days in mid-Aug. No lunch
  • 8. Beko Masamune

    $$ | Aoba-ku

    Fearless, meat-loving gourmets should stop at this slightly hidden gem. The use of wood in the decor create a relaxed atmosphere where you can focus...

    Fearless, meat-loving gourmets should stop at this slightly hidden gem. The use of wood in the decor create a relaxed atmosphere where you can focus on the chef's presentations.

    1-8-32 Chuo, Sendai, Miyagi-ken, 980-0021, Japan
    022-217–1151

    Known For

    • Locally sourced meats
    • Creative dishes
    • Local fusion cuisine
  • 9. Go Shu In Sen

    $$ | Aoba-ku

    This good spot for cheap seafood and sake offers can't-beat lunch deals. Very casual, it's also a great place to sit at the counter and...

    This good spot for cheap seafood and sake offers can't-beat lunch deals. Very casual, it's also a great place to sit at the counter and watch chefs at work.

    3--1--24 Chuo, Sendai, Miyagi-ken, 980-0021, Japan
    022-225–6868

    Known For

    • Lively atmosphere
    • Fresh fish
    • Good-value lunch sets
  • 10. Hide-zushi

    $$$$

    You're in a major seafood city, and if you want some of the best of what is available in these cold waters, this is the...

    You're in a major seafood city, and if you want some of the best of what is available in these cold waters, this is the place to get it. Dinner is not cheap, but lunches are more reasonably priced. The restaurant offers excellent service and bright surroundings.

    1--5--12 Tsutsumi Machi, Aomori-ken, 030-0812, Japan
    017-722–8888

    Known For

    • Skillful plating
    • Seasonal fresh fish
    • Affordable lunches
  • 11. Inaniwa Sato Yosuke

    $$

    Noodles can only be called Inaniwa Udon if they are produced in Inaniwa. Established in 1860, this noodle empire has many branches across the Tohoku...

    Noodles can only be called Inaniwa Udon if they are produced in Inaniwa. Established in 1860, this noodle empire has many branches across the Tohoku region, but this one is for connoisseurs who want to sample regional foods and locally brewed sake. Make big slurps and enjoy.

    2--6--1 Nakadori, Akita, Akita-ken, 010-0001, Japan
    018-834–1720

    Known For

    • A chewy type of noodle particular to Akita
    • Large lunch sets
    • Creative takes on local dishes

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed only when the Seibu Building is closed
  • 12. Ippachi-zushi

    $$$

    What was once an early-20th-century warehouse is now a modern sushi restaurant. The fish here is fresh, and the price is right (and a clear...

    What was once an early-20th-century warehouse is now a modern sushi restaurant. The fish here is fresh, and the price is right (and a clear price list is hung on the wall). The casual atmosphere makes it popular among business travelers. The fish served varies according to the season and availability.

    1--10--11 Shinmachi, Aomori-ken, 030-0801, Japan
    017-722–2639

    Known For

    • Fresh seasonal fish
    • Interesting architecture
    • Lively atmosphere

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed 2nd and 4th Sun. every month
  • 13. Jiraiya

    $$$$ | Aoba-ku

    In its lively neighborhood, a curtain next to a big red paper lantern leads to this inviting eatery where kinki (deepwater white fish) are carefully...

    In its lively neighborhood, a curtain next to a big red paper lantern leads to this inviting eatery where kinki (deepwater white fish) are carefully grilled on a charcoal fire and other delectables are served. The interior is quaint and inviting and the walls are plastered with signed posters and artifacts from celebrities.

    2--1--15 Kokubun-cho, Sendai, Miyagi-ken, 980-0803, Japan
    022-261–2164

    Known For

    • Fresh seafood
    • Grilled dishes
    • Seasonal specialties

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun. No lunch
  • 14. Kikufuji

    $$

    Tasty, healthful, and authentic dishes from the region are Kikufuji's specialty. Excellent local varieties of sake are available. They can provide you with a menu...

    Tasty, healthful, and authentic dishes from the region are Kikufuji's specialty. Excellent local varieties of sake are available. They can provide you with a menu with pictures, but it does not include everything, so you could also look around at other tables to see what you might fancy.

    1 Sakamoto-cho, Hirosaki, Aomori-ken, 036-8016, Japan
    0172-36–3300

    Known For

    • Very fresh seafood
    • Local vegetable stews
    • Local sake

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Thurs. and two other days per month (call to check)
  • 15. Michinoku Nishimura

    $$

    It would be hard to walk out of this restaurant hungry. The restaurant has mostly seating on tatami mats on the floor, but there are...

    It would be hard to walk out of this restaurant hungry. The restaurant has mostly seating on tatami mats on the floor, but there are areas with tables. You might just be focused on the view over the water. It is on the 10th floor of the lofty ASPAM building.

    1--1--40 Yasukata, Aomori, Aomori-ken, 030-0803, Japan
    017-734–5353

    Known For

    • Abalone and sea-urchin soup
    • Teishoku set meals at good prices
    • Sea views

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed when the ASPAM building is closed. Call ahead
  • 16. Mimasu Sushi and Bento

    $$

    The highlights here are good sushi, tempura, and donburi—bowls with cutlets, tempura, or chicken on top of rice. In this old-fashioned establishment where typical Japanese...

    The highlights here are good sushi, tempura, and donburi—bowls with cutlets, tempura, or chicken on top of rice. In this old-fashioned establishment where typical Japanese dishes are served, there is something on the menu to suit anyone's taste.

    2-3-7 Nanokamachi, Yamagata, Yamagata-ken, 990-0042, Japan
    023-632–1252

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted
  • 17. Mitsu-ishi

    $$$

    Crowded with locals, Mitsu-ishi has a convivial atmosphere and dishes that appeal to everyone. If you're in the mood for drinks and some finger food,...

    Crowded with locals, Mitsu-ishi has a convivial atmosphere and dishes that appeal to everyone. If you're in the mood for drinks and some finger food, take a seat at the bar where you can watch the action. Look for the mood-lighted white building with boxy dark roof.

    2--7--33 Yasukata, Aomori-ken, 038-0000, Japan
    017-735–3314

    Known For

    • Set menus with a variety of dishes
    • Grilled shellfish
    • Variety of sake

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.
  • 18. Mitsuya Honten Soba Restaurant

    $$

    A short walk from JR Yamagata Station will put you in front of some fine and slightly chewy Yamagata soba noodles. Everything is good here,...

    A short walk from JR Yamagata Station will put you in front of some fine and slightly chewy Yamagata soba noodles. Everything is good here, but in summer try the hiyashi-dori soba (with cold chicken). The eatery is in a traditional black-wood-and-white-stucco building south of the station.

    1-1-75 Uwa-machi, Yamagata, Yamagata-ken, 990-2483, Japan
    023-644–4973

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Tues, No credit cards
  • 19. Pyon Pyon Sha Morioka Ekimae Ten

    $$

    Reimen—a dish of clear noodles served cold with spicy kimchi, hard-boiled egg, watermelon, and a slice of beef—is a Korean delicacy that has become one...

    Reimen—a dish of clear noodles served cold with spicy kimchi, hard-boiled egg, watermelon, and a slice of beef—is a Korean delicacy that has become one of Morioka's signature dishes. It is served in a set with another Korean item such as bibimbap (rice in a hot stone bowl, topped with pickled vegetables, mincemeat, and egg) in this airy modern restaurant near Morioka Station. Evening meals feature meat barbecued at the table.

    9--3 Morioka Ekimaedori, Morioka, Iwate-ken, 020-0034, Japan
    019-606–1067

    Known For

    • Morioka reimen (a cold noodle dish)
    • Yaki-niku (grilled meat)
    • Creative noodle dishes
  • 20. Restaurant Yamazaki

    $$$$

    Try it for yourself and you'll see why people come here from all over Honshu for a cup of the ringo no reisei supu (cold...

    Try it for yourself and you'll see why people come here from all over Honshu for a cup of the ringo no reisei supu (cold apple soup topped with crusted baked apple skins). The totally organic "miracle" apples that farmer Kimura raises and the dishes chef Yamazaki prepares keep attracting customers.

    41 Oyakata Machi, Hirosaki, Aomori-ken, 036-8191, Japan
    0172-38–5515

    Known For

    • Creative dishes with apples
    • A prix-fixe menu
    • Hirosaki-based French courses

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon., Reservations essential

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