Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beyond Tokyo : Seafood Feast in Chiba

To explore the area around Tokyo besides the usual Hakone, Kamakura and Kawagoe, I embarked on a one-day road trip to the rural town of Chikura. One reason was to escape from the city crowd on a public holiday in Japan. Second, it was not one of the places listed on any foreign tourist brochures (I guessed many Japanese might not even be aware of this place). Third, there is a famous fish port in Chikura and there are chances that we could try fresh and cheap seafood there. 


It is the southernmost town of the Minami-boso peninsula and the only train access was via JR Sotobou Line (外房線) Utilizing the new 3-day Tokyo Wide Pass, we hopped on the JR trains that took nearly 3 hours before reaching the station and another 30-min wait for the local bus that ply the town at very few timings. 

Once we reached the bus stop, we walked for 10-15min through a flower farm before arriving at our destination, Shiozake. First thing in our mind was to fill up our hungry bellies since it was already past 1pm. There were two Japanese restaurants and we sticked to the one with the longer queue as that was the one I had planned to try. 
There were SO MANY Japanese families dining here and we were the only foreigners. One major draw is probably the large-sized portions at reasonable prices. For instance, we had the extra large Anago Tendon (特大穴子天丼/1950 yen) that came with so much ingredients that I couldn't even quite see the rice at first. This was highly satisfying and meaty but I prefer the Anago TenDon from Hannosuke as the coating batter was too thick for me. I preferred it to be lighter and crisp. Same issue surfaced for the golden ebi don (黄金海老丼 1840 yen) but you won't really be bothered as the fine Japanese rice that had soaked up all the sauce was heavenly and delicious. 

I was eagerly anticipating to try the signature King Don, a gigantic bowl of rice topped with Ise Ebi lobster and ten different kinds of sashimi but was sad to learn that this trademark registered item was not available since there were limited sets each day. Nonetheless, it wasn't such a big loss since we had the Sashimi Platter (2200 yen)


The other trademark-registered dish was Aji Katsu Burger (¥500) which did not taste anything like it looked as the burger was pre-prepared and the pattie was soggy due to the long exposure to mayo sauce. McDonald's Fish O'fillet burger was better. Skip the flower salad as it was merely a plate of lettuce scattered with scanty pieces of petals that were picked from the farm. 

As such, I figured that the rice bowls here and the sashimi were still the forte of this restaurant. Not forgetting the exceptionally friendly and enthusiastic service team that were very warm and hospitable, unlike some of the rubbish cold shoulders I get in Tokyo. As I often discuss with my friends, there IS still a difference between the people from city and countryside. It's such kind of invaluable memories that make road-trips so deeply satisfying. 

After the meal, we grabbed a delicious soft serve from the cafe next door and strolled along the coastal lines. More than half of the day was gone by then and it seemed like the only significant activity we did was eating. In less than half an hour, we were bound for the city again. It's another 40,000 miles of travel before reaching the center of Tokyo, but all was well. 

It was a good day. 


Hanabou 旬膳はな房
Japan 295-0025, Chiba-ken, Minami bosou-shi, Chikura, Senda 1051
Daily 11am-9pm (Sat/Sun/PH 10.30am~)
Access: Alight at JR Chikura Station, take the local bus and alight at Nana-ura Primary School Station, walk 10 minutes towards the sea JR千倉駅下車。バス乗り換え、七浦小学校前バス停下車(千倉駅より約20分)、徒歩10分。

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