Monday, November 21, 2011

A Night Out at Hirome Ichiba

This month's J-Festa Blogging theme is "Dining in Japan," so I thought I would share a little bit about the "hottest spot" in all of Kochi Prefecture: Hirome Ichiba. Lonely Planet even ranked the restaurant as the 5th most interesting thing you should waste time doing if you ever drunkenly stumble into this prefecture (since we are #1 in that department). But in all seriousness, Hirome Ichiba is the hangout of Kochi City. You will only find the place empty during the afternoon, and even then you can find people scattered about drinking beer and eating katsuo tataki. The establishment takes up the first floor of a two story warehouse-esque building made of solid grey concrete and filled to the brim with gift shops, bars, and small food "stalls" (parking on the 2nd floor). The rest of the space is filled with picnic tables and benches that you need to circle like a hawk in order to nab on a busy Friday/Saturday night.

People pack like sardines onto those benches on most Friday/Saturday nights.
The back of the building where the best bar tender ever resides as well as some amazing ice cream.
Since there are so many different shops and stalls lining the interior of the building, it's hard not to find something everyone wants to eat. A number of places offer standard, cheap, izakaya food like korokke, yaki-tori, assortments of fried finger food and beer. Other places are more specialized, and offer a specially made gyoza, ramen, takoyaki, karage, or donburi as the main draw to their particular shop. There are even a few non-Japanese food shops that offer Chinese, Korean, Indian and a shop called "Kei's Cafe" that offers a slightly more western-style menu including Jerk Chicken and Taco Rice. Of course, out of all of these things, the almighty Katsuo Tataki reins supreme and has one especially large shop near the front of Hirome.

This shop sits front and center in the Hirome Ichiba complex and serves only Katsuo Tataki (along with the standard white rice, miso soup and tempura-fried kimpira) in about three main flavors. They even have the kitchen area set up with a huge pane of glass so you can watch as they freshly sear the Katsuo you'll be eating over a roaring straw fire. Flavoring options include salt, tare, and yuzu, and each order of Katsuo Tataki is garnished with slices of garlic and a sprinkling of green onion and grated daikon.

Raw in the middle and perfectly seared on the outside. Yum.
Katsuo Tataki (#5) would rank in my top 5 Hirome Ichiba food choices. Along with it, I think I would have to add:
  • bacon wrapped onigiri (#4)
  • Hirome korokke (#3)
  • cheese nan (#2)
  • macha soft-serve in a waffle cone (#1)
I apologize that I don't have pictures of each thing..... if you tasted them I think you'd understand why I can never wait to take a picture. :P

Best bar-tender in the world, A-chan.
Last but not least, booze! If anything, Hirome Ichiba is the place that everyone in Kochi goes to relax, unwind, and down a few beers before the week ends/weekend starts. Every store in the place sells one of the following: cheap beer, chu-hai, nihonshu, or wine. The exception would be A-chan's middle bar, which remains as one of the few places that sells liquor and has such an adorable tender to go along with it (there's another bar that sits on the outside of the back of the building, run by an American). No fail, every time me and Matto go to visit him he will have shots of free whiskey and vodka waiting for us (and will subsequently take a shot himself). He's a dangerous man. Everything he sells is 500 yen and he's the one bar tender that fully understands that Americans don't like foam on their beer (and god bless him for it).

That about wraps it up for my post on Hirome Ichiba. If you ever find yourself lost and in Kochi Prefecture (because unless you're doing the 88 temple pilgrimage... why would you ever visit Shikoku?), come on over to Hirome Ichiba, located at the end of Kochi's shopping arcade "Obiyamachi," and find a tired salary man or drunken college student to share a beer with. :)

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