Kochi city, Shimanto, Oku-Shimantogawa Keikoku Onsen, Tano, Muroto.
Foodies Look Out For
Katsuo no tataki bonito fish; Kochi city’s morning markets; Kinmedai rice dishes; Sawachi-ryori banquet cuisine; river fish, crabs and eel from the Shimantogawa river; Nabeyaki ramen; Bijofu sake.
Kochi's abundant ocean, fertile farmlands, mountains and crystal clear rivers, make it a real gourmet treasure trove.
Foodies Go Kochi
Kochi, was once the fiefdom of the fractious Tosa clan. Its inhabitants, most notably Meiji-era hero Sakamoto Ryoma, are renowned for being a rebellious lot. It’s no surprise that these fishermen and farmers love to talk, drink and eat. And they’re in the right place for it. Blessed by fertile soils, the pure fish-filled waters of the Shimantogawa river, and the warm current bringing fish from abundant southern waters, Kochi is a gourmet’s delight.
The prefecture is also dotted with outdoor produce markets. Those in Kochi city date back to 1690. Its Sunday asa-ichi morning market is teeming with locals and tourists and is unmissable. Where else can you find fresh fish, yuzu citron juice and the mysterious tanuki-abura racoon-dog oil?
Kochi is synonymous with exquisite katsuo no tataki, where bonito fish is lightly braised - either wrapped in straw and thrust into a burning fire, or over a charcoal grill (you can see this at the morning market) left raw in the centre, and served sliced as sashimi in a light ponzu sauce.
The bonito's salted offal is especially prized, and is nicknamed shuto ‘sake theft’ because it accompanies the drink so perfectly that sake-less gastronomes are forced to turn to crime in order to avail themselves of a drink to accompany the delicacy. Equally prized is the kinmedai alfonsino, a type of sea bream, found here mostly in a donburi dish, ie, topping rice.
Dorome, found in Kochi city and dotted through the prefecture, are the best sardines. During early summer these are served with sake as su-miso-ae. The rest of Japan knows Kochi for its celebratory cuisine sawachi-ryori, in which local vegetables and seafood, nimono simmered dishes, agemono deep-fried food, and fruits are piled extravagantly on one large platter – the sawachi. However, it is so prohibitively expensive that it is rarely eaten outside the big tourist hotels.
Much more common are the sweetfish from the Shimantogawa river, a region which also specialises in remarkable sansai-ryori 'mountain cuisine. In these stakes the Ichinomata Keikoku Onsen Hotel deserves special mention. Its chefs produce incredibly sophisticated dishes using sansai and fish, eel, and even algae from the upper reaches of the Shimanto-gawa.
Local dishes include the splendid tennen-ayu-no-shio-yaki salted and grilled wild sweetfish, the exotic-looking boiled magani river crab, and the succulent crossover masu no carpaccio trout carpaccio with capers and red peppers. Back down on the coastline look for Asian pears, each individually wrapped while still on the tree! Last but not least Monobe, Kitagawa, and Umaji-mura produce the marvellous yuzu. Stock up with yuzu juice for making your own ponzu dipping sauce a mixture of dashi, shoyu, vinegar and citrus juice.
The Kochi Budget Gourmet
Kamaage chirimen donburi; berayaki; kinmedon alfonsino on rice; kokerazushi; katsuo no tataki burger (Oh dear!); Tosa hachikin-jidori fried chicken; katsuo no kaku-ni stewed bonito; Tachikawa soba; Aisukurin 'ice cream' (Kochi city).
The Ramen Professor Recommends
Compared to neighboring Tokushima, Kochi ramen offers slim pickings. The local take is to use ramen in place of udon wheat noodles in the dashi hotpot known as nabeyaki ramen. Nabeyaki Ramen Aki-chan, in Kochi city near the prefectural office, is a local favorite.
Near Harimayabashi in the center of Kochi city, Nonbei Yatai has good shijimi clam ramen. It’s a popular spot after an evening of drinking.
FGL Favorite Tipple
This is a no brainer. Anything made by Tano city's Hamakawa Shuzo in their wonderful range of Bijofu sakes. We fell in love with these two decades ago. Their Tokubetsu Junmaishu suits a wide variety of dishes. You might also like to try Tosatsuru Junmaishu, a dry, evenly- balanced, mildly fragrant sake from one of the prefecture's best-known producers. It may be drunk at room temperature, or even slightly warmed, without hurting its character.