– I think you will like the place, it’s old and dirty in a good way.
The Okayama wholesale market is located on the edge of town. It’s a big modern complex where most of the area is off limit to the general public, but there is a building for to the public. It’s nothing like Tsukiji in Tokyo, but at that point I was too hungry to really care about seeing the whole sellers in action.
The small restaurant is called Bizen like the famous pottery produced in the prefecture of Okayama. The menu features a few pics, but when you walk in, the whole menu is displayed cafeteria style with a price tag and a small description written on a little cardboard next to the actual plate. The dining area is just to the left of the entrance and when we got there at 10h40 the place was already busy with customers eating lunch. I can easily imagine how busy it must be at lunch time on a weekday when the fish mongers descend on the place like a wild horde.
I ordered an anago-don menu with shrimp and my wife ordered a bowl of rice topped with sea food and sashimi. Both set menu were 1000 yen, so it’s pretty cheap compare to similar restaurant in the city.
The restaurant is indeed old and pretty worn out. I figured out pretty fast that the regulars who are mostly market workers don’t go there for the decor, it’s all about simple food, good prices and huge portions.
Anago is a salt water eel which is very similar to the unagi (fresh water variety), anago is sometime called conger eel.
My anago tempura came whole with the head and tail. It was also served with a shrimp, eggplant, lotus root and shitake mushroom. The tempura was crisp and the anago was very different for the ordinary grilled version which is served almost everywhere in Japan. It’s quite a pleasure to bite into the anago like you would eat a hot dog. The meal also came with a miso soup, simmered kabocha and pickled cabbage.
My wife stated the obvious at one point of the meal:
-This must be really delicious since you are not talking...
She was right, I really enjoyed eating at Bizen. It’s great food at a great price. My wife meal looked very good and from what she let me sampled, it was something I would not hesitate to try on a second visit.
Anago and unagi are both suppose to cool you down during the hot summer months. I have no clue if the anago I ate refreshed me, but I walked out of Bizen feeling full and happy.
Once again, both my mother-in-law and my wife were right about a restaurant, now I am wondering when I will go back!