Going on our first trip to Japan: mid-January to early February. There is so much on FTC about Tokyo, and some good threads on Kyoto and Osaka. But I couldn’t find anything on Kyushu, where we plan to spend 4 to 5 days. Who has been and can share some of their favorite food experiences? Also looking for advice on a hotel with good concierge services in Fukuokoa: mainly hoping to score seats at Tenzushi Kyomachi (Tableall struck out and skeptical of Voyagin).
It’s been a while but I recall Fukuoka being a great casual food city. The yatai (open air food stall) culture there is strong - they seat 8 people max per stall, so there is sometimes a line for the good ones. Bring cash. I’d hazard a guess that any stall featuring a sizeable queue of local salarymen would be worthy of a visit. In Fukuoka, Nakasu Island (especially the southern end) is full of yatai to choose from. The tsukune (chicken skewers) and ramen are wonderful. Expect richer ramen broths in Fukuoka in general. This is the home of Hakata ramen.
Kawatarou is a place where you can fish for your own squid dinner out of a pool! A bit kitschy, but delicious nonetheless.
Udon Taira was also a nice udon-ya, if memory serves.
Castella (kasutera) sponge cakes are great here, too.
I live here in Kyushu and wrote this:
… hope it gives you some more info. My wife is much bigger foodie than me (and a Kyushu native) so let me know if you have any specific questions. BTW, just got back from a trip to Kurokawa Onsen yesterday where we had AMAZING kaiseki-ryōri dinner. Mind-blowing.
You can also look into La Maison de la Nature Goh, French cuisine using Kyushu seafood and local ingredients. Maybe better to go now before he does something with Gaggan and then it becomes impossible to book (or wherever that project is going to be). As J_L already said, the yatai scene there can be fun and there is even one yatai that does French fare.
Pocket Concierge might be able to get you reservation for other Fukuoka area sushi restaurants. I am not so sure about Teru Sushi in Kitakyushu…unless you like a show with your dinner and the possibility of running into Instagram influencer types.
I would highly recommend you try local sake around that regional as much as you can: Fukuoka, Saga, and Kumamoto prefecture sake, whether it be at sake bars, izakaya, or other restaurants. Not in the immediate area but Yamaguchi sake is also worth trying. (Though once you get into Kyushu and Miyazaki and parts of Kumamoto you are going to see more shochu than sake and do try Miyazaki and Kagoshima imo shochu, some of the best comes from that area)
Fukoka: Niwano Guisu, Denaka Rokugo
Kumamoto: Kouro (they invented the #9 brewing yeast)
Saga: Amabuki (try the ones not exported), Nabeshima (very high end and sought after, maybe easier to find in Fukuoka/Kyushu/Saga and cheaper than Tokyo), Azumaichi (try anything other than Junmai and Junmai Ginjo which is available in NY)
Yamaguchi: Taka (the Tokubetsu Junmai is available in the US but they have variations not exported), Gangi (the US has Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, and Junmai Daiginjo pasteurized, try the non pasteurized versions in Japan and other variations), Toyo Bijin,
Then find a place that gets in good quality local seafood…Karatsu uni, Kyushu saba and aji (Seki Saba, Seki Aji for the higher end), and lots of great fantastic seafood from Amakusa. Unagi and Anago as well.
Kumamoto prefecture is most famous for horse meat cuisine (and sashimi, basashi). Maybe not on your radar or adventure, but worth noting.
Thanks! I will report back.
Thanks! Do you recall the name of the establishment where you had this dinner in Kurokawa?
Thanks for all the recommendations. Recently had my first taste of Taka Tokubetsu Junmai; I will definitely be seeking out more from this brewery. I have 0 interest in Teru Sushi. Really hoping to get a taste of the Tenzushi-style. Maybe Morita.
Do you have recommendations for breweries to visit (anywhere from Tokyo and Kyushu)? I would love to talk to brewers, see some of the process in action, but my Japanese is remedial.
This is the place. It’s well-regarded for its cuisine.
This is my write-up of that trip (with pics of each course):
I’ve only been to Fukuoka once for about 3 days so don’t consider my recommendations super worthy but the specialties of the area are mackerel and motsu nabe for one.
Considering you are visiting in Winter that’s a great time to be eating saba (mackerel) there’s a bunch of interesting places that serve it grilled and more interestingly raw dressed in sesame. I was planning on checking this place out but it was closed for Golden Week unfortunately while I was there:
Motsu Nabe is a specialty here too: A stew of miso and pork offal, I really love this dish there are many places to try it on Fukuoka.
Apparently yakitori is a specialty of this region too (some people say yakitori has Korean origins and Fukuoka is closer to Korea than it is to Tokyo which makes sense). There’s a place called Hakata Torikawa. While the regular yakitori is decent the reason people come here is for the chicken skin skewers which are made in a special way I’ve never seen before, supposedly they take several days to make, I’m not sure why but they are really good. You can order a soy marinated version or a regular salt seasoned one, I prefer the salt but at a cost of only 90/100 Yen per stick feel free to go crazy. They are on the small side so I easily ate 10 of the skin skewers. There’s a location in the Kite Hakata Station basement food hall but I linked to a location not far from it.
Also this is the birthplace is tonkotsu ramen and there are many many places to try. There’s a ramen street inside Hakata station where you can try many of the well known shops in one place. I do not recommend going to Ramen Stadium at the Canal City mall, those shops seem to be of lower quality overall.
Thanks JLee! I love saba. Will try and see if I can get sick of it on this trip. I will report back in February.
Please do share in the future, would love to see what you discover.
Interesting! Sold out already; I had no idea.
How was it?
Yeah the tix went quick. I went on the first night and the trio had just arrived stateside the night before, so they were still working out the kinks - sourcing ingredients etc.
You can tell the master has serious chops. Even under sub-optimal conditions, sushi was quite good. Should improve as the week progresses. Very unexpected location to host the event. Fun experience overall.