Saturday, July 1, 2017

Review of the National Gyoza Festival in Sendai

Address:  Kokusai Center Subway Station.   
Map:  Check on their website.
Sunday, July 2nd from 10 am to 4 pm.
For more info, please read my initial posting of this event HERE.
When I realized in the late afternoon that it would not rain today, I decided to venture on out and fight the crowds at the famed Gyoza Matsuri.  I was concerned that with today’s heat and humidity that waiting in line with a bunch of strangers for a small sampling of food might not make for an enjoyable afternoon.
But to my surprise upon arrival at around 3 pm, I discovered that the event was NOT crowded at all!  In fact, all but two of the gyoza stalls had lines.  There were lots of people there, but no lines.

This was the size of the crowd

For my first sampling, I chose the Utsunomiya Gyoza, which did have a line.  Of course it had a line; Utsnomiya and gyoza go hand-in-hand.  I had to wait a WHOLE five-stomach growling-minutes.  I was unable to find a seat under a tent so I went to one of the many standing tables available.  
This was good gyoza!  Crispy on the outside with a flavorful filling.  And at five dumplings for 300 yen, I recommend this one! 

There were 5.  I was starving and ate 1 before I took the photo.  Oops.

Next, I moseyed on over to the other stall that had a loooooooong line (I waited three-minutes tops) for a jumbo Tsu Gyoza from Mie Prefecture.  This was one puffy pot sticker reportedly registering 15 cm in length.  (This time I was able to find a seat under a tent, but it was so hot it didn’t feel like the shade helped that much.)  The wrapping was thick and a bit crispy, stuffed with all the flavors that you’d expect.  This was good, but I liked the Utsunomiya Gyoza better.

One chubby gyoza

For what I thought was my final taste testing, I decided to try the Fukushima Gyoza, as that booth had accumulated a short line.  Apparently, Fukushima Gyoza is popular due to its emphasis on vegetable fillings, and for the fact that 700 of these gyoza can be cooked at the same time.  This gyoza was very good!  I recommend this one, too!  Very similar to the Utsunomiya Gyoza.  

Fukushima Gyoza

How many gyoza do you see?

While waiting in line, I ran into my friend, Fumika, who graciously invited me to join her and her friend.  They had purchased the Hachiman Gyoza from Fukuoka Prefecture, which uses yuzu pepper as a condiment, and offered me a dumpling.
We all first tried the gyoza without the yuzu pepper.  It was good, as I detected a slight sweetness to it.  Then we all tried the yuzu pepper by itself.  The yuza flavoring was sour, the pepper strong.  I guess that was to be expected.

Hachiman Gyoza

I suspect that since it’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow, that’s when the crowds will flock to this event, so I’m glad I battled the heat today.   

Also, if the tents are crowded, you might want to try the Kokusai Center Station viewing platform.  There are tables, chairs, steps, and most importantly, shade!  
If you try some of the other gyoza, please let me know what you thought of it.
Have fun if you go!

From the Kokusai Center Station Viewing Platform

Thursday, June 29, 2017

National Gyoza Festival in Sendai 全国餃子祭りin仙台 022-259-3712

Address:  Kokusai Center Subway Station.   
Map:  Check on their website.
Saturday, July 1st from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday, July 2nd from 10 am to 4 pm.
I stopped by late Sunday afternoon during last year’s festivities, and some of the gyoza booths had already sold out, while other stalls had lines that were more than a 40-minute wait.  This proved to be an extremely popular event in 2016.
Still, it was fun to sit, eat, and watch the crowd enjoy themselves.  I also got a glimpse of Gyoza Man (?-I don’t know he calls himself).

Gyoza Man?  Mr. Gyoza Head?

Kirin Beer is once again hosting this gyoza extravaganza and there are live performances scheduled throughout the event.  
All the vendors are selling their gyoza packages for 300 yen, which are usually four dumplings per pack.
I’m sorry, but I really don’t remember my impressions on the pot stickers from last year, but I’ll add a few photos just to give you an idea.
Hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dashichazuke-en だし茶漬けえん 022-352-4596

Address:  仙台市青葉区中央1-1-1エスパル仙台東館2F.  Located on the second floor of the new S-Pal addition to Sendai Station, close to the East Exit.
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open:  Everyday from 10 am to 10 pm, but apparently they sell onigiri from 8 am to 10 am.

A couple of years ago a world-traveling student of mine, Chiaki, told me of her favorite restaurant in Narita Airport.  She said she would often delay her return to Sendai just so that she could eat at だし茶漬けえん, which specializes in ochazuke (お茶請け).
I tried it on my next vacation and it has become my “go-to” spot whenever I fly out of Narita.
If you’ve never eaten ochazuke (お茶請け), it’s simply pouring green tea on a bowl of rice with varied ingredients.  It reminds me somewhat of the Campbell’s Chicken with Rice Soup that I loved as a kid.
While recently taking a leisurely stroll among the new shops and restaurants in the newly renovated S-Pal addition at Sendai Station, I was pleasantly surprised to find that だし茶漬けえん had come to Tohoku.
The restaurant is small and somewhat hidden.  The pink (?) circle marks the restaurant.  (Besides being picky, I’m also colorblind, so it may not be pink.)

You order your meal using an electronic touch screen monitor.  A nice feature of this device is that it allows you to choose the language you would like to use (Japanese, English, Chinese, or Korean).  You can also choose which size bowl of rice you would like (small, regular, large), though all sizes are the same price.  Once you have confirmed your order, insert your money to pay and it will spit out a receipt that you hand to the waiter.  

Easy to use touch screen order system

I ordered a regular serving of Chicken Rice and Amami Island’s Best Selected Products (奄美大島 鶏飯風だし茶漬け) for 721 yen and my wife ordered the Grilled Salmon with Red Salmon Eggs (the restaurant lists it as caviar-焼き鮭といくらの親子だし茶漬け) for 821 yen.
The rice bowl I received had small chunks of chicken, shredded egg yolk, spinach, sliced shitake mushrooms, and しば漬け (shibazuke-a Kyoto specialty of pickled eggplant), and the whole thing looked rather plain.  Then I had fun pouring the green tea into the bowl and watching it transform into a savory soup!  If you would like to savor the soup a little more, you can also order a refill of your green tea pot at no extra charge!
The chicken itself was just boiled chicken and didn’t have any special seasoning to it.  But because of the mixture of the other ingredients, the soup was quite enjoyable.  
The meal also came with a small serving of 冷奴 (hiyayakko-chilled tofu with a sesame soy sauce), ヒジキ (hijiki-a sea plant), and pickled cucumber.

奄美大島 鶏飯風だし茶漬け-Before the tea

After the tea

The chilled tofu had a definite sesame seed taste and was a little sweet.  I’m really not too keen on tofu but this was quite good.
I instantly classified the hijiki as seafood because it looked like seafood.  I don’t eat seafood.  I gave it to my wife.  She really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed not having to eat it.
The pickled cucumber was quite sour but it went well with the chicken-rice soup.
My wife said that her bowl of grilled salmon with salmon eggs had a definite nostalgic Japanese taste which she really enjoyed.  She also thought that because of the sesame soy sauce, the chilled tofu had a unique taste.  She described the entire meal as having a “natural, simple taste.”

焼き鮭といくらの親子だし茶漬け-Before tea

After tea

That natural, simple taste I feel translates into a light meal, which is one reason I liked eating this before boarding a plane at Narita Airport.  It satisfies my hunger but does not make my stomach feel heavy.  

If you’re starving and are hunkering for a mass quantity of grease, calories, and fat (which at times has a useful purpose), this may not be the restaurant for you.  But if you are looking for a gratifying, tasteful meal that won’t weigh you down, this is the place to go! 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sendai Food Convention 2016 仙台フードコンベンション 022-224-5640

For a bit more of some of the food that my be featured, click HERE to see my wrap-up from the 2014 event.


Address:  錦町公園 (仙台市青葉区本町).  Nishikichō Park is located about a five-minute walk from Kotodai-koen Subway Station.

Map:  Scroll down below.

Open Saturday, October 1st and Sunday, October 2nd from 10 am to 7 pm.

This "convention" is a relatively small foodie affair, but it offers you a chance to sample some specialties from Sendai establishments.  I counted 29 restaurants that will showcase their finest this weekend.  Compared to the recent Oktoberfest and Niku Festa, this festival, in the past, has not been nearly as crowded and should be much easier on your wallet.

It looks like the weather might be better on Saturday, so that might be your best bet.

I hope to see you there!

Sendai Food Convention 2016 仙台フードコンベンション 022-224-5640

For a bit more of some of the food that my be featured, click HERE to see my wrap-up from the 2014 event.


Address:  錦町公園 (仙台市青葉区本町).  Nishikichō Park is located about a five-minute walk from Kotodai-koen Subway Station.

Map:  Scroll down below.

Open Saturday, October 1st and Sunday, October 2nd from 10 am to 7 pm.

This "convention" is a relatively small foodie affair, but it offers you a chance to sample some specialties from Sendai establishments.  I counted 29 restaurants that will showcase their finest this weekend.  Compared to the recent Oktoberfest and Niku Festa, this festival, in the past, has not been nearly as crowded and should be much easier on your wallet.

It looks like the weather might be better on Saturday, so that might be your best bet.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Niku Festa 2016 肉フェスタ2016

Address:  仙台市宮城野区五輪1-3.   Located at Tsutsujigaoka Park, right next to the Tsutsujigaoka Koen JR Station on the Senseki Line.  Or about a 20-miute walk from Sendai Station, straight down Miyagino-dori.
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open:  Thursday, September 22nd to Sunday, September 25th, from 10 am to 8 pm.
It may be the 11th annual Sendai Meat Festival, but today was my first time attending this event.  Fifteen out of twenty-two vendors were marketing meat, meat, and more meat!  But at a price!

Scrumptious looking!!!

In order to partake in any grilled goodness, you need to purchase a ticket.  Cash is not accepted at any of the meat stalls, but they do accept electronic payment from such cards as Nanco, Edy, Suica, and others.  Each pre-paid ticket is 700 yen, however, most vendors sell their wares for 1400 yen, which means that you need two tickets for each dish.
My better half and I lined up at the end of a looooong line for the ticket booth, but were quite surprised on how quickly we were able to buy tickets.  We bought four tickets for 2800 yen.
All of the meats being solicited looked mouthwatering, so it was difficult to choose which stall to choose from.  
For our first venture, we decided upon booth M-4, 鉄板焼ごっつい (Teppanyaki Gottsui), a Roppongi-area restaurant which advertised beef tenderloin slices in a secret sauce.  I didn’t see it, but wife said she noticed a sign that stated that two of the three flavors in the sauce were pineapple and apple.  I handed over two tickets (a 1400 yen value) and received eight small pieces of beef with some corn mixed in.  

The beef was tender and had a distinctive flavor that was quite nice, but nothing special.  I was lucky that my wife ate only three of the slices and focused on the corn instead.  If this serving had been half the price, I might be satisfied with its value, but it definitely wasn’t worth 1400 yen.

1400 yen worth?  Hmm?

Our next attempt was at stall M-6, 神埼熟成肉格之進 (Kazaki Jukusei Niku Kakunoshin), an Ichinoseki restaurant, which proudly stated that its beef was aged for more than one-month.  Again, the cost was two tickets, and again, we received eight small slices of meat.  My wife went and bought a small bowl of rice from stand M-9 for 300 yen to accompany the beef.  This beef was remarkably flavorful, and initially we were quite impressed.  But then we were chewing, and chewing, and still couldn’t grind it down small enough to swallow.  It felt like I had meat-flavored chewing gum in my mouth.   My wife gave up after her second slice, and actually spit out the remainder of her final piece into a tissue.   I had to do the same with my last slice.  Again, a disappointment for 1400 yen.

Delicious, but cheeeeeeeewy.

Unfortunately, not even the rice was that good.  My wife commented that the rice from a convenience store onigiri tasted better.
The saving grace for my wife was the beer.  She tried both the 肉厚エール(Nikuatsu Ale), which she found to have a deep, rich flavor,  yet easy to drink, and the ゴールデンエール (Golden Ale), that she thought was light and smooth.

The event today was crowded with lines at almost every booth, but the lines moved quite quickly.   A good-sized tent with tables and benches were available, and despite the crowd we were able to find a seat a couple of times easily.

We did enjoy today’s venture to the Meat Festival just for the experience.  But like many festivals, it’s not cheap.  I recommend this event for the experience, and perhaps you may choose a vendor with a better cut of meat.  But I told my spouse, “I don’t think we need to come to the 12th annual Meat Festival.”  She replied with, “Yup.”

Friday, September 16, 2016

Izumi Marchė 2016 Tomorrow, September 17th!


Tomorrow is the day for this once-a-year happening that I've been looking forward to!

I am unable to post any photos at this time, but please click HERE and HERE for my past write-ups on this very interesting event.

Might I suggest the homemade bacon from  ビストロアンプル, the green curry and tomato sauce penne pasta from ミュー, and any scrumptious muffin from Daily's Muffin.

Located above the Izumi-chuo Subway Station, hours are from 10 am to 5 pm, but it seems like many eateries sell out by 3 pm, so you should go earlier if possible.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Happy Happy Melon Pan is back this weekend!


This is a new website that really doesn't have a lot of information, but you can also find them on Facebook under ...

To read a previous post about this scrumptious melon pan, please click HERE.

For delicious, mouth-watering, hot melon pan, head over to AEON (formerly Daiei Department Store) on Chuo-dori this weekend, Friday, July 8th to Sunday, July 10th.

A word of warning, they raised the price of the melon pan to 220 yen.  
Still, more than worth it!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

niche café and darts – Shiogama ニッチ 022-365-1321

Address:  塩釜市東玉川町8-6.  About a 45-second walk from Shiogama JR Station just across from the 7-11.

Map:  Scroll down below.
Open everyday except Tuesdays from 4 pm to 2 am.
This was the third year in a row that the company I work for held a Darts Night at niche, and the reason we keep going back is that niche never fails to provide us with good food and great service!
We went for their standard party plan for 3000 yen, which consisted of five dishes and a 90-minute nomihoudai.  I had originally made a reservation for fifteen people, but unfortunately the numbers were short and I notified the restaurant a couple of days in advance that only ten people would be attending, hoping that they would not charge us for the original fifteen.  They said it was no problem at all and we were let off the hook.
The evening started off with a garden salad topped with a tangy dressing and juicy karage chicken.

Garden Salad


Next was a yummy-ful pizza of sliced sausage and cherry tomatoes with basil that was devoured by our group quite quickly.  

Sausage and Cherry Tomato Pizza

The following dish was a tomato sauce pasta (Angel hair? Spaghetti? There was an argument at our table about this) filled with zucchini, bacon, and pork.

Zucchini, bacon, pork, tomato sauce pasta

The finale was a small chocolate brownie-type with cream that really hit the spot.  Unfortunately, I ate this before I remembered to take a photo.
niche is a very small place that holds about twenty people at best and has one electronic dart machine.  Parking is available for about four cars.
I was told by a friend that their オムライスis fantastic, but I have yet to try it.

If you happen to find yourself in this neck of the woods, I highly recommend stopping in niche for a quick bite and a round of darts.  I’m sure we’ll be back again … and again … and again.

Friday, June 10, 2016

2016 Thai Festival in Sendai タイフェスティバルin仙台 022-714-0545

Address:  勾当台公園市民広場.  Come up off the Kotodai-koen Subway Park exit and you’re there.

Map:  Scroll down below.
Open Saturday, June 11th from 10 am to 8 pm.   Sunday, June 12th from 10 am to 7 pm.

Please click HERE for some information about last year's festival.

It's the 4th annual Thai Festival in Sendai this weekend, and hopefully, unlike the last couple of years,  the weather will be accomadating for the 50,000 people expected to enjoy the many features of Thai culture, but mostly the food!  (hee-hee)

By my count there will be sixteen different restaurants offering their Thai cuisine samplings, so there will be plenty to choose from.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

UPDATE: Natu-Lino Gelateria ナチュリノ・ジェラート 022-397-8235

Please read my previous post about Natu-Lino HERE.
Address:  宮城県名取市飯野坂字南沖93-1.   Located just off of Route 4 near the AEON Town/MAX Foods in Natori.  Or about a 15-minute walk from the Morisekinoshita JR Station (taking the Sendai Airport Access Line).
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open everyday except Thursdays, from 10 am to 6 pm.

This bump up to my FAVORITES LIST is way overdue, but since I’ve made well over a dozen visits in just over three months, I thought I should finally write this post.
How heavenly delicious is Natu-Lino gelato?  
Well, I no longer care for Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors Ice Cream.   It now tastes bland to me.  And I used to love the Rocky Road and Oreo Cookies N’ Cream at 31 Flavors (that’s what I was brought up calling it)!
I visited the lusciously, creamy Natu-Lino yet again today, and because I’ve been loyally using their stamp card, I received a free single cup of gelato!  
For every 500 yen spent, you receive one stamp.   On the tenth stamp, you receive one single cup.  On the twentieth stamp, you receive a 500 yen coupon.  With the hot summer approaching, I’m sure it won’t take me long to obtain that.
I’m happy to see that this place is always busy, as a few times the line has been out the door and into the parking lot (though service is quite quick!).
Here are a couple of new flavors that they’ve added since my last post.
Tomato Sherbet
Coconut Milk
Soy Milk Banana
Pineapple Sherbet
Despite these unique flavors, picky me still sticks with my Double Chocolate.  Unfortunately, my wife’s favorite of Banana-Milk Chocolate is either not made or often sold out, so she'll also order the same as I do.

W チョコ

A helpful tip:  Because gelato is not served as cold as regular ice cream, it melts quite quickly.   Although the cone served here is quite tasty, I’ve encountered, shall we say, “problems” with the gelato melting much faster than I could consume it.   I’ve been sticking with ordering a double scoop in cups since it’s started warming up.  You should be safe with a cone when ordering a single scoop.
Again, I have to graciously thank my good friend, Michael Martin, for turning me on to this place.   His photography work graces the well-decorated interior of this shop.

A brief sampling of my friend's work

I hope you enjoy this gelato as much as I have!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Public House – Tagajo パブリック ハウス 022-309-5503

Address:  宮城県多賀城市中央2-4-3, 多賀城駅北ビルA棟3F.   Located on the 3rd floor on the Tagajo Public Library adjacent to the Tagajo JR Train Station.

Map:  Scroll down below.

Open 11 am till 10 pm, with Lunch Time until 5 pm.

After a side trip to nearby sites in Tagajo, my wife and I decided to grab a bite to eat at the newly opened Public House restaurant in the newly opened Tagajo Public Library (click HERE for more info).

The library itself has received a lot of press lately, and rightfully so, as it is an attractive looking building that is quite stylishly decorated and spaciously laid out inside.  A Starbucks, Family Mart, and Tsutaya bookstore are on the first floor, and the open-spaced restaurant is located on the third floor.

Although there were not a lot of platters to choose from on the menu, I was fortunate enough to find something that peaked my interest and decided upon the Yocchan Nanban Chicken BBQ Plate, (1050 yen), while my less-picky better half went with the Shrimp & Hokkaido Potato Genovese Pasta (980 yen) which came with two slices of a baguette.   I also requested an order of focaccia bread for an additional 100 yen, but was informed that they had already sold out of focaccia, but that they would substitute baguette slices if it was okay with me.  I agreed. 

When the platter arrived, I was quite impressed with the voluminous size of the chicken, as I was expecting a much smaller piece.  The chicken itself was tender enough, but seemed to rely on the flavor of the barbeque sauce, which seemed to grow on me.  As I slowly devoured the poultry piece, I enjoyed the taste more and more.  By the end of the meal, I was quite satisfied with the flavor.

Another bonus was the potato-ish clump that accompanied the chicken.   I asked what it was, and was told it was a potato galette; potatoes mashed, buttered, peppered, and baked.  This was quite tasty indeed, and went well with the barbequed chicken.


The underlying salad wasn’t much to speak of, as it was mainly chopped iceberg lettuce with a few slices of tomato and radish mixed in with a drop of salad dressing.  Still, it gave the opportunity to have a change of taste and refresh the palette.

The baguette slices were served at room temperature, which I thought they should have been heated.   But when I asked for butter, the restaurant was quite generous in its serving.

The one thing that I just noticed while writing this post was that the menu stated "with rice."  I didn't receive any rice.  Hmm.  You might want to watch out for this.

My wife was very satisfied with her pasta and stated that the basil seasoning that was added was quite delicious.  For an extra 200 yen she ordered a hot coffee that she enjoyed.


Here are a few photos of the menu.

I don’t think I would go out of the way for this restaurant, but if I lived in the neighborhood or were making a visit to one of the numerous sites in Tagajo (History Museum, cherry blossoms, iris flower festival, Kirin Beer Factory tour, Sendai Outlet Mall, or aquarium), I would recommend a meal at the Public House.  I know I will be going back there on my next excursion to Tagajo.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Yakiniku Rose Garden 焼肉ローズガーデン 022-267-1710

Address:  仙台市青葉区国分町2−8−12KビルB1F.  Located across the street from the Don Quixote store on Bansui-dori, about an eight-minute walk from either the Kotodai-koen or Hirose-dori Subway Stations.
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open every day from 6 pm till 2:30 am.
I thought this place was legendary in Sendai, as all my friends seemed to be regulars when I first ate here some fifteen years ago.  At the time it was always the “go to” place when you wanted to get your grub on along with a nomihoudai for a reasonable price.  But while helping to organize an impromptu night out with friends last week, I was surprised that most of my long-time Sendai-living companions had never even heard of Rose Garden.
So perhaps, I thought, neither have you.
It had been at least five years since my last visit to this basement dwelling, so I was hoping that things hadn’t changed.
They haven’t.
The Rose Garden, back in the day, was known for its famed party course, which we partook in just the other night.  
For 3410 yen, nine dishes of various meats and vegetables for grilling, Japanese-style kimuchi, salad, along with a two-hour nomihoudai were served throughout the night.
Sorry, I was so focused on the friendly, free flowing conversations that I forgot to take photos of all the plates that were brought to our table, but here are a few.

Vegetables galore!  (We actually waited till the end to grill these)

This may have been pork ... or beef.

Chicken bits

Marinated pork and beef

Is your mouth watering?

It's Sendai, so it's got to be gyutan!

Although this was not a tabehoudai, with the amount of food that was brought to our table, it sure seemed like one.  A couple of my friends also ordered a bowl of rice which was free of charge, but most of us dedicated ourselves to devouring as much protein as we could.
I asked my friends after the frenzied feast what they thought about their first experience at Rose Garden, and all seemed to be thoroughly satisfied.  Our main complaint was with the dim lighting conditions inside the restaurant, as it made it difficult to see whether or not the meat was properly cooked.
The salad was the first item to be brought to our table, and a few of my friends mentioned how good it tasted.   And this is a charcoal-grill yakiniku restaurant, which is supposed to be superior to gas-grill establishments.
Rose Garden offers a variety of party courses (which can be viewed when you click HERE) and you can also order individual food items off the menu, but I would imagine that’s a bit pricier.  The good thing about Rose Garden party courses is that only two people are necessary to be considered a party.
I highly recommend making reservations ahead of time, as this place seems to be still be quite popular.  Also, check to see if there is a coupon available for an extra plate of meat.  I failed to see this beforehand.  Click HERE for the coupon page.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced yakiniku night out with your friends, it would be hard to beat dining at the Rose Garden.