Chef Tetsuya Kakehashi's Guide to Where To Find the Best Food in Beppu

Beppus restaurants use the towns hot springs to steam food naturally
Beppu's restaurants use the town's hot springs to steam food naturally | © David Ramos - World Rugby / Getty Images
Matthew Wilcox

Tetsuya Kakehashi’s totally unique restaurant, Otto e Sette, located in Beppu’s Kannawa district, combines Italian technique with Oita prefecture’s superlative produce and Beppu’s distinctive hot spring steam cooking tradition to create a cuisine that could not be replicated anywhere else on earth. This is Kakehashi’s guide to the best restaurants in Beppu.

Traditional Japanese hot steam cooking is a distinct feature in Beppu, Japan

Tetsuya Kakehashi grew up in Kyushu but found his culinary calling after immersing himself in the world of Italian food. Founded in 2015, Michelin-listed Otto e Sette features a seasonal menu drawn from an extensive network of local producers. Owner and head chef Tetsuya Kakehashi says it is the sheer quality of the local produce that distinguishes Beppu’s quickly growing food scene: “Beppu may be a hot spring town, but this is also a rural area with a lot of farming, meaning we have access to fantastic vegetables here as well as seafood, of course.” Summing up his philosophy, and his decision to use the town’s tradition of cooking with steam from the hot springs, he says, “This is a beautiful, unique place with incredibly high-quality ingredients and a way to cook that allows you to use the earth’s energy.” The singular character and energy of the area are reflected in Kakehashi’s recommendations for where to eat in Beppu.

Hot water gushes at many spots in the city

1. Kikusaikou

Restaurant, Japanese

Kaiseki, the most elevated discipline of Japanese cooking, draws on a number of historical food traditions: the cuisine of the imperial court in Kyoto; the Buddhist shojin ryori style of cooking; Honzen-ryōri, the food developed in the kitchens of the samurai class; and finally, the austere cuisine of the tea ceremony. For some of the best kaiseki in Kyushu, Kakehashi recommends a visit to Kikusaiko, praising the two-star restaurant’s “meticulous food and service.” The restaurant is noted for its use of locally foraged ingredients such as bamboo shoots and wild matsutake mushrooms.

2. Rokusei

Restaurant, Japanese

On a hot summer day, nothing could be better than a bowl of cooling reimen noodles – Beppu’s remedy to Kyushu’s humid, sticky climate. Rokusei, located by the town’s Matsubara Park, is the spot to try this Oita speciality, says Kakehashi, who has particular praise for this “classic” store’s delicious broth. Made with buckwheat flour, these refreshing noodles are reminiscent of soba but chewier and thinner. Pair with kimchi for a heavenly combination.

3. Kokochi Cafe Musubino

Cafe, Japanese

Chef Kakehashi singles out Musubino for its unique atmosphere. This moody café is located in an old private house in Kannawa that was built in 1908, and the surrounding area still buzzes with the feel of a Shōwa-era hot spring resort. The café menu is filled with handmade delicacies, while the second floor hosts exhibitions, workshops and live music.

4. B-speak

Bakery, Dessert, Japanese

Cake fanatics gather from across Japan at the Beppu Bay Service Station to get their hands on B-speak’s legendary Swiss roll. Is it the unbelievably soft sponge? Or the inexplicably delicious whipped cream that seems to melt in your mouth as you eat the cake? Arrive before noon or risk being disappointed, as the shop sells out every day. As is to be expected in Japan, the attention to detail is second-to-none – each cake comes with its own mini ice-pack to keep it in pristine condition. B-speak comes recommended not only for the cake but also the “wonderful” views out over Beppu, taking in the city, sea and mountains.

5. Shokudouraku Tosaka

Restaurant, Japanese

This red-light district izakaya, five minutes south along the shore from Beppu Tower, offers great value for money. Kakehashi highlights this spot for the quality of the ingredients, pointing out that, like his own restaurant, all the produce is sourced from Oita Prefecture, while the sashimi, he says, “is great value.” On top of this, the place is staffed by young and enthusiastic staff who are more than happy to take visitors through the menu, or to offer translation assistance.

6. Mushi Charo

Restaurant, Chinese

Like Otto e Sette, the gentle food at this Chinese restaurant is also cooked over hot spring steam, but crucially the temperature is never allowed to rise above 50 degrees (122F), resulting in an incomparably delicate cuisine that is both delicious and good for you. The atmosphere here is quiet yet distinctive, and the ceramics the food is served on are all locally produced.

7. Pont des Arts

Cafe, Patisserie, Japanese

This charming confectionery shop is the best in Beppu for a sweet treat, says Kakehashi, who admits to coming here often for the pistachio cream puffs. With the air of having been in the same place, unchanged, for decades, the counters of this grotto are piled high with crisp pastries and beautiful-looking cakes. There may be no seating area inside, but Mochigahama Seaside Park across the road is the perfect place to take your order to nibble on while taking in the sea views.

8. Waon

Restaurant, Japanese

Oita is famous throughout Japan for toriten (bite-sized pieces of chicken seasoned with sake, ginger and garlic, rolled in flour and then deep-fried tempura-style). Waon, positioned next to Beppu Port, takes this crude but always delicious speciality and elevates it. As Kakehasi says, “This is a sushi restaurant, so service is quite mannered, but the delicate, pale-battered toriten is first-class.” The staff here speak English and are friendly. Some think this might be the best toriten in Oita – go there to find out for yourself.

9. Soba Nihachi

Restaurant, Japanese

The owner of Soba Nihachi, located in front of the train station, is a known eccentric. He has been known to randomly bar curious visitors from his stall, keeping the seats reserved for regulars. For Kakehashi, this is all part of the charm: “The boss here has studied tea ceremony and flower arrangement, so he is quite particular.” Nevertheless, soba is just the thing to cool down with after one of Beppu’s famous sand baths, and the superb noodles here are all made on-site. If lucky enough to be granted a seat, eat whatever the owner deigns to put in front of you; you won’t be sorry.

10. Yakiniku Arata

Restaurant, Japanese

While Kobe beef might have gained world-wide fame, other places in Japan have just as vital food traditions. In Japan, Bungo beef, taking its name from the old term for Oita Prefecture, has a reputation every bit the equal of its Kansai counterpart. For an affordable way to try this incredible delicacy, head four minutes east of Beppu Station to Yakiniku Arata. Kakehashi explains his choice, “They serve the food in proper courses here – the master is a traditional Japanese chef – so it’s more elegant than regular yakiniku joints.”

11. Sushinoya

Restaurant, Japanese

Adjacent to Beppu’s landmark Takegawara Onsen is Sushinoya, an affordable but high-quality sushi shop that is the perfect place for a bite to eat after taking a dip in the hot springs. Kakehashi says, “You know you’re going to eat well here; both the sushi and side dishes are delicious. In season you can get conger eel, ara sea bass, fugu and more.”

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