Located on the northern coast of Kyushu, Fukuoka counts Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai among its cosmopolitan neighbours. With more modern attractions than traditional ones, this laid-back city is often overlooked by tourists; however, Fukuoka is well-known as one of Japan’s most liveable cities with its eclectic shopping, friendly locals, and a fantastic mix of low-key and upscale dining options. We’re taking a second look at Fukuoka’s ten best restaurants.
Both locals and tourists alike praise Chikae Fukuoka as one of the best seafood restaurants in the city. The restaurant’s large interior offers counter and table seating surrounded by massive fish tanks, where diners can see their fresh meals still swimming. The restaurant’s lunch set offers the best value, including a combination of soup, sashimi, seasoned vegetables, tempura, grilled fish, chawan-mushi (steamed egg), and rice. The restaurant is also known for its mentaiko which is marinated spicy cod roe, a Fukuoka speciality, which is best enjoyed with the rice. English menus are available and servers dress in traditional Japanese kimonos.
Hakata Mizutaki Toriden is known for its exceptional mizutaki, a chicken-based hot pot dish popular in Fukuoka. The restaurant blends homebred chicken, local fish and vegetables, signature ‘golden’ ponzu and yuzu pepper to create the mizutaki’s characteristically milky soup base. Several different set menus are available, featuring additional dishes like chicken tempura, katsuo sashimi, and boiled egg served with spicy miso. Dinners can complete their meal with a choice of rice porridge or ramen, followed by a small dessert.
A signature dish at Hanamidori | Courtesy of Hanamidori
Hakata Motsunabe Hakkei
Hakata Motsunabe Hakkei is the perfect place to check another one of Fuokuoka’s specialities off your list. The restaurant specializes in motsunabe, a type of hot pot made with beef entrails. Although this may not sound appetizing, there’s a reason why this dish has become popular across Japan. Hakata Motsunabe Hakkei offers a choice of motsunabe made with different flavours of soup, including miso, salt and soy sauce. Soy sauce is the most popular choice, appreciated for its rich flavour. Black beef from Kagoshima and fresh veggies add substance to the dish’s strong soup base. The restaurant also offers an izakaya-style menu of salads and yakatori to go alongside the main dish.
Hanamidori is a unique restaurant known for its chicken dishes, including mizutaki, which is made with chicken, egg white, fish broth, ponzu sauce and spring onions. The restaurant prides itself on its high-quality meat, also offering chicken prepared in a number of other different ways ranging from sashimi, which is only done in only a few places around the world, to deep- fried. The intimate interior is brightened with plenty of plants, and the menu offers a well-chosen selection of wines to pair with the chicken-based dishes.
Restaurant Hiramatsu Hakata offers a refreshing change of pace from Japanese fare with its classic French dishes. The restaurant focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients, featuring a number of set menus for lunch and dinner. At the helm is head chef Yasuhiro Mizumoto, who trained under culinary master Hiroyuki Hiramatsu. Try one of their specialities: thin slices of lamb with a white onion compote and truffle jus with thyme. The luxurious French ambiance is completed by an excellent selection of wine and an elegant interior featuring antique furniture and warm woods.
La Boheme Qualita is a trendy Italian restaurant divided into several unique dining areas. Spread across three floors, diners can choose to enjoy their meals in the restaurant’s relaxed café space, a more sophisticated dining area, or the upstairs lounge area which includes a lovely outdoor patio. As an added bonus, guests can watch the pastry chef prepare Italian snacks near the restaurant’s entrance. The menu is a mix of classic Italian dishes, including salads, wood-fired pizzas, meat and fish entrees, as well as a variety of scrumptious desserts.
Hakata Ramen, also known as tonkotsu, is one of the most famous dishes to originate in Fukuoka, and Taiho Ramen is among the most popular places in the city to enjoy a bowl of it. The restaurant’s ramen recipe has been passed down for generations; in fact, it’s said that their cooking pot has never been fully emptied since the restaurant opened in 1953, allowing the ramen’s flavour to become more complex and rich over time. The ramen broth is creamy comfort food at its best, complimented by thin homemade noodles. Like most ramen restaurants, Kurume Taiho Ramen’s interior is low-key and simple, attracting diners with its outstanding ramen rather than its décor.
Ume no Hana is a locally-owned chain of vegetarian restaurants specializing in tofu-based dishes. The restaurant offers a number of creative dishes that highlight the versatility of this simple ingredient. Try the yudofu – tofu cooked with pure water from Ureshino onsen – or the yuba – tofu with soy sauce, sesame seeds and ginger. The dishes are all complemented by a variety of seasonal vegetables and seafood. The restaurant’s interior is relaxed yet traditional, with a dining room overlooking a tranquil Japanese garden and seating offered at low tables. Be sure to finish your meal with the restaurant’s sweet soybean ice cream topped with roasted soybean powder.
Yamanaka serves exceptional sushi in a sleek, modern setting. The restaurant’s ultra-fresh seafood is sourced from the Genkai Sea and Hakata Bay. This buttery sushi is complemented by Yamanaka’s signature soy sauce and distinct rice mixed with black vinegar. The restaurant’s sophisticated interior is a perfect match for its high-quality sushi. The dramatic high ceilings and light wood countertop were designed by renowned architect Arata Isozaki, who is known for creating a number of other public works around Kyushu. The meal is best concluded with a serving of refreshing green tea ice cream or lemon sorbet.
Zaou is a popular seafood restaurant with numerous branches around Fukuoka. Diners sit in a massive boat surrounded by an aquarium filled with a variety of fish. The restaurant provides fishing rods, bait and nets, allowing guests to catch their own meal for the evening. To add to the excitement, the staff bang on drums and applaud when a catch is made and the restaurant provides a discount for those who are successful. After catching the fish, diners are able to choose how to have it prepared. Grilling or frying the fish is an option, but most take advantage of the fish’s extreme freshness and opt for sashimi. The restaurant’s concept might be kitschy but the experience is undeniably entertaining.