Eating out in Hiroshima offers a diverse set of culinary pleasures, from the region’s traditional okonomiyaki to authentic Naples pizza. Although the city’s dining scene cannot quite rival those of Kyoto or Osaka, it’s still widely appreciated for its range of restaurants and traditional cuisine, which is among the richest in the southern part of Japan. We explore ten of the most interesting restaurants in Hiroshima.
A seafood restaurant, Yakigaki-no-hayashi offers some great examples of Japanese cuisine. But here, it’s all about oysters, whether they’re waiting in the tank or searing on the barbecue outside. A plate of nama-gaki (raw oysters) is not to be missed, and kaki-furai (fried and breadcrumbed oysters) are a welcome alternative. Still, it’s not all about shell fish, udon sets and other meals are on offer too, including a fried pork cutlet that complements the Jigozen oysters beautifully. Even the decor has a deep sea feel to it, using oyster shells to hold sauce and as makeshift plates for smaller dishes.
Tucked away beneath a Yoga studio, this simple cafe may not look like much, but Shanti Vegan Cafe offers natural and healthy choices to tempt even the most red-blooded of carnivores. Friendly staff, stylish wooden interiors and calming ambience make a great complement to the food, which includes a vegetable steak with teriyaki sauce and vegetable harumaki spring rolls. The drinks and smoothies are just as delicious, with an avocado shake a particular favourite among customers. Moving with the seasons, the menu changes reasonably often to reflect the best veg on offer at that time of year, but the options are always sure to be something special.
While technically not a restaurant, this little homemade gelato shop has a loyal following from savvy Hiroshima residents. Located in the city centre, Polar Bear is easily located by the stuffed polar bear sitting on a chair to indicate that they’re open for business. And he’s not the only surprise on offer, Polar Bear is well-known for its generous portions, which come in over 10 flavours every day, rotating by season. Staff flavour favourites are chocolate chip, vanilla and melon, with black sesame coming in popular from customers. Gelatos are served in cones, cups or crushed with a monaka ‘sandwich’, and may be complemented by a matcha green tea.
Located right next to Peace Park at the end of Hondori, this okonomiyaki restaurant’s great location usually has a long line waiting outside. For those who can brave the queues, or turn up outside of rush-hour mealtimes, this is a great option for larger groups. Despite its popularity, Nagata-ya boasts a more spacious layout than the typical okonomiyaki shop, with good seating and heated grills installed in the tables to keep the food warm. House specials here include the Nagata-ya original, including squid and shrimp; the deluxe including mocha rice, cake and cheese; or the special with green onions. For those who have had their fill of okonomiyaki, iron griddle-cooked teppanyaki is also on the menu, including unmissable grilled oysters with butter, lemon and green onions
For anyone looking to cleanse their palate with something a little more European, Zona Italia is a great option. Located high on a hill overlooking Hiroshima, the restaurant offers great views of the city, the river and the bay for diners while they enjoy the finest in Italian cuisine. Still if you want to watch the sun set, best come on a week night, as Saturdays and Sundays can get busy. The food is classically Italian, with a good line in sea urchin pasta and kiln-baked pizzas that seal in the flavour, and according to many diners, the garlic toast is not to be forgotten.
Hassei is another okonomiyaki restaurant, but this one’s a little more off the beaten tourist track, where canny visitors can rub shoulders with the locals. Tucked down a side street off the main road, you may even find it a little tricky to find. Still, with English menus and friendly staff most travellers will still be pleased to get stuck into the restaurants dishes, including an okonomiyaki recipe that finds lotus roots submerged in melted cheese, and another with sesame seeds and thinly sliced spring onions. Sometime rated the number one restaurant in Hiroshima, Hassei may not quite reach those heights any more, but for bargain quality food it can’t be bettered.
As a rare Indian restaurant in Hiroshima, this establishment could probably have got by on novelty factor alone but by many accounts, this is some of the finest Indian food to be found in Japan. Old classics such as chicken tikka masala with naan are always a favourite, and the quality of ingredients and portion sizes are also a winner. For those on the move, its close location to Hiroshima station (and therefore the largest hotels in the city) makes it an attractive location for a quick bite, and many are known to make regular pilgrimages there on trips to Hiroshima.
Guttsuri-An takes presentation seriously, immersing its guests wholly in the Japanese experience. Unlike many restaurants in Hiroshima, including other seafood establishments, Guttsuri-An has a charming, authentic feel, perhaps due to its independent, non-chain identity, or perhaps due to its past as an oyster factory. Customers can cook their own seafood in barbecue pits after choosing them from an in house aquarium, and the (separately ordered) sashimi is also a must. Other dishes include slowly grilled scallops with butter and mushrooms, grilled squid, sashimi, tempura and matcha ice cream. In winter, hot sake is also recommended. The only drawback is that it’s a bit out of town, but for atmosphere this unique, it’s well worth the trip.
In Hiroshima, Zona Italia’s not the only Italian in town. And Pizza Riva is no young pretender, offering a great selection of traditional Napoli-style wood-fired pizza, with the oven itself imported from Naples. And that authenticity has not gone unnoticed. In July 2012, Pizza Riva’s chef Shuhei Ooka was awarded first prize at the debut international Pizza Napoletana Olympics held by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) in Naples. The standard range of pizzas can be found here, from fresh ingredients like buffalo mozzarella, artisan-cured salami and prosciutto to fresh basil and rucola. According to many, the pomodoro sauce is also without an equal.