Many foodies want to try creamy Itoshima oysters at their freshest, but getting out to the oyster huts of Itoshima without a car can be difficult. That’s one of the reasons that Isogai Menchanko no Kakigoya is always popular with hungry oyster fans: get fresh Itoshima (and Hiroshima) oysters at a rooftop oyster hut in the heart of the city. No car, no problem!
It’s a bizarre sensation, walking out onto the roof of a building in the center of a bustling city and being hit by the scent of the sea! That’s exactly what happened as we (Adam, Jacob and Jess) entered Isogai Menchanko no Kakigoya, a large-tented area on top of Fukuoka Building.
After being seated at our table, which had its own barbecue, we pored over the menu – the sheer variety of seafood was a surprise, and some sea-critters we’d not heard of before were included (awabi? What’s awabi?). If you can’t read the menu (which is currently only available in Japanese), then meander over to where some of the food is displayed (here the stars of the show are proudly displayed: the oysters!).
You can either ask one of the hall staff to come with you and point to what you want, or note down the Japanese names of whatever looks good. In the end we ordered an ambitious three kilograms of oysters, plus scallops, miso-marinated cod, prawns and shiitake mushrooms.
Now it was time to dive into the drinks section! Here you can find all kinds of beverages, both alcoholic and soft. During the evening, two hours of nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) are included in the entry fee, so the drinks are all self-serve. This means you get to try the various drink machines: have your beer served by a beer robot (the future of inebriation), get sake on tap, or try out the chuhai station (which has a whole range of syrups for flavoring your chuhai).
The oysters arrived and at first we were a little flummoxed: none of us had ever cooked oysters before. Each table is provided with a set of cooking instructions, but at the time of our visit these were only available in Japanese – best bring a friend fluent in Japanese or ask one of the super friendly staff for help.
Here’s the gist: place the oyster on the grill, flat side down (or in the case of some, flatter side down). After a few minutes the oyster will give a little “pop” and there’ll be a sizzling sound as some of the oyster’s juices drip into the fire. Carefully turn the oyster over, trying not to lose any more liquid. After another couple of minutes, it’s good to go! Make sure to point the oyster away from you as it cooks, as they sometimes squirt out hot seawater when they open – best not to wear your Sunday best, in case you get splashed! We were pros by the end of the meal (check out our oyster-cooking skills in the video above).
Don the glove provided, and take the oyster in your gloved hand. Use one of the knives provided to shuck the oyster, and then to cut the oyster from its stem. Then use chopsticks to eat it, or just slide it into your mouth. If you want, you can add a little ponzu (vinegar) as seasoning.
The oysters are creamy in texture, but salty in taste; a curious but delicious mix of smooth and sharp. We quickly ploughed our way through a couple of kilograms!
You can also enjoy oyster onigiri (rice ball) wrapped in nori (seaweed) – good if you’re craving some carbs amongst all the light, healthy seafood.
The prawns were sweet and tender and the scallops were gorgeous, especially when cooked with a little shoyu (soy sauce).
The miso-marinated cod was also a big hit, with its flaky texture and sweet coating.
Going to an oyster hut isn’t just about enjoying succulent oysters, it’s also a dining experience. Figuring out how to cook and eat these shellfish (not to mention the boiling seawater Russian roulette) makes for a fun meal with old friends, or a great way to bond with new ones.
This place is popular with the after-work crowd so it fills up quickly in the evenings. If you want to go there for dinner, we advise calling to make a reservation. The Fukuoka Now gang went at around 13:00 on a weekday, however, and it wasn’t too crowded. Daytime diners choose from the same menu, but it’s less busy and you don’t have to pay for nomihoudai on entry – this means you’re not forced to stick within a two-hour time limit, so you can barbecue oysters as long as you like.
So head up to Isogai Menchanko no Kakigoya (on the roof of Fukuoka Building) for oyster-barbecuing fun in the heart of Tenjin!
Isogai Menchanko no Kakigoya
Address: Fukuoka Building, 1-11-17 Tenjin, Chuo-ku
Open: 11:00~16:00, 17:00~22:00. Until March 31, 2016
Entrance fee: ¥1,500 (includes all-you-can-drink) 2 hours!
Charcoal fee: ¥100 per person
Tel.: 080-3948-9777 (call to make a reservation between 12:00 and 22:00)
Oysters ¥1,200/kilo (Hiroshima oysters), ¥1,400/kilo (Itoshima oysters), scallops ¥480 (2 pcs), shrimp ¥320 each, miso-marinated cod ¥840, oyster onigiri ¥380 (2 pcs), shiitake Mushrooms: ¥380 (2 pcs)