[The complete guide to gourmet food around Niigata Station] The restaurants most loved by locals!
Niigata is famous for its rice. Niigata boasts the largest rice harvest in Japan, and in particular, Niigata's Koshihikari rice is said to be the most delicious brand of rice in Japan. Niigata has the perfect environment for growing delicious rice, with good quality water and a climate suitable for rice cultivation. Niigata is also home to many delicious foods made from local ingredients, such as local sake made from such high-quality rice and water, and fresh fish caught in the nearby sea!
In this article, we will introduce gourmet food that can be enjoyed in the area around Niigata Station, the gateway to Niigata. The restaurants introduced here are all famous and loved by tourists and locals alike.
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Recommended Restaurants in Niigata
Being a large port city, Niigata City has developed into one of the largest cities on the Sea of Japan side of the country and attracts many people. It is also a central market for fresh seafood and other food products from Niigata Prefecture. Naturally, there are also many good restaurants and eateries in the city, so here we will introduce some of the best places to eat, from high-class Japanese restaurants to restaurants that serve Niigata's local cuisine and popular French restaurants.
Local Fine Dining
Since the Edo period (mid-18th century), Niigata has prospered as the largest port town on the Sea of Japan coast. It has been an important town for trade, and many people and goods have come and gone. It is said that it is precisely because of this environment that the culture of “ryotei” (high-class Japanese restaurants) developed into a place of hospitality to meet and entertain guests and travelers.
Because of that, Niigata is lined with ryotei restaurants, of which we particularly recommend Nabejaya Korin. Nabejaya is a historic ryotei, authentic Japanese-style luxury restaurant, famous enough to earn a street named after it. Its sister brand, Nabejaya Korin, sits on the building’s corner and is known for its especially wallet-friendly pricing. Here you’ll find a full-course meal of rich and colorful Japanese fare that celebrates the best of local sea and mountain delights across the four seasons. Only available by reservation, this coveted spot offers a dining experience and flavor that still stands up to the original Nabejaya brand. It’s no surprise to know that this spot has earned two Michelin stars in the Michelin Guide Niigata 2020.
Sushi is an important part of enjoying Japanese food in Niigata.
Niigata, a port city located on the Sea of Japan, is famous for its abundance of sushi ingredients, as fresh fish is caught all year round. In particular, "nanban ebi" (shrimp with a plump texture and mellow sweetness) is one of Niigata's representative local ingredients. Below are some recommended sushi restaurants near Niigata Station.
Sekaizushi is home to fresh sushi and sashimi dishes only available in Niigata, as well as a full range of authentic local fare. The owner is known especially for increasing the number of Niigata sushi fans with his “kiwami” sushi menu, a dish that can be enjoyed at over 20 famous sushi shops in Niigata City. Naturally, the most popular item on the menu is the kiwami set, a 10-piece sushi platter featuring Niigata's seasonal fish, “toro” (fatty tuna), “uni” (sea urchin roe), “ikura” (salmon roe), and “nodoguro” (blackthroat seaperch), a luxury-grade fish from the Sea of Japan. One must-try item at Sekaizushi is the “nodoguro aburidon”, an especially popular dish that features a hefty portion of nodoguro (blackthroat seaperch), over a bed of rice. Enjoy authentic dishes prepared with great care.
Sushi Kappo Marui
A restaurant where you can enjoy authentic Japanese fare and delicious sushi made from fresh, succulent fish caught in Niigata’s offshore waters. As the taste and flavor of fish can change depending on its environment and the time of year, the chef always keeps an eye on the season of the ingredients and serves them when they are at their best. They are very particular about only serving up fish purchased that day. The recommended item to try is “kiwami”, a luxe, 10-piece nigiri sushi set featuring “toro” (fatty tuna), “uni” (sea urchin roe), “ikura” (salmon roe) and other select, seasonal delicacies from Niigata. They also have a wide selection of Niigata sake to enjoy with the fresh local fish.
Local Cuisine Restaurants
Niigata is blessed with a rich natural environment that has nurtured a diverse culinary culture. There are many local dishes that have been loved by many people throughout the ages. Here are some of the best places to enjoy local cuisine!
The birthplace of “wappameshi”, a famed local dish that hails from Niigata. The name wappameshi points to the “wappa”, an authentic Japanese lunch box made by bending a thin sheet of cedar into shape. Inside it you’ll find a real treasure, a bed of rice steamed in flavored broth that’s topped with seasonal fish and other ingredients. The crowd favorite here is the “sake oyako wappameshi”, topped with salmon and salmon roe. You will also find the likes of crab, shrimp, oyster and other select wappameshi to try.
Suzakaya Soba Niigata Station
Niigata’s special “hegi soba” noodles are served cold on a square wooden plate called a “hegi”, arranged into bite-size bundles. They are made with a type of seaweed used to bind the buckwheat, preventing breakage and dryness and making them more pleasant to eat than regular soba noodles. Suzakaya Soba Niigata Station is one of the most popular restaurants serving such hegi soba. In addition to hegi soba, they serve a variety of other dishes such as “noppe” (a stew packed with local vegetables with a velvety texture from “satoimo” taro), fresh seafood and Niigata rice dishes.
“Tarekatsudon" is a local food in Niigata that has been attracting a lot of attention. The standard Japanese katsudon is usually pork cutlets served over rice after being simmered in seasoned broth and egg or smothered in sauce. However, in Niigata, tarekatsudon is a rice bowl topped with thin pork cutlets dipped in a sauce made of soy sauce, “dashi” (Japanese soup stock), “mirin” (sweet cooking rice wine), sugar and other ingredients. If you want to try tarekatsudon, we highly recommend these two restaurants!
This is the original birthplace of "tarekatsudon", a signature dish from Niigata City. It was also selected as a Bib Gourmand Restaurant in the Special Edition Michelin Guide Niigata 2020. Tonkatsu Taro’s special “katsudon” is a large portion of five thinly sliced pork cutlets dipped in their secret sauce. With artful calculation, the meat is thinly breaded so as to produce a crunchy texture and maximize the flavor of the pork. Their traditional secret sauce goes incredibly well with the soft rice, making it hard to stop eating.
Tonkatsu Masa-chan Niigata Station
A famous spot for Niigata’s signature “tarekatsudon”. In addition to tonkatsu, the menu also includes a number of selections including curry rice, western-style dishes and full-course meals. You especially won’t want to miss out on the “Niigata unmemon zanmai set”. The set includes a full smorgasbord of Niigata delicacies to enjoy, including a tarekatsudon, “noppe” (a stew of local vegetables), seasonal side dishes, bottomless miso soup made with “echigo miso” (a high-end, local miso made from Niigata brand rice), Japanese pickles, and “sasadango” (a sweet dumpling that hails from Niigata) flavored ice cream for dessert.
Recommended French Restaurants
Recolte a Cave d'Occi
This bistro and wine bar is operated by Cave d'Occi, a famous winery in Niigata. Its fashionable ambience is the perfect place to relax and unwind. With wine or beer, savor home-made sausage and ham, bread made with house yeast, fresh fish brought in that morning, and local ingredients that change with the seasons. The daily recommendations written on the blackboard depend on local availability, but one dish you should not miss is the aqua pazza made with seafood sourced that morning.
The best place to enjoy Niigata's local ramen
Local ramen is a must-try when you visit Niigata. There are two types of ramen: the light soy sauce type with ultra-thin, wavy noodles and a hint of dried sardines, and the rich, thick miso type with thick noodles and lots of vegetables. The following is a list of recommended local ramen stores.
Sankichiya Honten is a veteran shop founded in 1957. It is a famous restaurant that was selected by Michelin Plate in the Michelin Guide Niigata 2020. Come and enjoy thin, wavy noodles in a clear broth made with pork bones, dried sardines, vegetables, and soy sauce. It’s then topped with chashu pork, green onions, seasoned bamboo shoots and “naruto” (fish cake). While it may look simple at a glance, the taste is profound. This age-old, classic dish is cherished by the locals of Niigata City both young and old.
Ramen Toyoko is the go-to place to visit when it comes to rich miso ramen. Each bowl features an extra rich soup base made with Niigata special “echigo miso" (a high-end, local miso variety made with Niigata brand rice), extra-thick noodles made in house using a rice-flour blend, and other select ingredients for their house recipe. If the flavor is too rich, there are kettles of plain broth available to lighten your soup, but we recommend at least trying a bite, as is, to start. If it is still too salty or the soup begins to cool, try adding a little broth at a time until you find the perfect taste.
For delicious local sake in Niigata, this is the place to go.
Niigata's local sake is made from delicious, locally harvested rice, and soft water with low mineral content derived from snowmelt. It is said to be "light and dry" with a clean and refreshing taste. There are 14 breweries in Niigata City, and a wide variety of local sake is available. Here are some recommended places where you can taste such local sake around Niigata Station.
Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery
Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery is the closest brewery to Niigata Station, the gateway to Niigata Prefecture which is the home of the largest number of sake breweries in Japan. This brewery specializes in “junmai-jikomi”, a traditional sake brewing method of fermentation without the addition of any extraneous alcohol. While painstaking, this process brings out the pure flavor of rice in each batch. Here you’ll find a promise of flavor that stems from their selection of using only Niigata-brand rice that’s perfect for brewing, blended with the acclaimed natural spring waters from Mt. Suganadake.
Ponshukan Niigata Station Store
A one-stop-shop to taste and buy sake from every brewery in Niigata Prefecture. You can pay 500 yen for five tokens and a sake cup to explore the flavors you like the most. In addition to sake, the shop also offers a wide variety of Niigata souvenirs. We also recommend the famous “bakudan onigiri” (bombshell rice ball), a supersized, 9cm diameter rice ball that packs enough grains for 2 bowls of tasty rice and plenty of mouthwatering fillings.
Niigata's gourmet food for that special person. Recommended gourmet souvenirs
After you've had your fill of Niigata's gourmet delights, you'll definitely want to pick up a souvenir for your family, friends, or partner. Let's take a look at some of the best places to buy delicious souvenirs from Niigata.
At Minato no Marche Pier Bandai, you can find all kinds of delicious foods from Niigata. There is a wide selection of freshly harvested fish from the Sea of Japan, vegetables directly delivered from local farms, seasonal fruits, delicious meats, and Niigata brand rice and famous sake. The market also has several restaurants, so you can enjoy all of Niigata’s gourmet foods in one place. The Pecan Terrace on site is a wide-open space furnished with a 180-inch monitor, cheerful hanging parasols that ride the sea breeze, facilities for anyone to cook with and plenty of room to hang out with friends.
We have introduced some recommended gourmet spots around Niigata Station that you should definitely visit when you are in Niigata City. By the way, it is recommended to use the "Niigata City Loop Bus" to move around to these gourmet spots around the station. We hope you will fully enjoy the taste of rice, seafood, and other delicacies that can only be found in Niigata.