Food & Drink | NAGOYA RESTAURANTS

Miyakagi: Head upstairs for a 'nabe' hot pot party

by Adam Miller

Having opened in Meiji 32 (1899), and serving its signature yakitori (grilled chicken), unagi (eel) and nabe (hot pot) for over 110 years, Miyakagi is one of Nagoya’s longest-running restaurants.

The first floor is for those wanting to try the grilled food, with a kitchen that pumps out a smoky aroma onto one of Nagoya’s busiest roads, the bustling Hirokoji-dori, enticing customers to venture inside. But with winter just around the corner, I chose to eat upstairs to try one of its famous nabe. Although there is a wide range of side dishes to choose from, there are just three main nabe on the menu: sukiyaki (¥3,500), miso-suki (¥3,800) and its regular chicken nabe, shirataki (¥3,750).

I went for the third option, and although the meat doesn’t come from the famous Cochin chicken of Nagoya, Mikawa jidori is a very respected alternative. The chicken provided was extremely fresh and consisted of meat, skin and liver, plus a variety of vegetables including onions, mushrooms, green onions and a healthy mound of greens.

The restaurant is extremely family-friendly, and when I went, half of the parties there had children with them. Boiling broth and curious kids may seem like a hazardous combination, but the servers at Miyakagi are extremely helpful, adding the correct amount of soup and ingredients for you and even advising when they are ready to eat. You can top up the nabe as you see fit, but the helping hand is welcome.

The building itself is very open. The space for the nabe restaurant, for example, is a large room floored with tatami mats, so it may not be ideal for a romantic dinner for two, but it’s perfect for more social events. Downstairs in the grilled-food area there are booths, which are slightly better suited for more intimate dinners, but overall the feel is down-home.

If coming in a pair, you will both need to order and share the same nabe, but larger groups can sample different varieties. The nabe we ordered was simple and subtle, while the miso-suki nabe is rather thick and only really recommended for those with a taste for classic Nagoya dishes.

What makes the nabe rather unique is that instead of being accompanied by rice, it comes with a bowl of ground daikon radish topped with a raw egg yolk, vinegar and soy sauce. You are then given ground ginger, chopped green onions and mixed spices to add to your liking, mixed up and used as a dip. It is a touch sour, but complements the chicken and the vegetables perfectly.

Once you have finished the meat and vegetables, you are given the option of a serving of kishimen (Nagoya-style noodles), which soak up the flavor from the remaining broth. A delicious way to end your meal, but a real gut-buster, as the nabe alone should leave you feeling full.

1-2-13 Meieki Minami, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi-ken; 052-541-0760; www.miyakagi.com; open 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m. (closed Sat.); nearest station Fushimi; smoking OK; ¥4,000 per head (plus drinks); English menu; no English spoken. Adam Miller has been living and writing in Japan since 2008. He lives in Nagoya with his wife, his baby daughter and his dwindling whisky collection.