Dining in Mito: 6 Restaurants Featuring Ibaraki Ingredients and Local Sake

Food

Dining in Mito: 6 Restaurants Featuring Ibaraki Ingredients and Local Sake

Japanese cuisine is loved and highly regarded worldwide. Of course, there are countless fancy and Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo, alongside many others offering a wide variety of delicious dishes and menus across Japan.
This article introduces and focuses on restaurants in Mito, the prefectural capital of Ibaraki, that emphasize local ingredients.

Ibaraki Prefecture is home to Hitachi Seaside Park, a signature scenic spot in Japan, Kairakuen Garden, one of Japan’s three best gardens, and Ushiku Daibutsu, holder of a Guinness World Record. This prefecture near Tokyo has become increasingly popular among domestic and international tourists. Mito, in particular, is easily accessible and many visitors choose to stay overnight here. Why not consider visiting restaurants that use fresh, locally sourced ingredients when you’re traveling in Mito?

Ibaraki Prefecture has a lush countryside and vast coastlines, resulting in a paradise for high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. It ranks among the top three prefectures for its agricultural output. In addition to Hitachi beef—one of the most beloved wagyu beef in Japan—it is a production area for various foods, including pork, chicken, vegetables, seafood, and fermented food products.

Below, we’ll introduce six restaurants in Mito. We’ve curated a list of restaurants with different atmospheres, genres, food types, and price ranges. Enjoy Mito as the entrance to the food world in Ibaraki Prefecture!

1. Shokudo HEY: Sophisticated Cuisine Near Mito Station

 

Picture courtesy of Shokudo HEY

Shokudo HEY is located in a bustling area right next to Mito Station. Opened in 2022, the lively izakaya (Japanese bar) serves food made from high-quality seasonal ingredients purchased directly from local producers. The bar’s concept is to share Ibaraki’s charms through food.

At Shokudo HEY, you can enjoy various course menus and a la carte dishes that engage the senses at reasonable prices. Popular menu items include carpaccio made with lotus root and seasonal fish, mushroom cheese, and mackerel tartare. This bar, which also serves bite-sized finger foods for around 250 yen, is where you can enjoy unique dishes made with Ibaraki ingredients.

Picture courtesy of Shokudo HEY

A selection of various alcoholic beverages, including the finest sake and wines produced in Ibaraki, are available at Shokudo HEY. The seasonal fruit sours are especially popular. An all-you-can-drink plan is also available to those who want to enjoy drinking to their heart’s content. The first floor features a sleek bar counter where you can watch chefs cooking. The second-floor table seats can be reserved exclusively for your party.

2. Yamaguchi-ro: Taste Exquisite Kaiseki Cuisine

Picture courtesy of Yamaguchi-ro

Do you want to taste the ultimate cuisine and drinks? Then, you definitely should take advantage of the kaiseki cuisine at Yamaguchi-ro. Kaiseki cuisine is a multi-course Japanese meal where each dish is enjoyed one by one based on the menu’s order. Everything on the menu is carefully made and crafted to the finest detail. Additionally, it is characterized by having wonderful taste and presentation—as if it were a miniature work of art. For this reason, the cuisine is commended as fine dining and typically enjoyed at settings such as banquets and business dinners.

Picture courtesy of Yamaguchi-ro

Yamaguchi-ro is an established traditional restaurant founded in 1872. The restaurant wants each customer to experience the four seasons of Japan with their five senses through food. With a primary focus on seasonal ingredients, the restaurant serves various elegantly arranged dishes made with the best locally sourced seafood and vegetables. It’s a beautiful Japanese restaurant furnished with tatami rooms and a garden.

The course meal features local brands such as Hitachinokuni Iseebi (spiny lobster) and Hitachi beef, as well as other items like monkfish nabe (hot pot) and unagi (freshwater eel) dishes. You can experience a variety of luxury food from Ibaraki. The course menu will change seasonally and whether you dine during lunch or dinner.

Picture courtesy of Yamaguchi-ro

A unique aspect of this restaurant is enjoying traditional Japanese performing arts while dining. Performing arts with centuries of history, like the Mito Daikagura—currently in its 15th generation—feature astonishing acrobatics performed in the restaurant (Please contact the restaurant regarding reservations).

Information

Mito Yamaguchi-ro

Mito Yamaguchi-ro

This restaurant uses local ingredients to make traditional dishes using recipes dating from the Meiji Period (1868-1912).
Yamaguchi-ro is a must-visit for anyone looking for a truly authentic Japanese dining experience!

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3. Colk: A French Fine Dining Restaurant

Picture courtesy of Colk

The restaurant Colk takes a unique approach by making high-quality Japanese-French fusion dishes with seasonal ingredients from Ibaraki. The chef has trained at restaurants within the Tokyo metropolitan area, most of which are Michelin-starred, and is a certified sommelier.

Picture courtesy of  Colk

The restaurant offers various course menus ranging from a special lunch course (3,500 yen) to a dinner course with eight to ten varied dishes (25,000 yen). A distinct feature of Colk is its beef (especially the steak and roast beef), which stands out even among the variety of other delicious options on the menu.

Picture courtesy of  Colk

The restaurant’s interior features a wonderfully designed bar and lounge that enhances the quality of the customer’s eating experience. The food is served in Kasama ware, a beloved craft in Ibaraki.

What’s even more important is their hospitality. The restaurant is very flexible and will do its best to cater to any requests if you contact them beforehand regarding allergies and preferences. The course menu changes seasonally, and if you dine at the restaurant twice within the same season, the chef will change the course menu upon prior request.

4. Kura + Katsu: High-Quality Tonkatsu that Satisfies Your Heart and Stomach

Picture courtesy of Kura + Katsu

Ibaraki is also known as a prefecture that produces high-quality pork. Golden, crispy tonkatsu (thickly sliced pork coated in flour and egg, then deep-fried in oil) is a popular Japanese pork dish.

Kiuchi Brewery, with a history of 200 years, opened Kura + Katsu in 2023. The restaurant is based on the concept of eating tonkatsu made with Ibaraki brand pork and pairing it with alcoholic beverages produced by the brewery.

Picture courtesy of Kura + Katsu

What makes Kura + Katsu stand out isn’t only the quality of their pork, but also their commitment to cooking methods. The pork used by the restaurant is supplied from pigs raised in Yasato, an area known for its rice cultivation and undeveloped woodlands with environmentally friendly and rich pastures. The pork is aged for over two weeks using rock salt and the same top-quality Daiginjo koji used at Japanese sake breweries before being fried. This process makes the meat incredibly tender and rich in flavor. Lard rendered in-house is used to cook the pork slowly over a long period in low-temperature fat to lock in the meat juices.

Various alcoholic beverages, including drinks produced by Kiuchi Brewery, are offered to go with juicy, freshly fried tonkatsu. Some options include sake Kikumori, Hinomaru Whisky, umeshu (plum liquor), and the exquisite flavor of Hitachino Nest Beer.

5. Wagyuan: A Hidden Restaurant to Enjoy Ibaraki's Famous Beef

Picture courtesy of Wagyuan

Japan is known worldwide for excellent premium wagyu beef and takes pride in its high demand.

Hitachi beef is a true treasure among ingredients in Ibaraki. Specially designated Japanese Black cattle are given special feed and carefully raised to give the beef its juicy, flavorful taste.

There are many restaurants where you can enjoy Ibaraki’s high-quality beef in Mito. Wagyuan, quietly nestled in a beautiful old Japanese house, is one of those restaurants.

Picture courtesy of Wagyuan

Wagyuan is where you can enjoy various dishes, including an aged wagyu steak. The restaurant offers Hitachi beef and beautifully marbled Hanazono beef, another high-grade wagyu beef produced in Ibaraki Prefecture. An exceptionally popular dish from the menu is the Wagyu Hitsumabushi, which is made with quality wagyu beef. Hitsumabushi is typically an unagi dish served with rice in a wooden container, then topped with finely chopped Japanese eel. However, beef hitsumabushi is quite rare.

Wagyuan serves all their dishes with a beautiful presentation. The restaurant’s interior design is stunning, making it a photogenic spot.

6. Ibaraki Jizake Bar Mito: The Best Local Sake

Picture courtesy of Ibaraki Jizake Bar

Japanese sake enthusiasts should head to Ibaraki Jizake Bar near the Mito Station ticket gates! Established in 2022, this compact bar carries a selection of Japanese sake produced in Ibaraki Prefecture. Ibaraki is one of Japan’s major rice producers and has the highest number of sake breweries in the Kanto region.

At Ibaraki Jizake Bar Mito, which features sake from 35 local breweries, around 100 types of sake are available, with 36 varieties placed in dispensers for on-the-spot tasting. They include the renowned Junmai and Junmai Ginjo sake made from pure rice with no additives. Options range from light and fruity to heavier, full-bodied flavors, so you will find a sake that suits your tastes.

Picture courtesy of Ibaraki Jizake Bar

The tasting itself is also a fun experience. Upon entering the store, you’ll find sake dispensers lined up. Purchase a special coin for 300 yen at the register, select the sake you’re interested in, insert the coin into the dispenser, and press the button. For one coin you receive a sake cup and can choose any drink regardless of type. There is also a set that includes three coins plus tasty local snacks for a steal at 1,000 yen!

There are standing tables and seating space available. Since the bar also has a shop selling sake and snacks, you can easily purchase the sake and food you enjoyed.

Discover the Charms of Food in Mito

There are various restaurants at your fingertips when visiting Mito, from reasonably priced Japanese bars to luxurious full-course meals to enjoy Ibaraki’s fresh and diverse foods. The next time you’re in Ibaraki, make sure to try their unique and refined cuisine!

 

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