Juan in Sasebo serves fish so fresh, it's still moving
Fish doesn’t get fresher than when it’s still moving.
Sasebo’s Juan fresh fish restaurant, just a stone’s throw from Sasebo Naval Base, is where fine dining collides with the fish market.
All of the fish served at Juan is caught locally that day. It’s not unusual to be served by chefs wearing waders or picking your meal from a tank before it is cut up and served to you with traditional Japanese style.
Diners can fight an ika (squid) for pieces of its sashimi while it still writhes on your plate, or watch the wriggling tail of an aji (Japanese mackerel) as you swoop in for a bite.
They serve everything from the affordable, only a couple hundred yen, to the more expensive delicacy, such as a rare fish, a wriggling squid or fresh lobster for several thousand.
There is only one catch: Because Juan’s fish comes at the mercy of the sea, it is never the same size nor do they always have the same thing. Meals start at a certain price. They can run over the menu price if the fish is bigger, for example, so bring plenty of yen-jamins.
Also, if they catch aji that day, aji is on the menu. If they are unable to catch squid, then you have to order something else; so it is important to call ahead.
Juan offers a fresh sushi lunch special for under 1,000 yen. For dinner, one can order fresh from the tank or from an expansive menu that includes sashimi, sushi, stew, grilled fish and shellfish, soups, rice dishes, salads and tempura dishes.
The squid is to die for, starting at 1,300 yen — if you can get over eating it while it stares at you, trying to fight you off with its tentacles and sad eyes. It is a bit chewy but melts in your mouth.
Fresh lobster starts at 2,800 yen.
The aji is equally delicious, clean, falling somewhere between a white and a darker fish, not oily and a bargain at 800 yen. The best part is picking one from the tank and watching the chef pluck it from the water and run behind the counter to start preparing it for you while it flaps in his arms.
The sashimi, salads, grilled shellfish, sea urchin and fish/vegetable tempura medley all come highly recommended. Order several dishes at once on a large artistic platter or one at a time on smaller plates.
Sashimi starts at 600 yen for octopus. They have chef’s specials for 1,350 yen to 1,800 yen. Salads start at 500 yen. Grilled fish and shellfish range from 480 to 800 yen.
Fried chicken and oysters are 600 yen. Miso soup costs 400-500 yen. Juan even has duck stew for 3,300 yen and whale sashimi for 1,100 yen for those who like to walk on the wild side.
They also have a wide range of cocktails and teas.
For an added bonus, after you eat the fresh-from-the-tank aji or ika, ask the chef to fry it up for tempura and leave nothing for the birds. Eat the head, tail, bones and tentacles, cooked to a crunchy and delicious batter-dipped perfection.
Dinner reservations are suggested for all diners. They are required for those who want Japanese nabe, vegetables and seafood for two cooked in a hot pot. Juan’s menu is in Japanese, so if you can’t read Japanese script or order in Japanese, you might have to invite a Japanese friend along or have the base travel office call ahead to make a reservation and order for you.
If high-fiving a squid while eating it piece by piece is wrong, thanks to Juan, I don’t ever want to be right.
Location: 1-1 Yorozu-cho, Sasebo, Japan
Phone: Reservations must be made in Japanese. Call 0956-23-3686
Cost: Fresh ika (squid) starts at 1,300 yen (just over $10).
Directions: Take a right out of Sasebo Naval Base’s main gate. Go through four sets of lights. Take a right at the fifth light. When you get to the next light, Juan is across the street on the left side.