Taste of Japan: Something's fishy about ice cream on Enoshima
Taste of Japan: Something's fishy about ice cream on Enoshima
At the end of a long hike to the top of Enoshima Island, Uomitei offers gorgeous scenery and amazingly fresh shirasu fit for a great lunch high above the sea.
My colleagues and I arrived ravenous but had to wait around 10 minutes for a window-side table. I heard this restaurant is 140 years old, so as we entered, I thought about how many have visited this very place in all that time. There was additional seating that looked cozy with a tatami flooring, but most of the patrons here opted for seats with a view of the spectacular ocean. When we finally reached our seats, there were clouds in the distance, but we could see some of Mt. Fuji hidden in the mist. The views from these seats are well worth the wait.
From the menu, you will see that this place is definitely famous for its rice bowls. The choices range from its famous Shirasu-don to sashimi. And if you’re not a fan of raw fish, the menu at Uomitei has a lot of other dishes to choose from.
During my preparation for this trip I was told to try the shirasu-don, and since eating the local specialty when I’m on vacation is my golden rule, doing so was a no-brainer.
In Korea, we have our own variation of dishes featuring tiny fish. “Bendengi,” or large-eyed herrings, come served over rice and a very common dish is “myulchi bokkeum,” which consists of spicy pan-fried sardines (or anchovies) seasoned with spicy gochujang (hot pepper paste). During my visit to Japan, I was curious about how the less spicy version would taste, so I dug in. The only problem that arose was when I had to pick between boiled shirasu, “Kamaage shirasu-don” and the raw version, “Nama shirasu-don.”
I weighed my options and was delighted to see that I didn’t have to choose. I went for the one with both! I picked shirasu-don (950 yen, about $8.24), with half Nama shirasu and half Kamaage shirasu. I also ordered Enoshima Beer to wash it down.
After my meal arrived, I made sure to add some soy sauce as it adds depth to the taste. The texture of Nama shirasu was unfamiliar but it was neither too soft nor too hard. Most of all, the combination of rice and raw shirasu was great with soy sauce. The more I chewed, the tastier it got. On the other hand, the Kamaage shirasu had a rather fishy scent, so I added some sichimi spicy powder to cut that smell and taste a bit. The verdict on shirasu-don? I preferred the taste of Nama shirasu more than Kamaage, but I think it’s because I am more accustomed to raw fish and rice dishes in Korea.
The Enoshima Beer also added a great flavor to the shirasu and brought a distinct kind of sweetness to my fishy lunch.
Uomitei makes for a really romantic dining spot while gazing at the sun setting over the ocean. If the weather is nice, the view of Mt. Fuji must be better than the one we got when we visited. If I have to pick just one thing that I want to do on this island, I would say without hesitation: Drinking Enoshima Beer on the patio. Shirasu-don was worth a try but the best thing at this restaurant was definitely the view and their patio is the best place to enjoy it.
Hour: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm (restaurant closes 1 hour after sunset)
Average price: 1,500 JPY
Address: 2-5-7, Enoshima, Fujisawa-shi, Kanagawa
Phone: +81 466-22-4456
Fish on Ice cream
After lunch, we stumbled across a stand selling soft serve ice cream topped with steamed white bait. It was run by Tobiccho, a shirasu wholesaler. Among various shirasu foods that the stand sells, their soft serve caught my eye.
The shop offers two varieties of soft serve topped with shirasu: vanilla flavor and a mixture of vanilla and matcha green tea each for 450 yen (about $3.90), plus tax. Less adventurous visitors can opt to skip the shirasu and just have the ice cream plain for 350 yen. I chose the regular vanilla, which is a light grey color due to the bamboo charcoal the employee said is mixed in. This color really contrasted with the white, boiled shirasu.
Visually, this cone was not exactly the text book example of what one might call “tasty food.”
It wasn’t until my first taste when my doubts were cleared. The shirasu dessert tasted rather like a standard soft cream, as the subtle saltiness of the fish went well with the sweetness of the ice cream.
To me, shirasu adds texture to ice cream just like it does to many other dishes. Thanks to the small fish tickling my tongue, I could enjoy my cone without getting tired of the sweet taste and smooth texture.
Soon my ice cream was gone, and the bottom of the cone, somehow, still held several shirasu. When I took a bite, the shirasu suddenly seemed like something completely different from what they were at first taste. Without the smooth and sweet ice cream, the small fish felt a little crunchy and sandy, reminding me of fish washed up on the coast. Slight regret that I had finished the ice cream before the shirasu began to set in.
In the end, this shirasu ice cream turned out to be a good experience. Even for someone who is familiar with soft served ice cream available for 330 yen at Blue Seal Ice Cream stores in Okinawa, I felt the shirasu cone was priced fairly. The uniqueness of the food and the great location are worth the money.
– Shoji Kudaka
A sweet ice cream sprinkled with the strong-flavored shirasu may sound like a good thing to some, but my verdict? I recommend you try the shirasu hot dog instead of this ice cream if you’re interested in trying something new involving the small fish.
As I bit into the gray-colored soft serve with utmost confidence, I quickly realized I couldn’t bear the two conflicting flavors: shirasu and something cold that is supposed to taste like ice cream. The soft serve was just a one-dimensional creamy flavor nearly undetectable through the overpowering taste of the fishy shirasu.
Above all, the shirasu were also the root of the real problem – the utterly unacceptable texture of this dessert.
Maybe the vendors, in an attempt to create something buzzworthy, didn’t realize they created something completely the opposite. The two non-matching ingredients didn’t meld well together, causing an uncomfortable mix in my mouth. They should have never met! The shirasu should have stayed in the rice bowl not migrated onto ice cream. Most importantly, not onto my ice cream!
– ChiHon Kim
GPS Coordinates: N 35.301889, E 139.480874
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