Located 15 minutes north of Kanazawa, our little town of Tsubata may appear to be nothing more than a quiet bedroom community. Determined to disprove this theory, I try to patronize local sightseeing spots and restaurants as much as possible. We’ve got a couple of great cake shops and a good udon place – but the restaurant we visited for my birthday last week is special enough for me to recommend a trip out just to eat there.
Unkai (雲海) is a specialty gyoza shop, located in a 100 year old house in the Kamifujimata area, nestled in a narrow valley deep in the hills east of town. Here the road is narrow and winding, the cool air full of the cries of bush warblers. At this time of year, brilliant hydrangeas decorate the boarders of small rice fields, and at night the nearby trees filled with fireflies look like something straight out of a fairytale.
The chef studied her craft in China before opening up her shop in Tsubata. Her gyoza have characteristically thick wrappings, flavored and colored with an ecclectic variety of ingredients. She serves 12 varieties, ranging from the classic combination of pork and nira (garlic chives) to more unusual flavors, including yomogi (mugwort), kuro goma (black sesame), and curry (these last ones were spectacularly delicious). With prior warning, she can subsitute soy products for ground meat in any of her recipes for vegetarian gyoza.
In addition to gyoza, Unkai serves seasonal desserts, coffee, and a variety of Chinese teas. You can order gyoza by the plate, or as part of a set menu (定食 – teishoku). These set menus vary in price and volume; their lunch special is only 1,650 yen (the menu changes seasonally, so ask for specifics), while dinner sets range from 2,300~2,700 per person. Our 2,300 yen meal included five varieties of gyoza, as well as staggeringly delicious braised pork (角煮 – kakuni), soup, rice, salad, housemade cheesecake and coffee.
In cooler months during spring and fall, you can enjoy a plate of gyoza near the traditional sunken fireplace (irori). In the summer, arrive early in the evening to sip a cup of tea while gazing out into the garden. (As a sidenote, if you’re able to visit in mid-June, a five minute walk to the end of the main road will take you to the best firefly viewing spot around.) And no matter when you come, don’t forget to stop into Dozou, the quaint boutique located in the plaster-walled warehouse across the compound.
Visit the webpage for photos, menus, hours and event listings.
Hours: 10:00 a.m. ~ 7:00 p.m. (or later, upon request) *Reservations are required – please call at least one day in advance*
Phone number: (076) 288-0308
Closed throughout January, on the 23rd of September, and weekly on Wednesdays.
Address: 石川県河北郡津幡町字上藤又ト９ (Ishikawa ken, Kahoku gun, Tsubata machi, Kamifujimata To 9)
Getting there: Click here for a Google Map
Take the Tsubata bypass to get on the 8 toward Toyama. Turn exit toward 215, and turn right at the light (the 刈安北第一 intersection) to stay on 215. You will reach a T intersection (the 刈安 intersection) with a light. Turn left here onto 286, and then take the first right on to a small road. Proceed on this road for about 1.9 kilometers, until you reach a four way intersection. (You should see a large caligraphic sign for 雲海 here.) Turn left at the intersection, and proceed another kilometer into an old residential neighborhood. Unkai is just about the only business out here. You will see one of their signs pointing to the left. You can park at the bottom of the driveway, then walk up the hill to the large house pictured at the beginning of this post.