There are tons of the so-called “western-style,” or yoshoku, (洋食) restaurants in Japan. I always find this name a little troublesome because while yes, they certainly don’t serve your typical Japanese food, I think a more appropriate description would be something along the lines of “Japanese-style western fusion.” In fact, some dishes are actually Japanese inventions inspired by the west.
Typical dishes you might find at yoshoku restaurants are curry and rice (was curry even Western to begin with??), hayashi rice (tender chunks of beef in a thick, demi-glace-ish sauce over rice), omurice (tomato-y fried rice wrapped up in a super thin egg shell), and hambaagu (basically a delicious, Japanese version of Salisbury steak).
That being said, even though yoshoku technically translates to “western food,” it still offers you an authentic Japanese experience—one that dates back to the Meiji Restoration (late 1800s).
In Matsumoto, one of the best places to get your fix of yoshoku is a restaurant called Okinado. While not quite as old as the Meiji Restoration, Okinado has been around for a long time: it opened its doors in 1933 at the beginning of the Showa Period, first as a coffee house and then later adding a full menu of “western-style” food in 1957 that included curry rice, hayashi rice, sauteed pork, and other items. It is family owned and is now with its third generation owner.
Today, Okinado still serves many of their original dishes and compared to some other yoshoku restaurants, I’d say their menu items tend to be more “fancy,” if you will. For example, they boast fresh, locally sourced ingredients and their hayashi rice sauce is apparently cooked down for an entire week!
A few days ago, I went with a couple of friends so we got to share and try a few of Okinado’s most popular dishes: the napolitan pasta (a spaghetti-esque dish with a ketchup-y/tomato-y sauce and stir-fried vegetables), omurice, and hayashi rice.
Out of the three dishes, the omurice was my favorite. The thin egg shell was perfectly wrapped around the nicely flavored rice, plus it had a portion of their special hayashi sauce on top along with another kind of white sauce. The hayashi rice was pretty good too, though the sauce had quite a strong flavor that reminded me of coffee (they may actually use coffee when cooking it). You could tell the sauce had been cooked for hours and the beef was super tender.
The napolitan pasta, on the other hand, was a little disappointing, as it seemed like the spaghetti noodles were just mixed with stir-fried vegetables, pork, and a bit of tomato-ish sauce (nothing like spaghetti sauce though). Not that it didn’t taste good, but I was looking for something a little more unique.
Other dishes that looked good (on other people’s tables) were the hambaagu/hamburger steak and fried pork dishes (katsu), though they are more on the expensive side. There are also combo plates that let you try two or three different dishes on one plate. I didn’t get to to try any this time, but the desserts looked very enticing too, especially the custard pudding!
More than the food, I loved Okinado’s atmosphere—still housed in its original building, it looks as if it were stuck back in time in the heyday of the Showa Period. Old-fashioned decor, manager in suit vest and bow-tie, vintage diner seats, heavy ceramic lights above the tables…it really gives you a good sense of what Japan might have been like when it was in love with all-things-western. Plus there is a great view of Nawate Street and Yohashira Shrine from the big windows!
Okinado is located in Nakamachi, which is a 10-minute walk from either Matsumoto Castle or Matsumoto Station. It’s on the corner across the bridge from Yohashira Shrine. Budget-wise, it will cost you 1,000–1,500 yen for most meals, though the meat-heavy dishes are closer to 2,000 yen. You can go for both lunch or dinner.
Weekdays & Saturdays: 11 am—3:30 pm, 5:30 pm—9:00 pm (L.O. 8:30 pm)
Sundays & Holidays: 11 am—6:30 pm (L.O. 6 pm)
By the way, you can check out more photos on Okinado’s website. It’s in Japanese, but the photos explain themselves 🙂