I’ve actually been to Fukuoka before a couple years ago, but during that time we joined a tour group that brought us to these horrendous restaurants. I didn’t write much, but there are a couple of photos you can see at Fukuoka, Aso, and Sea Hell in Beppu. During that trip, we focused more on the southern parts of Fukuoka. As such, this time we focused more on the northern side of Fukuoka.
Anyway, the tour guide trip we were on brought us to these ridiculously atrocious restaurants. In fact, some of these restaurants were overcharging, with the help of the tour guide, who managed to convince us to HAVE to try this Kinki fish for USD 250 that turned out to be undercooked, with lots of bones, and not delicious at all.
That trip, I had an incredibly poor impression of the food in Fukuoka.
THIS time, since we planned and managed the trip ourselves, the food experience was the opposite of what I had compared to my first trip in Fukuoka, in that we had extraordinary food experiences, from sitting near the seaside BBQing raw oysters to eating traditional and sumptuous traditional Japanese traditional cuisine. I dare say this was one of THE best food experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m about to share with you some of the restaurants we went to. What a difference planning a trip by yourselves and joining a tour group makes. I’ve always been AGAINST joining tour groups, as you can manage your time however you want if you’re going by yourself and you can plan the restaurants YOU want to go to rather than being brought to tourist restaurants where the tour agency probably gets a cut or commission from bringing us there.
For things to do, you can read about my blog post Shrines and Limestones, Fukuoka and North.
Yuda Onsen Yuuberu Hotel Matsumasa (website)
What’s great about this hotel was that we were literally the only “foreigners” in the hotel the entire time… everybody else seemed to be Japanese!
I guess hotel is the more appropriate term for this place, but it’s really like a Ryokan as well, where the rooms are like tatami rooms (although we requested a western style room as well but still there were aspects that reflected the Japanese tatami rooms, where I had to sleep on rather than the western beds which I preferred anyway), they had incredibly delicious traditional Japanese cuisine (see below), and of course onsen. I insisted that we had to stay somewhere where they had proper onsen for this trip, that was my only condition for joining the trip (I had little expectations of the food since I had a bad experience from that tour group).
The staff spoke zero English, and I’m not even exaggerating. We were not able to communicate at all except with the help of Google Translate, but otherwise it was a lot of finger pointing on maps and smiling and confused faces.
Another problem we faced was that the room was quite hot when we first entered, and they didn’t had any aircon. I know I know it’s winter in Japan when we went (around Christmas), but still it was quite hot because I think they turned on the heater before we went in the room, and so for the first night I had to open the windows to get a little breeze in. The rest of the nights for some reason wasn’t as hot and was bearable.
Also since including me we were a group of three, the two western style beds were occupied, and I had to sleep on the Japanese bed mattresses that they help you set up on the floor, so every evening before you go dinner you should let the staff know what time you will be eating dinner so they can help prepare the tatami bed for you. Sometimes they forget.
For those planning to visit the Akiyoshido cave, I feel like this hotel is convenient enough (30 mins drive), and there were a lot of convenience stores and Japanese restaurants around the area.
There were some machines where you insert some Japanese yen and you can control the machine arm to grab a plastic ball, and in that plastic ball there will be a prize number for these big prizes or sometimes you get mediocre prizes like a towel, which I got. Really wanted this basketball game to put in office!
Onsen area. Very nice. They had an outdoor onsen, indoor onsen, and cold water, and spa and sauna. Men and women are separated. They use real spring water. Also in the room are the robes and small towel, and there’s also this clip with a number where you can clip your slippers right before you enter this area. You see those slippers on the floor? So the clip lets you remember which one is yours. In the onsen area there are no towels, but there is a weighing machine. Super nice, not a lot of people, compared to a lot of other “onsen” places in urban cities like the next hotel I’m about to show you.
Mitsui Garden Hotel Fukuoka Gion (website)
The hotel that we stayed in when we were in Fukuoka. It’s centrally located in Fukuoka, right next to the shopping mall Canal City. The staff here actually spoke English, and everything about the hotel was clean, bright, and somewhat modern. They also have onsen I believe on the top floor. However, their onsen was usually packed with people, especially after dinner times, and they do not use real spring water. Their onsen also has outdoor and indoor as well, and men and women are separated.
The rooms were comfortable, but they were a bit smaller than than the Yuda Onsen rooms. Also whereas in Yuda Onsen you literally use keys to open the doors, here you are using hotel cards.
I love this hotel because of its extreme convenience, its clean, and its incredibly good value. At this hotel, there was a preponderant amount of Hong Kong people, which you can tell just by listening to them speak Cantonese.
Also nearby Mitsui Garden is also a Starbucks, literally about a 3 minutes walk.
Honestly, most of the transportation was car rental and walking (for Fukuoka). Once we arrived at Fukuoka airport on the first day, we already got our car. In fact, when I picked up my car, I had to use an Huawei tablet to go through this tutorial that took about 10-15 minutes and accept everything first before getting the car.
Driving in Japan is quite easy, possibly one of the easiest places for me to drive. The only trouble I had was that some of the places were quite dark when I was driving from city to city through the highway, but in general it was okay.
Also, it’s really good to use the GPS that’s installed in the car. However, for those you either need to know Japanese or otherwise you should have phone numbers of the destinations you want to go and then input them in the GPS. It will keep telling you whether a lane will suddenly change right or left, and keeps reminding you every 2km and 400m to take the next exit in highways.
Some parking spots in Fukuoka City were quite confusing. It’s one of those where they lock the back wheel of the car. Initially I kept trying to pay for the parking spot we parked at, and yet our car wasn’t locked. Supposedly your back wheel was supposed to be behind the “raised portion” and then it will lock, and then we kept thinking we have to pay first and it will lock, thinking we have to pay based on how long you think you will be there for like Hong Kong. Actually what happens is, after a few minutes, it will automatically lock – you do NOT pay first. You only pay when you arrive back at the carpark depending on how long you parked for then the lock will unlock then you can drive. We even embarrassingly stopped a couple who appeared to be rushing away to ask if our car was okay, and again they didn’t speak English, but they just put their thumbs up to indicate OK and we still didn’t get it. We were really asinine.
Food and Restaurants
I’m going to do this blog a little different by posting the foods and restaurants FIRST, since I know that’s what you are expecting anyway from the blog title. And then if the blog gets too long, I might just separate the things to do to a different section.
Tempura Hirao Main Store (website)
OMGGG… mouth watering… this is possibly one of my favorite restaurants that I ate this trip (like almost all the restaurants were like 9/10, this was like 9.5/10 they were all pretty close). And it’s nearby the Fukuoka airport. So if you arrive at Fukuoka and rented a private car, I beseech you to come to this restaurant as it’s only a 5 minutes drive away.
We queued for a line outside the restaurant for about 30 minutes. Once inside, there is a vending machine for you to choose the type of tempura you want with rice. After ordering and getting the tickets, you wait another 30 minutes by moving along the stools on the wall and moving forward once another person at the front has grabbed their table (it’s sort of like playing musical chairs). The total wait was about 1 hour, a little less maybe 45 minutes.
So once you sit down, you give the ticket to the chefs, and they will cook the tempura and serve it right away. The tempura was already AMAZING. But what really made extra-amazing was the fact that they had these condiments that you put on top of your rice. The BEST of the BEST was this sort of like salty octopus that you mix with your rice… jesus. It’s literally orgasm in your mouth. If you just eat the salty octopus it’s too salty, but balance it with white rice and it’s perfect.
You can also get green tea for free as well, and you can just go pour it yourselves. The green tea was scorching hot.
Of course I couldn’t show all the tempura bits since I consumed it once it was served. Oh yeah it also comes with miso soup. That really delicious octopus I was talking about is that pinkish slimy thing you see in that bowl of rice.
Oh also, all the choices were less than USD 10. Let that sink in for a second.
Trying to find a decent restaurant to eat at nearby our hotel, we found this Izakaya that was about a 5 minutes walk away from our hotel (literally just across the street). We found it on Google Maps.
Have to be honest, this place was average. Meaning that it was the second worst restaurant we had amongst all the foods we tasted in Fukuoka this trip. That doesn’t mean it was disappointing, like this was OK, but the other restaurants just set the bar way too high.
Also, just for your information, these Izakayas in Japan tend to allow smoking indoors, and so we could smell people smoking cigarettes throughout the entire meal.
Once again, the people there didn’t speak Japanese, so we ordered a couple of dishes using Google Translate again. In fact, the entire menu was Japanese, so we had to use Google Translate to sort of guesstimate what the menu items were.
Yuda Onsen Yuuberu Hotel Matsumasa
Yes! In the hotel itself. For all Ryokan places, so far my experience has been that their food that they serve is incredible!! They usually serve those traditional Japanese food, but they are realllllyyy good and there usually aren’t these type of restaurants that serve these type of traditional Japanese cuisine anywhere else in the world. Like when you think of Japanese restaurants, they usually are ramen restaurants, yakitori restaurants, sushi, izakayas, kobe beef restaurants, RARELY are they traditional Japanese food.
We were a tad silly for not booking the breakfast and the dinner at this place beforehand, and for the dinner we ended up having to pay double the pre-booked price and breakfast a little more as well. No matter, at least the meal was really good. I think the meals in this hotel were a tied second with another restaurant I will also let you know which is tied second.
They have two different dining halls, and they will direct you the night before to let you know where to have your breakfast / dinner.
In terms of the meals, this traditional Japanese cuisine was the most expensive amongst all the meals, especially the dinner one.
Daichi no udon
Found in JR Hakata City at the bottom ground where all the Udon shops were, this udon place was highly touted of its great value and deliciousness. But this ended up being the most disappointing meal of all, and in fact I would have to say that this was the worst meal amongst the meals we had. This was actually worse than average and I would recommend people not to go, especially for the branch in JR Hakata City.
This ramen place is SOOO good. We went to the main store, and I highly recommend it. I would say this is tied second with the hotel’s traditional Japanese cuisine. Their pork bone broth was amazing, the noodles were incredible, the egg was soft and the pork was succulent. One of the best ramen I’ve ever had in my life. Oh this was also the second meal we had, after the daichi no udon as mentioned above.
Christmas Market in JR Hakata City
Ok this doesn’t really count, because we were hungry so we decided to eat a bit of steak before actually eating our proper meal, which was at a kobe beef restaurant which you will see later down below. I’m going to put the Christmas Market information at the next blog post. This was just okay, average.
Some yakitori restaurant I passed by on the street, not sure if it’s good or not.
Snack From Riverwalk Kitakyushu
What you see is what you really get. This delicious looking pancake egg stick was seen nearby the Riverwalk Kitakyushu mall, which you can find more about in the next post. But as they say, looks are deceiving. This is literally what you get, this fried pancake with egg wrapped, there was no meat or anything inside it. This was not good, save your appetite.
This was a restaurant we found right after going to the Akiyoshido Cave and making our way to Hagi. If I remember correctly, this “restaurant” was located in Hagi. Can’t even find it on Google Maps myself.
It’s really weird because we were parked inside what is sort of like a school campus or an art exhibition centre… we couldn’t figure it out, but anyway we decided to come check out this restaurant.
By the time we arrived here, it was about after 2pm since we finished the cave visit pretty late.
Again, this restaurant served what was like traditional Japanese cuisine. It’s pretty good! Recommend if you do pass by here.
So this sushi place we found it while driving from Motonosumi Inari Shrine and on our way back to Fukuoka. It’s in this place called Moji, very near Kitakyushu. We haven’t been to a proper sushi place by that time, so we decided to stop here.
The chef here was incredibly fast when serving the sushi. I remembered one of my friends who ate at Sushi Jiro said that the chef served sushi incredibly fast, and at this place I could imagine what it was like. Literally once we finished one sushi, the other one was already placed in front of us.
The sushi sizes were quite big, very good. Not many pieces though, like about 7 pieces only for the lunch set, but you can always add more individual pieces. Quite good value as well.
For one of our drives from Fukuoka to visit the scenic attraction Sakurai Futamigaura of Meotoiwa, we discovered this amazing seafood BBQ place. Basically you ordered some seafood then you put it on top of this charcoal BBQ and watch the seafood whimper and shrink and after cooking a while, then you consume it, wow. I have to say this place is also tied second as well for the best things I’ve ate in this trip. So yes, there are three “second place” restaurants in this blog post ^__^ Others thought this was first, so this is a must visit!
If you can read Chinese, I suggest you to go to https://yokanavi.com/zh-tw/feature/153026/ as it provides you even more details about how to cook the oysters, and the shells can be “recycled” in this certain bin then there’s a second bin for general trash.
Also when cooking, you also had to wear these gloves as the food items can be tremendously hot. Honestly, some of the BEST oysters I’ve eaten, and once again it’s quite cheap.
Itoshima in Fukuoa ostensibly has 26 oyster huts. You can find them at fukuoka-now.com/oysters
Ryuen Nishinakasu (website)
So as you can see from above, we had seafood, sushi, traditional Japanese, tempura… but one thing we haven’t had was BEEF. And considering Fukuoka’s close proximity to Kobe, we definitely had to have KOBE BEEF.
This Ryuen is one of the few places in Fukuoka to enjoy exquisitely marbled and juicy Kobe beef. Honestly, you get so much Kobe beef, you’d feel like you had stuffed two stomachs. And the great thing is, the meal is a little under USD 100 per person! In Hong Kong, you can expect to pay double the amount for less than half the portion, and the meat quality wouldn’t be as good.
We even had a private room when dining at the restaurant. I highly recommend you to go to this restaurant. I’d probably say this is ALSO tied second place for all the restaurants mentioned. So yeah… four second place restaurants in this post 🙂
Some of the wagyu beef are sooo fat, they are like 90% fat. They literally can be used as the fat to sizzle the kobe beef instead.
Other restaurants nearby Ryuen Nishinakasu that I didn’t try
Right Outside the Hotel, a random Food Stall
OK so I’m going to stop this blog post right here and reserve the “things to do” portion for another post, since we are already hitting 3,600 words. (Update: new blog post on things to do in Fukuoka can be read at Shrines and Limestones, Fukuoka and North).
But once again, I have to re-emphasize first how impressive the quality of almost every meal was. Tempura and all the second place restaurants I mentioned were all above a 9.0/10, the sushi place was like an 8.7, and just that Udon place in the mall was like less than 5 and the Izakaya was like a 6. Like literally, the food places here were better than DiverXO in Madrid.
Also what’s amazing about Fukuoka is the VALUE of the food. Besides the hotel foods which were a bit more pricey (and could have been MUCH less pricey had we pre-booked beforehand), all the meals were incredibly cheap for what they are worth. I mean you look at the Kobe beef you get from the photos for USD 100 is ridiculous. A lot of the best stuff we ate, like seafood BBQ and ramen and tempura, they were all under USD 20 per person. Also we tried to eat every type of Japanese food there was, like ramen, udon, kobe beef, traditional, sushi, tempura etc.
Which makes sense it’s good value since Fukuoka ain’t Tokyo, so obviously the cost of living should be cheaper all around.
For all you foodies out here, Fukuoka is a must visit. I mean in general the food in Japan is far superior than many other countries, but this was eye opening.
Other Restaurants Mentioned in this Tourist Brochure
- Innovative French Watahan
Nightlife Mentioned in this Tourist Brochure
- GRANDMIRAGE (ig: grandmirage)
- Ibiza Fukuoka
- CAT’s Fukuoka
- Orca Dining & Bar
- Fools Gold