Sampling local cuisine – a taste of what grows locally, as well as what the locals eat – is a must when traveling to Hachijojima. Ryozanpaku is a restaurant that has been serving Kyodo cuisine (a type of cuisines that focuses on regional specialties) for more than 30 years on this island.
It’s popular with tourists and locals alike. Each dish is prepared with care, and naturally, word got around leading to its current popularity.
Hachijojima’s first kyodo restaurant.
6 minutes by car from Hachijojima airport. Ryozanpaku is a kyodo restaurant in an area called Mine on Hachijojima island. Of course, it’s not uncommon to find places serving kyodo-style cuisine on Hachijojima, but this was the first place on Hachijojima to do so.
Ryozanpaku’s owner is a Hachijojima native who was born and grew up on the island. He used to be in a completely different industry and worked in Tokyo for some years. He then left his job, returned to Hachijojima, and learned the basics of Japanese cuisine, including sushi, from a Japanese ‘Itamae’ chef.
It’s now 30 years since Ryozanpaku’s humble beginnings, and the extensive menu now consists of familiar local flavors to more innovative dishes that the owner developed on his own.
The attention to detail attracts customers.
Ryozanpaku may be the first to have opened a restaurant serving kyodo cuisine, but that’s not the only reason why it’s so popular. The secret to it being loved by so many, is its meticulous attention to detail.
Take their tempura for example. The technique for frying the tempura to the type of salt used to dip the tempura in is chosen with care. That salt is then given a quick roast before serving so as to bring out the aroma and avoid clumping.
It’s that kind of attention to detail that locals and tourists appreciate, helping the restaurant succeed to its current popularity.
All the items on the menu are prepared with great confidence.
What do you recommend on the menu I asked, to which Mr. Ikko, the manager, unable to pick favorites said “everything on the menu is worth trying”.
It was a sign of how much love and care is put into every item on the menu, as well as the amount of confidence he has for each dish.
I rephrased the question and asked, if you had to pick one? “The sashimi” he replied. Their sashimi is prepared using fresh fish caught locally on the island. The selection differs every day, from common to rare catches, some that you rarely see served outside of Hachijojima.
For those who aren’t the biggest fan of raw fish…. Fear not.
Popular among customers is the Ashitaba tempura. Ashitaba is a plant native to the Izu islands. Ashitaba in tempura form is commonly found on all the islands, but the tempura here is on a different level. The leaves are coated with a thin layer of batter and fried at low temperature. Maybe because of that the tempura retains its crunchiness even after it’s cooled down, and it doesn’t have that characteristic heaviness of fried foods.
Another dish worth mentioning is the Kusaya, another local specialty to the Izu islands. Kusaya, which is fermented, salt-dried fish, isn’t to everyone’s taste due to its pungent smell. That said, the Hachijojima version is more mild than your typical kusaya, and even those who normally don’t like it eat it readily.
Why are they able to have such pride for their cooking? It’s because the owner is open to trying all kinds of cuisines, and he will make dishes over and over again in pursuit of perfection until he finds a recipe that he is satisfied with. The experience gained from experimenting with a ton of dishes across a wide range of genres has allowed him to create a menu with only the best of the lot, and those flavors have been passed down generations from father to son.
Carefully selected drinks.
The food is not all that is recommended here. The Ashitaba tempura mentioned earlier? The same plant can be found in beer. Or how about Kahlua milk made using locally produced milk. Flavors that are original to both Ryozanpaku and Hachijojima. The Ashitaba beer was created as a result of a casual conversation with a customer – now it’s become a Ryozanpaku staple. You never know when you might find inspiration for a new dish at Ryozanpaku.
They also serve a variety of shochu brought in from across the island. You can compare shochu from a variety of distillers who make them from potatoes, wheat, or a mix of both.
Always make a reservation
Thanks to word of mouth, Ryozanpaku is always busy. It’s relatively spacious, but can quickly get full. It’s not uncommon for people to book a table as soon as they confirm their reservations for the ferry.
So we highly recommend making reservations ahead of time. Ryozanpaku, a place for carefully refined tastes of Hachijojima. Each flavor put together with great care – you might find yourself yearning to be back on the island for another taste!