Exploring Otaru's Authentic Flavors: Local Dishes, Restaurants & Recipes

Exploring Otaru's Authentic Flavors: Local Dishes, Restaurants & Recipes

Exploring Otaru's Authentic Flavors: Local Dishes, Restaurants & Recipes

When visiting Otaru, a beautiful harbor city located on the island of Hokkaido in Japan, one cannot miss the opportunity to indulge in its authentic local cuisine. Otaru is renowned for its fresh seafood, rich cultural heritage, and unique culinary traditions that have been passed down through generations. In this guide, we will take you on a gastronomic journey through Otaru, exploring its local dishes, recommending some of the best restaurants to try them, and even providing you with a few recipes to recreate these flavors at home.

Famous Otaru Dishes

Otaru is famous for several must-try dishes that showcase the region's bountiful seafood and high-quality local produce. Here are some of the most renowned dishes you should definitely sample while in town:


When it comes to sushi, Otaru is a hidden gem. With its proximity to the Sea of Japan, Otaru offers a fantastic variety of fresh seafood, including melt-in-your-mouth sashimi-grade fish. Head to one of Otaru's sushi restaurants and treat yourself to an omakase (chef's choice) experience, where you'll be served an assortment of the day's freshest catch transformed into bite-sized masterpieces.


Zuke-don is a unique Otaru specialty consisting of lightly marinated slices of raw fish served over a bowl of sushi rice. The fish is typically marinated in a soy-based sauce, imparting a delicate umami flavor. This delectable dish is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, and you can find it in many of Otaru's seafood restaurants.


Kaisen-don, or seafood rice bowl, is another delicious Otaru dish that seafood enthusiasts will love. It features a bed of vinegared rice topped with an assortment of fresh seafood such as squid, salmon roe, crab, shrimp, and more. The combination of flavors and textures in a kaisen-don is simply heavenly.

Soup Curry

While not strictly a seafood dish, soup curry is a popular comfort food in Otaru. It is a hearty and mildly spicy curry soup filled with seasonal vegetables, meat, and sometimes seafood. The flavors of the various ingredients meld together to create a satisfying and warming bowl of goodness.

Best Restaurants in Otaru

Otaru has no shortage of exceptional restaurants that serve up these local specialties with finesse. Here are a few top recommendations to satisfy your culinary cravings:

Sushi Hanamaru

If you're looking for quality sushi at an affordable price, Sushi Hanamaru is a must-visit. This conveyor belt sushi restaurant offers a wide selection of fresh sushi and sashimi that you can grab as it passes by on the conveyor belt. The vibrant atmosphere adds to the dining experience, making it a favorite among locals and tourists.

Kitaichi Glass Otaru Ryotei Hanazono

For a memorable dining experience that combines exquisite cuisine with an elegant ambiance, head to Kitaichi Glass Otaru Ryotei Hanazono. This traditional Japanese restaurant specializes in kaiseki, a multi-course meal that highlights seasonal ingredients. The restaurant is located in a historic building, and its beautifully plated dishes are a feast for both the eyes and palate.

Otaru Nishin Goten

Otaru Nishin Goten is a unique restaurant that pays homage to Otaru's rich herring fishing history. Housed in a renovated herring mansion, this establishment offers visitors a chance to learn about the traditional herring industry while enjoying a delicious herring-focused meal. From herring sashimi to herring hot pot, you'll discover the diverse ways this humble fish can be prepared.

Recipes to Recreate Otaru's Flavors at Home

If you want to bring a taste of Otaru to your own kitchen, here are a couple of recipes you can try:

Zuke-don Recipe

  1. Thinly slice fresh sashimi-grade fish such as salmon or tuna.
  2. In a bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, and a touch of sugar to create a marinade.
  3. Gently place the sliced fish into the marinade and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Serve the marinated fish over a bowl of sushi rice.

Soup Curry Recipe

  1. In a large pot, sauté diced onions, garlic, and ginger until fragrant.
  2. Add your choice of curry powder and spices, and stir for a minute.
  3. Pour in chicken or vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add cubed vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers.
  5. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. You can also add meat or seafood of your choice.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve the soup curry over steamed rice.

Otaru, Japan