If you're wondering what to eat in Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region of Japan, you're in for a treat!
With Sendai's easy access from Tokyo, it has become a bustling hub for tourism in the region. It's the perfect destination for those looking to explore the northeastern part of Japan and indulge in a wide range of culinary delights.
From the abundance of seafood from the Sanriku Coast to renowned local delicacies like Sendai beef and edamame, not to mention the famous tender and chewy beef tongue, Sendai offers a truly memorable gastronomic experience.
Here, we will guide you through the must-try specialties of Sendai, along with a recommended food map for popular tourist spots such as Sendai Station, Akiu Onsen, and Matsushima. Get ready to embark on a culinary journey that will tantalize your taste buds in Sendai!
Image source: PIXTA
What to Eat in Sendai: A Guide to Culinary Delights
Beef Tongue (Gyutan/牛タン)
When it comes to Sendai cuisine, one dish that immediately comes to mind is the tantalizing Beef Tongue (gyutan/牛タン) that captivates the taste buds of many food enthusiasts. Simply grilled over charcoal, sprinkled with salt, and savored with its crispy yet tender texture and savory flavor, it pairs exceptionally well with steamed rice, beef tail soup, and pickled side dishes, creating the irresistible Gyutan set meal that has become a must-try for many tourists visiting Japan.
In Sendai, you'll find renowned establishments like "Aji Tasuke" and "Umami Tasuke," believed to be the pioneers of grilled beef tongue. Additionally, there are popular chain restaurants like "Rikyu" with branches throughout the country and local favorite "Kisuke." Take advantage of your visit to Sendai and savor the delectable offerings from these fascinating beef tongue restaurants all at once!
In addition to Beef Tongue, another luxurious delicacy not to be missed when visiting Sendai is the esteemed Sendai Beef, known as one of Japan's premium beef varieties.
Sendai Beef is a brand of beef from Miyagi Prefecture, and only the beef that is carefully raised and passes strict inspections can be certified as Sendai Beef. It boasts a meat quality grade of "A5" or "B5," with a perfect distribution of lean meat and marbling, offering a tender and rich flavor that is truly irresistible.
Throughout Sendai City, you can find numerous yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurants that serve high-quality beef, including Sendai Beef. For example, "STEAK HOUSE Iseya" and "Yakiniku Gyuzin" near JR Sendai Station are popular yakiniku spots where you can savor the excellent Sendai Beef at affordable prices.
Mashed Edamame (Zunda/ずんだ)
The Tohoku region of Japan is a major producer of edamame (young soybeans), and in the local cuisine, edamame is not only enjoyed as a drinking snack but also transformed into a mashed form called Zunda. Zunda is made by boiling and seasoning the edamame, and it is used in various sweet dessert dishes, making it a distinctive local delicacy in Sendai.
In Sendai, you can find Japanese-style sweets such as Zunda Mochi (mochi with mashed edamame filling), Zunda Dango (sweet dumplings with Zunda topping), Zunda Shaved Ice, as well as Western-style desserts incorporating Zunda, such as Zunda Matcha Parfait, Zunda Milkshake, and Zunda Roll Cake. Inside the shopping mall "S-PAL Sendai" at Sendai Station, you'll also find a variety of Zunda-related souvenirs available for purchase. It's highly recommended to try these intriguing local sweet treats when you pass by Sendai.
The Sanriku Coast along Miyagi Prefecture is one of the world's three major fishing grounds, known for its abundant seafood. The region is home to many oyster farms that cultivate delicious oysters of exceptional quality. These oysters are often sold fresh and can be enjoyed raw or grilled. During the autumn to winter season, it attracts seafood connoisseurs who flock to indulge in these legendary "milk of the sea."
One of the famous oyster dining areas in Miyagi Prefecture is Matsushima, located not far from Sendai Station and known as one of Japan's Three Views. In Matsushima, you'll find oyster huts that offer all-you-can-eat oysters in their shells. Additionally, there are dishes like baked oysters, oyster rice bowls, and oyster soup available for tasting. It is highly recommended for oyster and seafood enthusiasts to visit this area.
Sasa Kamaboko (笹かまぼこ)
As mentioned earlier, Miyagi Prefecture is a bountiful land for seafood production. In the past, when there was an excess catch of flounder in Sendai Port, people began grinding the fish meat and creating a savory fish paste product known as "Bamboo Leaf Fish Cake" (Sasa Kamaboko/笹かまぼこ). Today, it has become a popular local snack in Sendai, offering a simple and affordable yet delicious taste that captivates many taste buds.
On the shopping street in front of Sendai Station, there is a renowned food stall called "Abe Kamaboko-ten." In addition to selling souvenir products of Bamboo Leaf Fish Cake, they also offer the experience of grilling the fish cakes on the spot. What's special is that they also sell "Fried Kamaboko," where the fish paste is shaped into round balls, coated with batter, and deep-fried. The crispy outer layer combined with the fragrant and tender fish paste not only offers a tasty and budget-friendly treat but also features charming patterns created by the sauce, resembling spirals or waves. It has become a trendy snack that every Sendai resident enjoys.
Japanese Sake (日本酒)
Japanese sake is primarily made from rice and water, and the quality of the selected rice and water is crucial in determining whether a sake is excellent or not. The Tohoku region happens to be one of Japan's top rice-producing areas, and its sake breweries thrive in the region. Many of these breweries have even won top prizes in Japanese sake competitions. In Sendai, there are numerous places where you can taste these local renowned sakes. Additionally, considering that the prices of Japanese sake are often higher abroad, it's a great opportunity during your visit to Sendai to enjoy the flavors of these famous sakes at a reasonable cost.
For example, there is a traditional Japanese restaurant called "Hatago" where you can find certified sake sommeliers who are experts in the field. In addition to savoring delicious cuisine, the staff at the counter will enthusiastically introduce suitable sake pairings and explain the flavor differences, making it highly recommended for sake enthusiasts.
Sendai Food Guide: Must-Eats by Sightseeing Areas
1. Central Sendai: Around Sendai Station
Sendai Station is a major area in Sendai City and serves as the central hub for tourism in Sendai. It provides convenient access to various attractions such as Sendai Castle, Zao Onsen, Akiu Onsen, Matsushima, as well as destinations in Yamagata Prefecture, Akita Prefecture, and Aomori Prefecture. Due to the bustling crowd at the station, both the station itself and the surrounding commercial district thrive, offering a wide range of culinary delights.
On the 3rd floor of JR Sendai Station, you'll find Gyutan Street and Sushi Street. These streets are lined with authentic eateries such as Aji no Gyutan Kisuke, Gyutan Yaki Rikyu, and Sushi Sanriku Mae.
There's also the "Zunda Road" featuring various snacks like Zunda Milkshake and Zunda Mochi, all centered around mashed edamame. On the 2nd floor, you can purchase snacks like "Fried Kamaboko" and find plenty of souvenirs related to Zunda and fish cake. In summary, you can have a fulfilling gastronomic experience just within Sendai Station itself.
In addition to Sendai Station, the surrounding area is home to many commercial facilities. For example, there is the renowned Sendai Asaichi Morning Market, known as the kitchen for Sendai locals, the bustling izakaya district called Iroha Yokocho, and the main venue for the Sendai Tanabata Festival, Aoba-dori Shopping Street. Whether you're looking for Sendai beef, gyutan set meals, ramen, or Zunda delicacies, you'll find a variety of options to satisfy your culinary and shopping desires.
Recommended restaurants around Sendai Station
・Wagyu beef or gyutan dishes
2. Western Sendai: Akiu Onsen and Sakunami Onsen
The western half of Sendai City preserves its abundant natural landscapes, showcasing the changing seasons and offering many famous hot spring towns.
Among them are Akiu Onsen and Sakunami Onsen. It takes approximately 40 minutes from Sendai Station to reach Akiu Onsen, and about 1 hour to reach Sakunami Onsen. Both locations are ideal for day trips or overnight stays.
Since Akiu Onsen and Sakunami Onsen are mountainous areas, they offer a more serene atmosphere compared to the bustling city center of Sendai. As a result, most visitors choose to dine at their hotels, which often feature meals highlighting Sendai beef and fresh seafood from the Sanriku Coast.
Luxurious delicacies such as grilled beef tongue and matsuba crab can be enjoyed, and there is a wide range of options, including high-end teppanyaki, buffets, and traditional Japanese banquet-style cuisine. It's advisable to pay attention to reservation and registration details when making arrangements.
Apart from hotels, there are also local shops and supermarkets located along the streets. These establishments often use locally sourced ingredients, allowing visitors to savor the essence of the region's agricultural produce.
Some noteworthy places include the historic dining restaurant "Akiu-sha" and the famous housewife's supermarket known for its Akiu Ogi (Akiu Rice Cake), "Saichi." However, it's important to note that these local shops usually close in the evening, so it's recommended to make the most of daytime hours for sightseeing visits.
Recommended ryokans with great food in Akiu Onsen
Recommended ryokans with great food in Sakunami Onsen
3. Eastern Sendai: Around Sendai Port
The eastern side of Sendai City is primarily centered around Sendai Port, which is located near the bay area. From Sendai Station, you can take the JR train to Nakano-Honcho Station or Tagajo Station, which only takes around 19 to 22 minutes.
Here, you'll find large shopping centers such as Mitsui Outlet Park Sendai Port and AEON Tagajo. There's also the Sendai Umino-Mori Aquarium.
Not only are there many dining options within the outlet mall, but also along the way from Tagajo Station to AEON Tagajo, you'll come across popular gyutan (grilled beef tongue) restaurants such as "Rikyu" and "Tanya Zenjiro," as well as ramen shops and tonkatsu (breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet) establishments. It's a great choice for a day trip combining the aquarium visit and shopping center exploration.
Recommended restaurants near Sendai Port
4. Northeastern of Sendai: Shiogama and Matsushima
In the northeastern coastal area of Sendai lies Matsushima, one of Japan's Three Views. With its stunningly beautiful scenery, it is a must-visit destination for many tourists in Sendai.
On the way from Sendai Station to Matsushima, you will pass through a coastal port town called Shiogama. This thriving town is known for its fishing industry, featuring a seafood market and numerous seafood delicacies. It only takes about 30 to 32 minutes by tram from Sendai Station to Hon-Shiogama or Higashi-Shiogama stations. From Hon-Shiogama, a 10-minute ride on the JR line will take you to Matsushima-Kaigan.
Many visitors take the opportunity to indulge in the delicious offerings of Shiogama before or after their trip to Matsushima.
When it comes to Shiogama's cuisine, the local sushi is a must-try! With the highest density of sushi restaurants in all of Japan, Shiogama is renowned as one of the top battlegrounds for sushi. The fresh catch from Shiogama Port, skillfully prepared by sushi masters, is truly praiseworthy. Apart from sushi, you can also visit the Shiogama Fish Market to enjoy customized seafood bowls, tempura shrimp bowls, grilled oysters, and more. Seafood lovers will definitely be delighted!
Matsushima, already well-known for its scenic islands and historic shrines and temples, offers a variety of delightful snacks and treats during your sightseeing adventure. You can find various snacks like grilled scallops, Zunda Mochi, and other Japanese specialties. There are also all-you-can-eat grilled oyster options and oyster burgers, showcasing the local delicacies of Sendai.
Recommended restaurants in Shiogama and Matsushima
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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