Eating out / Ibaraki restaurant promotes produce from the prefecture

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The chief producer of Italian restaurant Cucina Nord Ibaraki, Yoshinaga Jinbo, serves a dish at the restaurant in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Kentaro Takahashi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer HITACHI, Ibaraki — An Italian restaurant that uses seasonal locally produced ingredients opened in May in the Suehirocho district of Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Sponsored by the company Bishoku no Machi Hitachi (The gourmet city of Hitachi), which was founded by volunteers in the city, the Cucina Nord Ibaraki restaurant aims to revitalize the city by promoting the appeal of the region’s food.

Bishoku no Machi Hitachi President Masayoshi Watanabe, 60, is also a hotel operator. In 2014 and 2015, a hotel business organization to which he belongs opened a restaurant for a limited time in Hitachi using only ingredients produced in the northern part of the prefecture to help dispel reputational damage caused by the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. Fukushima Prefecture is Ibaraki’s northern neighbor.

Since the temporary restaurant proved popular, Watanabe and others planned to further develop the concept to help revitalize the area.

The restaurant’s chief producer, Yoshinaga Jinbo, 39, is the head chef at Italian restaurant Hatake Aoyama in the Minami Aoyama district of Tokyo. Hailing from Hitachi, Jinbo serves as an Ibaraki ambassador. After being involved in the limited-time-only restaurant, he took command of the kitchen at the new restaurant to attract customers with modern dishes.

The restaurant uses ingredients produced in Ibaraki, mainly from the nature-rich northern part of the prefecture, including vegetables, seafood and Hitachi beef. Hoping to emulate the success of Kamakura branded vegetables from Kanagawa Prefecture, the restaurant describes its outdoor-grown vegetables as “Hitachi vegetables” in an attempt to develop them into a local brand and help support vegetable growers in Ibaraki Prefecture.

From the outside, the restaurant looks like a secret location, as it is surrounded by greenery. Inside, the 50-seat restaurant includes an eight-seat private dining room, where dishes are served on a chef’s table, which is rare in the prefecture, where customers can see into the kitchen and watch food being cooked. They can also enjoy explanations by a chef, who comes to the table.

“Ibaraki has many excellent ingredients,” Watanabe said. “We would like to contribute to bringing vibrancy to the area and offer the restaurant as a space where weddings can be held.”

The restaurant’s name, Cucina Nord Ibaraki, means “Northern Ibaraki kitchen,” reflecting Jinbo’s wish to make Hitachi the city of gourmet food like San Sebastian in Spain.

Cucina Nord Ibaraki

Open: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (last order at 2 p.m.) for lunch: 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. (last order at 9 p.m.) for dinner

Closed: Monday, third Tuesday in month

Address: 2-1-32, Suehirocho, Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture

Tel: (0294) 32-0369

Credit card accepted.

No English menu available.

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