There was an ancient saying that goes...when in Nagasaki, eat chawanmushi. Okay, no. That ain't right. But Nagasaki does have one of the best and oldest restaurant in Japan that specialises in chawanmushi. Yossou is located in downtown Nagasaki in Kankodori Shopping Arcade and just off the main street.
The building is easy to spot from the outside with big red lanterns and has a certain historical character to it which makes sense as the restaurant is over 150 years old, having opened since 1866. The interior was just as impressive as its exterior with its two cosy floors - the first for normal sitting arrangements and the second level for floor seating in various rooms.
After spending half the day at the Nagasaki Atomic Peace Museum, my family was famished. So we parked the rented car across our hotel and walked over to the restaurant. We were cheerfully greeted by a friendly staff who instructed us to remove our shoes for him to store away. He then led us to the second floor. They have an English menu with images so don't fret if you can't read Japanese.
I ordered the house specialty set for JPY 1,350 which consisted of chawanmushi and mushizushi, steamed sushi. The chawanmushi was served in a bigger-than-usual tea cup, terrific for sharing if you're a small eater or just want to save stomach space to eat more. Yossou's signature chawanmushi was quite smooth, silky and filled with nine rich ingredients - white fish, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, kikurage mushrooms, bamboo shoots, ginkgo, kamaboko, wheat powder and surprisingly grilled conger eel.
Then there was also the mushizushi - some sort of deconstructed steamed sushi. The yellow part was shredded egg, the brown some sort of vegetable and the pink was a sweet pink floss that melted in our mouths - all on a bed of steamed rice. So good and comforting.
We also ordered the battera, mackerel pressed sushi. Made of layers of vinegar pickled mackerel and sushi rice, this was placed in a special Oshibako box and compressed by weight to create a tightly packed sushi rice. A super-thin, almost translucent sheet of kombu was then placed on top of the mackerel before it’s cut and served. The addition of kombu is usually unique to the regional Osaka cuisine so to find it here was a treat. While interesting, my mum said the one she had in Kyoto was nicer. Perhaps for those who have not tried it, this was something to try while at Yossou. My dad tried their braised pork belly as well and found it melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
I read online that a long queue can form outside the restaurant on weekends at peak hours but when I was there, just slightly after lunch time, there was no queue. However when we went in, it was easy to see that the restaurant was packed with tourists and locals alike.
Yossou is a definitely must try when in Nagasaki even if it's just to try Japan's oldest chawanmushi recipe.
How to Get There:
Take the tram to Kankodori station. Enter the Kankodori Shopping Arcade. Walk straight then make a right after the second major cross street. Yossou will be on the right, easily spotted from its historical exterior, row of lanterns and food display.
Yossou, Nagasaki, Japan
8-9 Hamamachi, Nagasaki 850-0853, Nagasaki Prefecture
Tel: +81 95-821-0001