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EKIZO Kobe San'nomiya: A new Kobe dining experience

EKIZO Kobe San'nomiya: A new Kobe dining experience

Kobe (神戸) is not Osaka (大阪), or so people in Kobe often assert. Kobe natives that I have met often scoff at the misconception of similarity between the neighbouring cities. As an outsider looking in, I cannot honestly distinguish the finer, nuanced regional differences beyond the extremely obvious, but one thing that I can say is fundamentally true is that the Kobe dining experience is closely linked with my personal growth as a lover of food. Once an unadventurous eater, I was happy eating a rotating selection of fried foods from whatever venue offered them to me in the greatest volume for the lowest price. Then in 2012 I met my wife. A Kobe native, she introduced me to a huge range of restaurants and a love of food I did not realise I had. The first restaurant in Kobe my wife took me to was Marutama Shokudo (丸玉食堂).

 

(Left) Marutama Shokudo (丸玉食堂), gems hidden in plain sight, (right) as compared to an attractive signage, perfectly placed near Hankyu Sannomiya West ticket gate. (Image credit: Eugene Lee)

 

At the time, I was told that it was a fantastically greasy hole-in-the wall Chinese restaurant that her mother used to visit in her childhood. It was a somewhat daunting place with a display case of menu items, their colour quietly fading, and walls lined with menu options and no visible paper menus in sight. Intimidating though it was, after some incredible spring rolls and an epic bowl of noodles, I was and still am deeply affectionate to old-timey places lost in time. Relics of the past that are still relevant today.

 

Hankyu Sannomiya Station. (Image credit: photoAC)


Of course, things must evolve, and the Kobe restaurant scene is no different. The newly renovated EKIZO Kobe San'nomiya (エキゾ神戸三宮) opened its doors in April of 2021. For those who have not visited recently, the Ekizo area is now an open-air promenade. The small road between Sannomiya Station (三宮駅  Sannomiya eki) and the slew of businesses just across the street was attractively paved with cobblestones. The walkway lined with restaurants now focuses on al fresco dining with most of the shops offering outdoor seating. The Ekizo restaurants are a tribute to restaurateur ingenuity. An eclectic range of open-air kitchen restaurants with an opening date set during a worldwide pandemic, these restaurants offer take-out friendly, Instagram-able dishes at an affordable price. Though I would have eaten at all of the restaurants, given my limited gustatory real estate and to save my quickly expanding midsection, I chose to eat at two shops.

 

Colourful, delicious, and photo ready. (Image credit: Eugene Lee)


The first shop I chose to eat at was the Kobe New World deli. One of the more interesting concepts at Ekizo, the store took the deli-style approach to food, having a selection of salads and ‘rice sandwiches’ individually wrapped and ready for the road. I went with the Healthy Kabocha Salad (かぼちゃの健康サラダ) (¥308) and the beef fillet rice sandwich (ビフカツサンド) (¥495). The Healthy Kabocha Salad was excellent, very pumpkin-forward and the lotus root chip on top added a nice textural element to the dish. The rice sandwiches are sushi rolls but with traditional sandwich fillings. The beef fillet rice sandwich filled with beef fillet katsu, mustard, shredded cabbage, and red cabbage slaw was a visually stunning and satisfying lunch.

 

Adorable multi-tiered bento bucket. (Image credit: Eugene Lee)

 

The second shop I chose to eat at was Kobe Yakitori Stand Nonotory (野乃鳥). The shop takes the concept of regionality to truly impressive lengths. The yakitori sauce uses soy sauce aged in cedar wooden vats made in the mountains of Hyogo (兵庫) and the shop uses Hyogo Ajidori (兵庫味どり), chickens bred in Hyogo since 1991. Also interesting is the international beer selection on offer including Belgian beers like Duvel and Chimay. From their take-out menu I chose the incredibly Instagram-able yakitori bento (¥600). Served in an adorable, multi-tiered paper bucket, the little bento was delicious. The sauce was incredibly light and very mildly sweetened. The chicken was, of course, perfectly cooked. A smoky char-grilled flavour, tender on the inside and so moist it left a small pool of juice that I very quickly sopped up with rice and consumed embarrassingly quickly. The surprising addition of red bell pepper added a vegetal freshness to the meal. 

 

When I first heard about the opening of EKIZO Kobe San'nomiya, a small wave of anxiety washed over me. To me, the Kobe dining experience was one of old archetypal staples. Chinese restaurants in operation since the 60s, old school izakayas where staff shout orders into the kitchen from the dining floor and large slabs of Kobe beef served on sizzling platters. Much to my delight, many of these relics have been untouched, living in perfect harmony with the new. Perhaps all along the legacy of Kobe dining is the strength of the dining scene to allow all these shops to operate in tandem. The hip, new, environmentally-conscious, Instagram-friendly shops of today with the wonderfully resilient, and unwaveringly traditional restaurants of our parents’ generation. 

 

EKIZO Kobe San'nomiya (エキゾ神戸三宮)
Address: 4-2-1 Kobe San'nomiya Hankyu Building, Kanocho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0001
Nearest station: Sannomiya Station (三宮駅)
Opening hours: Opening hours vary based on individual shops. Closes at 8pm
*Please check their website for updated opening hours

 

Header image credit: Eugene Lee

 

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