Good Eats: Santori Chaya (Matsushima)

I just flew home yesterday from a week in the Tohoku region where, oh holy heck, was it ever hot. I’m not sure how I stumbled into the alternate universe where northern Japan consistently hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit every day but I have never been happier to come home to my air conditioner. I can – and do – live quite happily without a dishwasher but I could never survive without my AC.

We had some excellent food in both Yamagata and Miyagi Prefectures, but there’s no better place for good seafood than right next to the sea and Santori Chaya in Matsushima didn’t disappoint. (Matsushima is a short train ride east of Sendai.) Located about ten meters from the bay, the menu here is understandably seafood focused. Think shrimp, tuna, squid and salmon roe, served chirashi (scattered) style atop a bed of rice with fresh shiso leaves or anago (sea eel) filets brushed with a lightly sweet sauce.

My chirashi sushi bowl
My chirashi sushi bowl

The nice thing about Santori Chaya, however, is that they also focus on other local specialties. If you’ve been angling to try Miyagi’s gyutan (cow tongue), this is a good place to give it a whirl. The tongues are grilled to chewy perfection but have the added punch of a dollop of local miso, rather than the typical soy sauce. Even if you never imagined yourself eating a part of the cow other than its rump, don’t discount gyutan.

A set meal with gyutan
A set meal with gyutan

Santori Chaya has two dining options – a bar downstairs where the locals seem to congregate and a room upstairs with a few low tables. Despite the izakaya (pub) feel, kids are welcome here and upstairs there are both kids’ seats and cartoon character cutlery for younger diners. Menus here are mostly in Japanese but there are pictures of the main sets and you can always ask for typical bar snacks like edamame.

Santori Chaya has no English website (or any website at all that I can find) but you’ll find it referenced in Lonely Planet and Rough Guides and it is just past the main drag (and boat terminal) of Matsushima.



2 thoughts on “Good Eats: Santori Chaya (Matsushima)

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  1. Fair to say posts about places to eat aren’t usually of interest. However today I was making early plans to visit Matsushima during an event in Sendai next March and this post appears!

    Cow’s tongue. Sounds …… Yumm.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Tony, and I am glad I posted this at a convenient time for you! Cow’s tongue is actually quite good, if you don’t stop to dwell on exactly what it is you are chewing. 🙂 Also look for zunda (smashed edamame mixed with sugar and salt) on things like mochi sticks and in buns. As for Matsushima itself, I found the cruise of the islands rather underwhelming but the town itself was fun for an hour’s wander. Have a great trip!

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