As soon as you pull into the parking lot of Yuzuan Restaurant, you know it’s special. The lot is dotted with intriguing objects from the owner’s personal collection, from the large shark statue to the small version of the famous Cat Bus from the Ghibli classic My Neighbor Totoro.
The entire experience of eating at Yuzuan has a distinct Kochi-style whimsicality to it. Customers may sit at a table overlooked by a large statue of Ryoma Sakamoto (a local hero) or beneath a giant white dragon. Finding the menu can be a challenge at first, as it is cunningly disguised as a newspaper, and the chopstick covers are beloved local collectibles, each featuring little stories and drawings by the owner.
Despite the quirky decor, Yuzuan is dead serious about the quality of its dishes. At lunch, it does a roaring trade in its signature omuraisu (a Japanese-style omelet filled with rice and covered with demi-glace sauce) and katsuo no tataki (seared tuna). You will often see other diners battling with the “biggest fried shrimp in Japan.” While it is hard to substantiate that claim, the massive orders of ebi fry are certainly impressive.
Yuzuan also has the honor of being the creator of the katsuo sundae, an ice cream parfait featuring seared slices of tuna, complete with a dash of salt and slivers of raw garlic. In the right season, hungry fruit lovers can order the “watermelon set,” which, for a cool $200, includes soup, rice, seven watermelons, and a knife to slice up the sweet globes.
After sampling the food, visitors can take a quick look around the parking lot to see which gems from the owner’s vast car collection are on display that day. Among them are a ridiculously long, white 1968 Cadillac DeVille convertible, a delightfully retro three-wheeled delivery truck from the same year (still used to deliver water), and a flame-lined Oldsmobile. However, it is the three iterations of the “Cat Bus” of Ghibli fame that catch most visitors’ eyes, particularly the most recent pink and purple version parked near the entrance.
Know Before You Go
The restaurant is about 20 minutes by car from central Kochi city.