Fukuoka may be the hometown of world-famous Ichiran Ramen, but ramen is not the only thing the Hakata region is known for. It is also the place to try mizutaki, or chicken broth hotpot. Hotpot is nothing new to me but even I have to admit that this particular experience we had at Hakata Hanamidori was unique.
We had just arrived at Fukuoka City this day and were on a hunt for a place to have dinner before heading over to the 24-hour Don Quijote in the Tenjin area to shop. A block away from DonKi, we spotted this entryway to Hanamidori. My brother had bookmarked it as an option to try the Fukuoka specialty hotpot, and so we decided to just eat here.
They have a menu outside with a photo of the hotpot set they offer, and since we couldn’t read Japanese, we didn’t realize until we went inside that the prices were on a per person basis and not for sharing. The prices are a little steep for hotpot, but we decided to go for the 2,900 yen per person set without knowing what to expect. I just assumed that at that price we’d probably walk out with filled stomachs, won’t we?
This is why I want to learn Japanese so I can actually understand rather than guess lol.
I must have been so hungry when we arrived because I completely forgot to take a photo of the restaurant’s interior. Since there were 6 of us, we were seated in a private room, right beside another private room where some Japanese businessmen were having a dinner meeting. The smell of their cigarettes permeated the entire area, seeping into our room and turning my mood a little sour. I don’t really care about people smoking since that’s their choice, but I really hate when it’s done indoors and other people have no choice but to breathe in the cigarette smoke too. Many Japanese restaurants allow smoking inside unfortunately.
Anyway, let’s talk about the hotpot set we ordered!
Every meal starts with appetizers, and for today we had mentaiko and seasoned seaweed. Mentaiko or pollock roe is one of the most famous delicacies in Fukuoka, and they serve a good amount of it for the appetizer here. It’s a saltier and I guess “fishier”-tasting roe than what they normally use for maki rolls, so I’m not sure if it will suit everyone’s taste. I like it though!
While we were enjoying the appetizers, the server got started with the hot pot stock and chicken. The traditional mizutaki that Hanamidori promotes in their restaurant uses broth that draws all its flavor from the chicken. As they bring the broth and the portions of chicken meat to a boil, they don’t add any additional seasonings in.
It was almost ritualistic, the way Hanamidori serve the chicken hotpot to you part by part, step by step. The first thing they do is give you a little taste of the broth in a little ceramic cup, and for this they will add a teeny bit of salt and some green onions before scooping in some soup.
The umami taste of the broth is enhanced by the salt and onions, however I find that the broth is solidly flavorful on its own. Hanamidori actually also runs a poultry farming company where they use chicken feed that contains seaweed and herb extracts. They use their own chickens in all their restaurants, directly delivered fresh from their Kyushu farming facility. Some people may find the taste of the broth a bit bland, but for me, I can appreciate this lighter umami taste.
The next step is to eat the tender and plump chicken with some yuzu soy sauce that’s been lightened by the broth. We loved the yuzu soy sauce and tried to find it in the supermarket haha! The chicken was also rather delicious although it was small as expected from a naturally-raised chicken.
Next, the server expertly rolled the chicken meatballs using his wooden spoon and dropped them into the broth one by one. They get boiled into these yummy juicy balls along with the fresh chicken innards. They literally waste no part of the chicken for this mizutaki!
Now the vegetables go in to complete the hotpot!
The vegetables were fresh and sweet, and even with no rice or noodles it was an enjoyable experience eating them with the chicken. Once we polished all the contents of the hotpot, I thought at first that was the end of the meal. We were about to finish off all the soup when on cue the server entered with some eggs and rice. He then proceeded to make us some porridge. You can see how he did it in the video at the bottom of this post.
The porridge was served with some pickled veggies for added flavor, and though simple, I found it very enjoyable. It was the very thing that felt necessary as an ending to the meal to completely fill you up.
Overall, I thought the mizutaki experience at Hanamidori was good, but I wasn’t completely blown away by the meal we had here. Considering the quality of the ingredients and the almost art-like approach of the servers in assisting us through the meal, I suppose one can argue the higher price is justified. If you have the budget for it, Hanamidori is worth a try, especially since it is located in such an accessible place. My biggest gripe is really how much second-hand cigarette smoke I had to inhale while eating here.
If you guys know of a good mizutaki place in Fukuoka that’s a little more affordable, do let me know so I can try it on my next visit!
Hakata Hanamidori Tenjin
B1F Tenjin MENT Bldg., 1-20-2 Imaizumi, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Hours: 17:00 to 24:00 (Closed during New year holidays)