Driving for 15 min from Akita airport through winding roads surrounded by forests all around, a two-story structure immediately comes into view on the left. The restaurant is known for its chewy molokheya (Egyptian spinach) noodles, substitutable with shiitake mushroom noodles, purple rice noodles, and udon noodles as well. The noodles are made from scratch in the first story part of the building and became popular by word of mouth of the locals.
Climbing up the stairs, there’s a sign proudly displaying Yuuna-ya, the restaurant name, and an entrance way where customers take off their shoes. As soon as you duck through the thin curtains, you are enveloped in a room made of wood and filled with warm sunlight. There are tables as well as sitting seats on tatami (woven buckwheat mats) that accompany around 20 people. The restaurant is run by Ikuko Asano, who busily bustled about through the restaurant along with a few other women as she served and had friendly chats with each customer.
After a few minutes of enjoying the warm, at-home atmosphere of the restaurant, the set meal is brought to the table. The bright green molokheya noodles catch your attention. Topped with thinly-sliced dried seaweed, the noodles glisten and sit promptly on a circular bamboo platform. The texture of the noodles is smooth and moist. Entangled in the dipping broth, the noodles leave traces of the deep molokheya flavor lingering in your mouth even after you have swallowed them. Deep-fried molokheya, white shoots of the udo (edible plants related to ginseng), and generously cut slices of pumpkin stand out as they sit on a simple black dish. They are accompanied by salt mixed with fine molokheya powder, giving it a tinge the color of spring. The molokheya is light and crunchy as you take a bite, a completely different texture compared to its original sticky state. The crisp udo plant has a slightly bitter taste which resembles that of a celery, but without so much of its strong sharpness. A bite of the sliced pumpkin emits a mild, sweet flavor that matches the savory dipping broth of the molokheya noodles perfectly. Don’t forget to enjoy these vegetables during the spring and summer time, as they change to different yet similarly delicious mountainous plants during the autumn season. A bowl of rice the color of light brown sugar quietly sits among the other dishes on the tray. At first, one may think of this to be a traditional takikomi gohan, or soy-sauce broth-flavored rice mixed with meat, fish, and vegetables. A small bite tells you otherwise. The subtle and mildly sweet flavor of kombu (kelp) spreads slowly in your mouth, and the bright green snap peas accompanying the moist rice complements the sweetness by adding a crisp, sugary texture to it. You can’t miss out on the molokheya ohitashi (boiled vegetables) that adds a deep green color and flavor to the menu. Seasoned lightly with soy sauce, this little dish adds a subtle accent to the rest of the food. It’s unique stickiness isn’t overwhelming but just enough to slide right into your mouth, enabling you to enjoy both the texture and deep flavor at the same time. Tsukemono, or Japanese style pickles, are rather common as side dishes in a set menu. Crunchy and sour, it compliments any type of dish regardless of season. This particular dish had a slightly spicy flavor to it, which contrasted well with the sweet flavor of kelp-flavored rice.
At a glance, the jelly is like a piece of art. It sparkles so beautifully in the afternoon sunlight that you almost hesitate to dip your spoon into its amber-colored surface. The flavor may not be something you’d expect from the previous, subtly-flavored dishes. An intense wave of dark brown sugar and nostalgic molasses washes inside of your mouth and melts away as you try to lightly chew the jelly. This dessert will surely invite you to reminisce the childhood days of indulging in such nostalgic sweets.
“Yuuna-ya” is the first farmers’ restaurant to be established in Akita. A farmer’s’ restaurant is managed and ran by the owners of a farm, and provides cuisine using fresh, farm-grown produce and edible wild plants. Molokheya noodles are hands-down, Yuuna-ya’s specialty. Molokheya, or Egyptian spinach, is a plant grown in warm, tropical climates and is known for its stickiness when ground. Surprisingly, Mrs. Ikuko Asano (The owner of Yuuna-ya) used to produce tobacco leaves instead of molokheya. Although her tobacco farm was successful, Mrs. Asano felt that she wanted to produce leaves that weren’t so harmful to consumers. That’s when she came across the molokheya plant. She experimented over and over again, accumulating trial and error to find ways to grow the tropical plant in the cold, northern region of Akita. Yuuna-ya is now locally famous and to top it off, it is a place where eager and hungry customers even outside of Akita come to savor the delicious dishes. We recommend visiting the restaurant after 12:30 p.m., because it can be very crowded near the 11:00 a.m. opening hours.
- Azamaebiraki45, Yuwa Mukaino, Akita-shi, Akita, 010-1344, Japan
- Business hours
- 11 AM to 3PM (Last order at 2:30PM)
- Regular holiday
- Every Thursday and Winter
- Number of car spaces
- The total number of seats
- Available credit cards
- Free Wi-Fi Yes/No