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Friday, May 1, 2009


Two more treats along the waterfront

Good things so often come in threes. Between the waterfront and Bashamichi Station are a couple of other Yokohama eateries that are well worth discovering.

News photo
Homegrown: At the aptly named 8080, 80 percent of the ingredients used are grown, raised or caught within 80 km of its front door. ROBBIE SWINNERTON PHOTO

80*80 (pronounced Hachimaru-Hachimaru) is a wonderfully funky, friendly diner that flies the flag for healthy living. The name sums up the ethos: 80 percent of all the ingredients it serves in its meals are grown, raised or caught within a radius of 80 km from the front door.

Visitors uncertain as to exactly what that entails can check the chalkboard map on the wall behind the counter. Kanagawa and most of Chiba are included, plus Sagami Bay as far as Oshima. That gives ample scope for the wholesome, vegetable-rich cuisine served up by the earnest, young staff.

The menu is simple and to the point, focusing on soups, stews and curries accompanied by unpolished rice or a blend with black rice. The food is not vegetarian, but it is additive-free. And to underline its sustainable credentials, 80*80 is housed inside a battered old two-story shop that has been lovingly refurbished and decorated with thrifty (sometimes even thrift-shop) furnishings and window boxes of herbs.

Whether it's the concept, the food, the setting or the affordable prices, this place has captured people's imaginations. There's always a good crowd and a great buzz inside, especially at lunchtime.

4-48 Kitanaka-dori, Naka-ku, Yokohama; (045) 663-7056; www.magocoro.com/8080; open: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. (Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m); Japanese menu; credit cards not accepted.

El Secreto, just two doors down the same side street, could hardly be more different. It's stylish and sleek, decked out with plenty of glass, polished steel and contemporary furniture. And, as the Spanish name suggests, much of the food and drink it serves comes from halfway around the world.

El Secreto was set up by a local importer of jamon serrano ham (three grades are on offer, freshly carved off the haunch) and other charcuterie, so there's plenty of emphasis on meat. Better yet, the chef is a native of Barcelona, and he certainly knows his Iberian onions. Of note were the escalivada (Catalan grilled vegetables) with tuna, mixed seafood paella and a delectable Iberico pork steak.

If there's currently a better Spanish restaurant in Yokohama, we've not heard of it. The secret is out.

4-45 Kitanaka-dori, Naka-ku, Yokohama; (045) 222-0789; r.gnavi.co.jp/p727200/; open 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6-11 p.m.; English menu; English spoken; major credit cards accepted.

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