While sumo may be Japan's traditional sport, more people these days flock to see baseball or soccer games. Deeper than a pure competition, sumo retains a sense of tradition, sacrifice, ceremony, and a tasty stew called chanko nabe. You don't need to be a fan of sumo to enjoy this hot pot of vegetables, meat, and fish which wrestlers feast on daily to pack on the pounds. Many retired sumo wrestlers decide to open their own chanko nabe shops and share some of their own style of home cooking with the public. Miyanobori Chanko Nabe (ちゃんこ鍋・宮登) restaurant in Sendai is one of them.
Tucked inside the middle of a quiet side street, the bright glow of hanging lanterns and a noren curtain draped over the entrance, fluttering in the gentle breeze, invite curious and hungry pedestrians to take a closer look. The window at the main entrance boasts models of the mouthwatering food the restaurant sells. First are the nabe dishes, which come in miso, soy sauce, or salt base. The hot pots are filled with your choice of chicken or fish. Vegetarians can ask for no meat and should be accommodated. Even still, everyone is sure to enjoy the generous portion of fresh veggies filling every pot to the brim. Seafood used is caught in the Sanriku region, stretching from Sendai northwards towards some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. If you don't want nabe, you should probably go somewhere else. But if you are still hungry (somehow!), sampling side dishes like crab salad, fugu tempura, or udon will have you stuft and happy.
The atmosphere is great for lounging around with friends or coming in for a quick lunch. It could be a fun date or relaxing business meeting as well. Wooden walls, counters, and chairs create a kind of timeless image. At the same time the place is very clean and has an open style kitchen. The kitchen staff will take orders driectly by peeking their head out with a friendly smile if the serving staff are busy. Opposite the counter seating is tatami mat seating. Take off your shoes, order a big pot of nabe to cook right at your table, and settle in for a relaxing night, preferrably with some of the local sake from the menu. Sumo pictures and memorabilla are everywhere, but the color combination and theme make it feel like nothing is out of place.
Morinobori even has a bit of history and fun facts. It's name is a combination and different reading of the Chinese characters Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県）and Tome (登米), a city north of Sendai. It was the hometown of a wrestler that opened this restaurant in 1957. The wrestler trained at the Kasugano stable in Tokyo. That stable was started by Tochigiyama Moriya, the 27th yokozuna and lightest sumo in history at 104 kg. It was obvious to me by the end of the delcious meal that wrestling isn't the only thing that happens at sumo stables, but cooking lessons and recipe exchanges, too! Overall, Miyanobori is an affordable lunch time treat or cultural dinner escape with some fun and tasty food.
Located in Sun Mall at the southern edge of the shopping arcades. If walking down from the main shopping arcades, take a left at the final T-section at the main Fujisaki Department Store. Cross the street to Sun Mall (you will see a McDonald's at the entrance of this arcade). It will be on a side street connected to the arcade on your right.
Open: 11:30-14:00, 16:00-22:00 Closed: Sundays.