We visited this place in November 2019, prior to Covid-19. Do check for pandemic-related updates and precautions before making your visit.
There is something charming about the experience of walking into a nondescript hole-in-the-wall, ordering local delicacies off the menu, and watching your food being prepared in front of you while soaking in its unpretentious atmosphere. Station Front Bar Okura 駅前酒場 御蔵, a Japanese-style izakaya that was highly recommended by the hotel’s staff, served as my pit-stop for a late bite during my stay in Otsu, Shiga.
Located a stone’s throw from Biwako-Hamaotsu Station, and five to ten minutes’ walk from Lake Biwa, Station Front Bar Okura exudes a quiet charm that beckons to you from the moment you walk through its front doors. Bar-side seating and standing tables occupy the cramped first level, although a seat on Okura’s upper level is available for ¥300.
With more than 50 types of local and regional sake on the menu, it’s easy to be spoilt for choice. Various bar bites ranging from typical Japanese-style yakitori, to Western selections like french fries are offered alongside rice and noodle dishes. The sake flight set also appears to be one of the more popular beverage choice among regulars.
Okura’s food, while not on the lower end of the price spectrum, is nevertheless robustly flavoured and served piping hot to your table. The Omi Beef Skewer (¥500+) is highly recommended. Intense umami notes emanating with every bite of the grade A4 -A5 cuts of meat, while the green chilli adds some heat that cuts through the meat’s richness. Would have ordered at least three more skewers if my budget permitted!
The Spicy Grilled Chicken Leg (¥600+) is another simple, yet intensely flavoured dish that pairs well with Okura’s alcoholic selections. Each bite yields plump succulent meat coated with crisp skin, an exceptionally heavenly combination that elevates this unassuming cut of chicken.
Toto-chan’s headmaster once mandated every meal to include “something from the land and something from the sea”. Since I was in the prefecture that is also known for its vast inland lake, there was no way I could not try Okura’s seafood offerings.
Amongst its local delicacies is the Funazushi (¥980+ – ¥1,680+). An uncommon type of sushi made with fermented nigorobuna, a type of Japanese goldfish native to Lake Biwa that is something of an acquired taste, but still worth a try for the curious. Its distinct odour, comparable to blue cheese, is an experience I certainly won’t forget.
For… tamer palates, the barbecue-style Skewered Fish of Lake Biwa (¥480) and Grilled Salmon Belly with Ponzu Sauce (¥580+) are palatable dishes that satiate with fresh meat balanced with Okura’s clever treatment and seasoning. Sashimi is also available, though it’s recommended to stick to the grilled selections which fare much better.
Overall, Station Front Bar Okura is a good spot to have a laid back izayaka experience with minimal disturbance. Ordering is done through an iPad, so you can take your time browsing through the mouthwatering images before making your selection.
Nearest Train Station: Biwako-Hamaotsu Station
Monday to Saturday: 5.30pm – 11pm
Closed on Sunday and Public Holidays
Contact:+81 77 522 0022