ZUSHI, Japan — I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but that crowd of people standing by the railroad tracks outside the Ikego Housing Area gate isn’t really waiting for a train.

That crowd, which often spills out into the street, is waiting to get into Fukuman, a restaurant touted as the best-kept secret in Ikego.

A master chief riding the bus home from Yokosuka told me it was the best restaurant in Japan. I was wary — just a few days earlier, I had unwittingly consumed cold jellyfish tentacles at another restaurant, and I was feeling a little gun-shy about trying new places.

Fukuman serves both Chinese dishes and ramen. The atmosphere is like being at a friend’s kitchen; the place seats about 25 people, it’s comfortable, utilitarian and you can watch the food being cooked.

It’s the kind of place where my 6-year-old daughter immediately began playing with everything on the table, and no one seemed to mind.

The service is friendly and English-speaking, and English menus are offered without prompting.

With two small Cokes and one large beer on our table, I watched both Japanese and American patrons enjoying a wide range of food that looked and smelled delicious.

I also watched, through a large glass window into the kitchen, a silver-haired gentleman orchestrate a flurry of movements that reminded me of a scene out of “The Matrix.”

Our food arrived before I finished my beer, so I don’t blame a buzz for what I’m about to say: As I took my first bite of crispy-fried shrimp, I could have sworn that outside, the clouds parted and a ray of sunlight came shining through. The food was that good.

See previous After Hours reviews here.


Prices: Food runs 500 to 2,900 yen, with many combination platters falling in the 1,100- to 1,400-yen range.

Specialties: American patrons flock in droves for the shrimp fried rice, sweet-and-sour pork, and chicken with Chinese sauce. Japanese patrons take full advantage of the combination platters, as well as the Chinese pickles and ramen topped with bean sprouts.

English menu: Yes

Dress: Casual

Clientele: Family-oriented. The crowd is pretty split between local residents (a good sign in any country) and Americans from Ikego housing.

Location: From Ikego, exit the gate, and Fukuman is about 25 feet on the right. There is limited parking across the street.

Phone number: 046-873-9255.

Web site: None

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