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Restaurant Review: Gran Micaela y Dago

My constant search for international cuisine has taken me all over Hyogo – well, all over the Sannomiya and Motomomachi areas of Kobe, anyway. There is more than enough to satisfy in this area alone; a seemingly endless list of new holes in the wall to explore.  Perhaps one of my most interesting finds was one that claims to be the first and only Chilean restaurant in all of Japan: Gran Micaela y Dago, on Kitano hill.

As we walked in, we were greeted by an elderly couple at a table near the door, a Western man and a Japanese woman. The proprietor seated us at a high table (in English, no less – fear not, first-years!) and I took in the surroundings. Pictures on the walls of a man in a navy uniform… who looked strangely familiar. My gaze wandered back to the old man by the door, back to the picture, back to the man. With my rudimentary grasp of Spanish, I surmised that the restaurant was named after two people, Micaela and Dago… clearly a navy man who had married a Japanese woman, and later returned to Japan to settle down and open a restaurant. The proprietor appeared half-Japanese and was the right age to be the son of just such an elderly couple as that by the door… I was there in the presence of Micaela (AKA Michiko) and Dagoberto themselves, who had since left the daily workings of the business to their son! Proud of my Holmes-caliber detective work, I turned back to the menu – which explained all of this and more in detail, right there on the front cover. (I reserve my right to be proud anyway.)

The restaurant, which opened in 1974 and relocated to Kitano in 1995 after the great Hanshin earthquake, was small, with warm décor and comfortable mood lighting. The staff – the eponymous Micaela y Dago and their son – were friendly and talkative. A highlight of the night came in the middle of dinner, when Dago picked up a guitar and treated us to folk tunes, some new and some more familiar.

Oh, and the food was excellent.

Chilean food, it turns out, is most similar to Spanish and other Mediterranean cuisines. Not knowing what to expect, and unable to decide, my companions and I picked an assortment to try and cover all the bases. We started with the Chilean salad (¥800), a simple plate of fresh tomatoes topped with a bit of onion and coriander and some light dressing. Frankly, I’m usually no greatfan of tomatoes, but these were so fresh and sweet that I saw the fruit in a whole new light. We followed up with a scallop and shrimp ceviche (¥900), chopped fresh vegetables and seafood, served cold; it was delicious with or without the hot sauce it came with. (The proprietor pointed out that, as a rule, Chilean food isn’t particularly spicy – which came as something of a relief to me.) We also had empanadas (¥500) with beef, eggs, olives and raisins, and to finish our course we ordered the pastel de choclo (¥1600), which the menu described as a “sweet corn gratin.” At the bottom of the hot earthenware bowl was a layer of ground meat with eggs and vegetables, topped with a crust of (very) sweet corn. It was heavenly, and we were lucky to get it – as the kitchen can only make five dishes of it per day.

Driven to try as much as I possibly could while still being able to walk out of the restaurant on my own, I also had “Chile’s No.1 Cocktail”, a pisco sour (¥700). Pisco is a grape brandy made in Chile and Peru; the cocktail is made by shaking the brandy with lemon, syrup, and an egg white, and topping with a bit of cinnamon for aroma. A friend tried the sangria (¥700); neither drink disappointed. I was left wanting to try more, especially their selection of Chilean wines.

If you find yourself in Kitano at dinnertime, I strongly recommend stopping by. The food is delicious, the staff are warm and welcoming, and the atmosphere is cozy and comfortable. The menu is a little pricier than your conbini bentos and Sukiyas, but bring a few friends to split costs (and more importantly, dishes!) and you can easily walk out with a reasonable bill. And as always with a good restaurant – it’s worth it!

Gran Micaela y Dago

Kobe-shi Chuou-ku Naka-yamate-doori 2-13-8

Open daily 17:30-24:00


Website with menu and access (Japanese): http://homepage2.nifty.com/gran_micaela_y_dago/index.htm

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