Often-overlooked Nagoya is one of Japan’s best towns to eat in, and this affordable hotel lets you dig in to multiple local specialties first thing in the morning.

Nagoya has gotten sort of a bad rap in recent years in terms of how attractive it is to visitors. Not that there’s anything wrong with Nagoya, which is the capital city of Aichi Prefecture and has a cool castle and good access to excursions to the nearby Hida and Kiso regions. It just doesn’t have the sheer number of modern attractions and nightlife that Tokyo and Osaka boast, or as many historical sights as Kyoto and Nara.

But you know what Nagoya can boast about? Amazing food. A lot of Japanese cities have just one or two dishes they’re famous for, but Nagoya has several. This actually makes for a bit of a problem, since it can be hard to fit space in your schedule, or stomach, to try them all during your stay. So imagine our joy when we found a hotel in Nagoya that’s affordable, has a great location, and offers an amazing breakfast buffet where you can start your day with a whole bunch of the dishes Nagoya is known for!

If the combination of “affordable hotel” and “great breakfast” had you thinking of the Dormy Inn chain, your hunch is correct. Dormy Inn is classified as what Japan calls a “business hotel,” a hotel with modest amenities to keep prices down for short-term business travelers. Among business hotels, though, Dormy Inn is beloved for its little touches of modest luxury, like surprisingly nice Japanese baths and great breakfasts. At the Dormy Inn Premium Sakae, though, located just five minutes from Sakae Station in downtown Nagoya’s Sakae entertainment district, the breakfast buffet is on a higher level still.

Breakfast is served in the hotel’s restaurant, called Hatago. As soon as we entered, we spotted our first Nagoya delicacy: kishimen.

Kishimen is a local Nagoya variant of udon, but instead of the round noodles used for udon, Kishimen’s are broad and flat. They’re served in a soy broth, and the buffet staff add katsuobushi (bonito flakes), negi (green onion), and kamaboko (fish sausage) to the bowl for you, and you can spruce it up yourself further with toppings like fried tofu and seaweed.

Nagoya is also famous for a few different types of fried food.

Waiting for us in the buffet lineup were a tray of pork cutlets for miso katsu, the Nagoya version of tonkatsu that uses a special thick, rich miso sauce. Next to the cutlets were fried shrimp, another Nagoya specialty, which we placed on our plate and then covered with sauce.

For those with adventurous palates, there was also a pot of doteni (どて煮), a stew of pork offals simmered in miso broth…

…and a station preparing hitsumabushi, Nagoya’s version of unagi (freshwater eel) over rice. Connoisseurs enjoy hitsumabushi in no less than three different ways during a meal, eating part of the unagi as-is, then adding condiments like wasabi or green onion, and, finally, pouring green tea or dashi (bonito stock) broth over the eel and rice.

Once we’d made a pass through the buffet, our tray was crowded with dishes, and we were more than ready to dig in!

We started with the kishimen.

The unique shape of the noodles gives them an enticing smooth, slippery texture. The flavor was excellent too, with the seaweed and fried tofu both soaking up plenty of the tasty broth.

Out of all the foods Nagoya is famous for, miso katsu is arguably the one it’s most famous for, and taking a bite instantly reminded us why. The miso is flavorful without being harsh, and while we’re not going to make a habit out of eating fried food first thing in the morning, we were very glad to have the opportunity to do so this day.

Having spotted soft-boiled eggs in the buffet, we added one to our doteni. The combination was great, with the unexpected downside of making us think it’d be even better paired with a beer, which it was still too early in the day for.

And that brought us to the finale: the hitsumabushi.

Dormy Inn thoughtfully puts two slices of unagi in each bowl, to facilitate eating it in the different Nagoya styles. The sauce that it comes already treated with has a delicious mix of sweet and salty notes, and even the rice gets flavored by the drippings.

For the flavor changeup, we sprinkled on some sansho (Japanese pepper), which has a touch of elegant bitterness and a sharp aroma. Then, after we’d eaten half of our eel, we poured on the dashi broth.

How was it? So good that…

…we then went back to the buffet line and got a second serving of hitsumabushi.

As mentioned above, Dormy Inn is a “business hotel,” so it’s on the less expensive side of accommodations in Japan. However, as its name implies, the Dormy Inn Premium Sakae is a little pricier than its non-premium counterparts, and at 2,300 yen (US$15), its breakfast buffet is more expensive than most business hotels’ morning meal plans. That said, some of the things in the buffet, like hitsumabushi and miso katsu, are usually too pricy to be part of breakfast buffet fare. Having an all-you-can-eat supply of them for breakfast makes 2,300 yen feel like a very good deal, especially when they taste so good that there’s a pretty good chance you’ll stuff yourself and won’t need to eat a very big lunch later that day.

Hotel information
Dormy Inn Premium Nagoya Sakae / ドーミーインPREMIUM名古屋栄
Address: Aichi-ken, Nagoya-shi, Naka-ku, Nishiki 2-20-1

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