CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
Coming straight to Germany after living in Okinawa, Japan we knew that some of our best sushi days were behind us. Yet, we still keep seeking out Asian restaurants for a taste of our former home. Most Asian restaurants in Germany are just that – a mixture of all types of Asian food. But Ayame came highly recommended as a Japanese specialty restaurant and we couldn’t agree more. It was very authentic and oishi – delicious.
Clue number one that we were in the right place: as we entered we were greeted with “irasshaimase,” the traditional Japanese greeting at restaurants and other places of business.
Clue number two: even before our ordering our food we spied some of our favorite Japanese drinks on the menu – Ramune and Calpis! They also have the Japanese beer Asahi and Kirin, in addition to many other soft and hard drinks.
We were there for a long weekend lunch with friends and two of us ordered some sushi and the other two ordered okonomiyaki. And let’s just go on record now to say that the clues that we were in a true Japanese restaurant just kept adding up from here.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of tasting okonomiyaki, it is sometimes described as a Japanese pancake, a Japancake if you will. But it is really so much more than that. The base is chopped veggies bound together with batter, but the root of the word means, “what you’d like” and you can add about as many ingredients as you can think of. At Ayame, you can choose different add-ins named for different parts of Japan. The Okonomiyaki can be ordered on their own or as a small menu set with miso soup and a small salad.
On the sushi side we had the Maki Plate named Judo featuring 18 pieces of sushi thin rolls (three rolls cut into 6 pieces each). We then tried three other separate rolls: spicy tuna, a marc roll (salmon, avocado, cream cheese, with roe topping) and a saki roll (salmon, avocado, cucumber, with roe and sesame topping).
We also ordered gyoza (Japanese style dumplings – 5 pieces filled with chicken and vegetables) and yakatoi (3 small skewers of grilled chicken).
Everyone enjoyed his or her food! For those who hadn’t been to Japan, they liked what they tasted and for us who have lived there before, the tastes brought us right back to Japan!
The salad dressing has sesame dressing like so many restaurants in Japan do. Just the smell – yum!
The sushi rolls were small and flavorful – definitely not the huge rice bombs you can get when restaurants are trying to cut corners. My favorite was the Marc roll, followed closely by the spicy tuna.
The prices were reasonable. The total for all four of us was about €70.00. The sushi ranged from €3.50 for two pieces of tofu or omelet nigiri to €10.50 for the most expensive inside-out roll. The simplest Okonomiyaki is €8.50 and the one with shrip and cheese is €11.00. Add €2.00 if you’d like that served with miso soup and a small side salad. There is a link to the full English menu with prices below.
The owners are a Japanese couple, Ichiro and Takako Nakayama, who also serve as your waiters and cooks. The restaurant is named after their dagughter, Ayame, which means Iris. They are from Osaka, Japan where his mother owns a Okomiyaki restaurant. It’s always nice to be able to catch a glimpse of your food being created and the kitchen is semi-open to the dining area. The couple was very welcoming and although very busy, did a great job making sure we were taken care of.
Ayame is located inside Hotel Alcatraz, near the Japanese Garden in Kaiserslautern. Hotel Alcatraz used to be a prison, so don’t be thrown off by the barbwire! There are several paid parking lots in the area as well as a small free lot on the hotel grounds.
Once you enter the Hotel Alcatraz, turn right down the hall by the reception desk (which resembles a jail cell), then after another right you will see Japanese lanterns marking the entrance to the restaurant. After that, all traces of “prison” disappear! The restaurant is small with perhaps 8 tables with a total of 24 places to sit.
We arrived as their Sunday lunch hours opened and had no problem getting a table and there was always at least one or two open as long as we stayed. But reservations are recommended for a busy dinner time.
Ayame Japanese Restaurant, Kaiserslautern
Wednesday – Sunday: 1200-1400, 1800-2200
Phone: (0631) 89 23 98 45
Website: Ayame website
Payment: They take cash, American Credit Cards, and German Debit cards.
Ayame Restaurant in Hotel Alcatraz
Morlauterer Straße 1