It’s hard not to commit “kuidaore” in Osaka. Literally meaning “bringing ruin upon oneself by extravagance in food“! Turn any corner and there’s probably a restaurant, cafe, shop, bar or a whole line of’em provoking your plain gluttony. My 5 days in this great city was no exception. I caved in to everything I hadn’t tried, tried and some, twice 😜! It was an awesome 5 days and here are the highlights of just some of the Kuidaore that went on!
This is my first visit to Hozenji Yokocho… A quaint quiet alley lined with restaurants, cafes and little shops. It was late and most restaurants have ended lunch service.
But Katsudon was open and what’d you know!? It happens to be THE Katsudon restaurant in Osaka… having fed hungry customers, from folks like you and I to celebrities alike, for many years! We ordered their top 2 bestsellers off the small menu, the Double Egg Katsudon and the Cheese Katsudon. Served sizzling hot in a small pan with rice and soup on the side. I liked that they are served separately as some rice bowls are so drenched through, you could barely taste that lovely short grain pearly rice. The Double egg Katsudon lived up to its name as it came in a mountain of smooth runny scrambled eggs spread over tender Kyushu pork cutlet. A real treat for egg lovers, I’d say! The cheese katsudon, as you’d have guessed, is topped with melted gooey cheese giving it an added a strong salty edge. They’re both good…. and definitely worth a second visit if I were craving some katsudon. The tiny restaurant seats barely 15 people, all at the counter, and is known to pack in the crowds during mealtime. So go off-peak hours to enjoy the restaurant all to yourself, like we did!
Katsudon かつどん @ 1-1-18 Nanba, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
Highly recommended on our sushi list is Tokisushi in Namba. We arrived to find a short queue outside the small restaurant but it moved quickly and we were seated within 15 minutes. The place is bustling with locals but fortunately for us, they had a simple English menu. Not that I needed an English menu to order my sushi but t’was good to know the day’s special!We started with the 2 house special platters. The Aburi Sushi Moriawase was visible on every table. But it lacked the smokey taste and flavor I was expecting. The fresh Sushi platter, on the other hand was terrific! Thick slices of fresh maguros, tais, ajis and otoros that melt in your mouth. The uni and kuruma ebi were top notch too. This bustling little joint is a reasonable place to get your sushi fix. Service is friendly. The ambience is relaxed and casual. Definitely a place I’d return for guaranteed freshness and mmm… more of that fatty toro!
Tokisushi ときすし @ 4-21, Nambasennichimae, Chuo-ku Osaka-shi, Osaka
One of Osaka’s iconic dishes is the Okonomiyaki. It’s everywhere and rumor has it, you can’t go too wrong with any outlet as most do a decent job. This pizza slash omelette slash pancake is traditionally filled with cabbage, pork, tempura batter, pickles, etc, etc! And the noodle version, Modan-yaki, is just as popular.
Negiyaki Yamamoto やまもと is reputed to make a mean Okonomiyaki and an improvised version, the Negiyaki, is the specialty that won them many followers. At 7.30pm, a snaking line had formed outside the Umeda branch. A waiter comes out to take your order while you wait in line. You think your food would come fairly quickly when you’re finally seated but nope! Despite a number of chefs at work, it takes a while to cook through the freshly prepared thick pancake. Fortunately, all Okonomiyakis are served on the hot plates installed at every tables, so don’t be afraid to order more as they will stay warm.The house special Negiyaki replaces the traditional cabbage with large amounts of chopped scallions giving it a unique strong chivey flavor. It’s not bad but for me, it was a tad bland. The original was much tastier, the generous drizzle of mayo and Okonomiyaki sauce probably made the difference. Mayo does make everything yummier! Meanwhile, here’s a fun read on Okonomiyaki, for those of you who’re interested!
Negiyaki Yamamoto @ 2-4 Kakudacho Kita-ku Osaka Osaka
The mandatory Takoyaki can be found all over Osaka. Its pretty much the city’s National dish! Pick a stall that has a decent crowd so your Tako balls are fresh! I had Takoyaki twice this trip and both times they were yummy. I really wouldn’t bother with this snack anywhere else in the world cuz only the Japanese do it well. Why? You ask? Well, first of all, they don’t rush through the cooking, the octopus is fresh and chunky, the batter is flavorful and yields a ball that is full yet soft and light, credit to at least 5 rounds of topping up and countless flipping. There you are standing patiently in line, and each time you think your balls are ready, they flip it and add more batter! But patience pays and when you pop a piping hot Takoyaki in your mouth, you will taste all that hard work and it’s all worth it!
Takoyaki @ Everywhere!
I’ve never been a big fan of Udon and always picked a cold soba over this starchy noodle. But when you’re told they’re the BEST in Osaka, you put all grudges aside and go for it! Tsurutontan つるとんたん is a traditionally decorated restaurant in the Soemoncho area. This upscale chain restaurant manages to maintain quality and innovation by offering both traditional and fusion styled udons. Upon recommendation, we ordered their top sellers and were impressed with both! The Tsuruton Zanmai comes in a gorgeously savory clear broth and topped generously with huge tempura prawns, sweet fried tofu, beef, vegetable, seaweed and slippery egg drop. The other, the Creamy Spicy Pollack Roe Udon was just as delicious and comes drowned in a creamy mentaiko filled curry. So what makes their udon so special we were hard pressed for another chance to dine there again? The udon here is thinner and less starchy from most run of the mills. You could eat more without feeling a heartburn creeping up on you. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance for a repeat but its already found its way on my contact list, even the Tokyo branch, and I can’t wait to try the rest of the menu!
Tsurutontan @ 〒542-0084中央区宗右衛門町3-17
Meet the adorable 78-year-old couple behind the 10-seater cramp-as-hell sushi stand at Koyoshi. 54 years they’ve been here, serving hungry commuters and it doesn’t look like they are retiring anytime soon! You don’t really think of what you’re gonna eat before coming here. You eat what they have behind that tiny kitchen of theirs that particular day! We saw 3 turnovers during our long meal there and pretty much cleaned out their Sake stash 😅! Try their seasonal selection among the top favorites like Otoros, Unis, Katsuo and Abalone (with livers intact!).
This hole in the wall does not need much of an introduction since being featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation. But both Ojīchan and Oba-chan show no signs of internationalism as they go about their evening laughing, chatting and serving their customers like we were at their home. Well, it has been 54 years since they opened shop here, this is pretty much home. To another 54 years, “Banzai! Koyoshi!”
Koyoshi @1 Chome-3-12 Shibata, Kita Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 530-0012, Japan
Update: Sadly, Koyoshi had ceased operation in the summer of 2017 😢
You haven’t had a good Daifuku until you’ve tried this one at Hankyu. We were first blown away by the Ichigo Daifukus (strawberry) many years back in Osaka. It was strawberry season and those strawberry mochis were to die for. We had to eat them everyday! This time round, we tried the seasonal Melon Daifukus, and literally went weak in our knees! The soft golden green melon was unbelievably sweet and bursting with juices. It’s no wonder the melon is one of the most prestigious gifts you can bring someone in Japan. This fruit is totally amazing! The delicate translucent Daifuku skin was soft with a just the right amount of stretch, breaking just as you sink your teeth through. They’re as gorgeous and addictive as I remembered them. If you dream about it in your sleep, it’s gotta be friggin’ awesome! I do believe they are unbeatable!Hankyu Umeda Main Store @ 8-7 Kakuda-cho,Kita-ku,Osaka 530-8350
Never been much of a red bean nor a Taiyaki fan but this one’s incredibly good!
Narutotaiyakihompo 鳴門鯛焼本舗 千日前相合橋店 〒 @ Japan, 〒542-0074 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, 中央区千日前１丁目４−１０
And to finish off, a glimpse of one of my top meals in Osaka…. Yaekatsu!