This year, S and I decided, since we’re spending quite a bit of time in Japan, to not overindulge too much in Osaka, the first stop in our three city tour. Which is quite ironic since the Osakan philosophy towards food tends to overindulgence. Nonetheless, we decided, both for our budget and our bellies, to take it somewhat easy in Osaka. That means we skipped out a few favourite places, namely Kahala and Momen. We’ve also given Endosushi a miss because my gorgeous wife S is five months pregnant, which makes sushi a no-no (or at best a rare treat, and only at a place we trust completely).
That does not mean we didn’t eat very well though. Our very first meal in Osaka was at a beef curry rice place that I have been to before and always enjoy visiting. Harijyu is actually a butcher, located in Shinsaibashi, near Dotonburi. In addition to the meat shop, they also run a few restaurants, one of which is a cute, quaint, curry specialist. We both had the beef katsu curry, which was fabulously satisfying, especially as we had just come off an overnight flight.
We also did the rather touristy thing and had a meal at Kani Doraku, a giant restaurant, also at Dotonburi, fronted by a giant, mechanical crab. Doraku specializes in, obviously, crab. Order a la carte or try one of the many set menus. S and I had different menus; mine included boiled crab legs, grilled crab legs, crab leg tempura, crab chawan-mushi, crab macaroni and cheese gratin, and crab sushi. Tasty. And just cheesy enough to be really quite fun, at least once.
I am a big (secret) fan of omuraisu, so when I discovered that this dish of ketchup-sauced egg wrapped around fried rice/rice pilaf was invented in Osaka, I knew I had to have at least one here. S and I had heard that the restaurant which claims to have invented omuraisu almost a century ago, Hokkyokusei, is still open, so we decided to check it out.
I’ll be honest. The omuraisu at Hokkyokusei isn’t the best I’ve ever eaten, but visiting this century-old restaurant was certainly an experience. It was also packed, filled with food guide-toting Japanese travelers and local Osakans, feasting on omuraisu stuffed with a variety of produce, from oysters and crab to the simplest and supposedly original ingredient, chicken. Like Doraku, this is a place to visit at least once if, like me, you’re a fan of yoshoku (Japanese-Western) food.
Our finest meal in Osaka this trip was had a tiny, chic yet Spartan, Modern Mediterranean restaurant called Fujiya 1935. The restaurant is helmed by the grandson of the founder (who opened the restaurant in 1935), whom, we read, has trained in both Spain and Italy. The food, modern yet delicious, certainly captures the chef-owner’s Japanese roots coupled with his time abroad and an obvious exposure to some of Europe’s more well-known and most exquisite, cutting-edge restaurants.
S and I enjoyed a lovely tasting menu that was as intelligent as it was tasty. We both liked that the food was modern but not challenging. Among the first things you are served after being seated is a truffled sponge bread stuffed like a burger with a cold wedge of mascarpone. Absolutely delicious. My favorite course of the meal was a spaghetti served with a fresh crab sauce, topped with grated mimolette and powdered green beans. Also fabulous was a little cocotte of seasonal vegetables that is topped with super-thin slices of a marvelously intense truffle butter, shaved table-side.
A really interesting meal that we had was at Kawazoe, a small kappo restaurant just a few doors down from Kahala. The owner-chef worked for Kahala’s Mori-san until he opened his own place ten years ago. Don’t expect a Kahala clone though. The food is very different. To be completely honest, we found some of the combinations here a little odd, but the food was good and the owner very friendly. (The dish pictured at the top of this post was our last savory course at Kawazoe and easily the simplest of all the dishes served there.)
Our last meal in Osaka was also very casual. We went to a large, slightly upscale yakitori and tofu specialty restaurant located in Namba Parks. I had read that Tori No Mai served some of the best chicken wings in Japan. That alone, plus the promise of some good yakitori, was enough to convince us to give it a try. The wings were excellent, as was the yakitori and the two tofu dishes we enjoyed; we ordered a simple black sesame tofu, served cold, as well as tofu stuffed with half-cooked egg and deep-fried.
Well, that’s it for Osaka. I’m posting this on my last night in Kyoto. We’re heading to Tokyo tomorrow via Shinkansen. I’ll try and post on our eating blitz of Kyoto sometime next week. Sayonara for now.