Osaka (part 2 of 2)

Posted on January 3, 2007 by Aun

Zen tempura experience

I’m a big, big tempura lover so I made it a point to ask our hotel’s amazing concierges to recommend a good place to eat tempura. They suggested Ippoh, which they said is both the city’s best tempura restaurant and one of Osaka’s oldest. I couldn’t pass on the idea of eating in a restaurant with over 150 years of history. As with all things in Japan, the experience was expensive but worth it. Ippoh is housed in a lovely old building. Upon arrival, S and I were asked to remove our shoes and were brought to a small tatami room. There, we were served one course, a refreshing soup. Then we were asked to leave our coats and our bags and were brought to another private room. Here we were served a gomatofu with wasabi and prawns. This was followed by a trio of artfully plated cooked food.

After that, we were brought to a third room. This one had a tempura bar with space for 6 people. The chef introduced himself and then proceeded to prepare our tempura on the spot. I have to say that after eating freshly made (and well-made) tempura, it is hard to go back to eating mediocre versions. The tempura was excellent, served crisp and hot. The chef instructed us which items were to be eaten with sauce, salt or no seasoning at all. We were each given prawns, a couple of fish, lotus root, gingko nut, fish roe wrapped in shiso, sweet potato, prawn wrapped in shiso, namafu (a glutinous rice flour and wheat flour dumpling), leeks, and a red bean pastry. We also had a side plate of sashimi and, to end the meal, a “tendon” (chopped up prawn and vegetable tempura served on rice). As said, the tempura was fantastic, but we thought that the other tidbits served us were okay but nothing special. All in all, this is a memorable (and of course) place to visit at least once.

Sushi heaven

If we could have, S and I would have eaten at Endo Sushi every day. Sadly, we were in Osaka from a Thursday to a Monday and it was closed on Sunday and we had to leave our hotel by 8am on Monday. Anyway, we did have brunch here on both Friday and Saturday. This tiny sushi bar is located in the carpark next to the Central Wholesale Market. It is open from 5am – 2pm.

You order by the plate here. Each one comes loaded with 5 fat pieces of sushi, chosen by the chef. One piece, however, will always be a wickedly fresh slice of otoro (fatty tuna). On the table, there are brushes soaking in bowls of soya sauce. You are encouraged here to brush your sushi with sauce instead of dipping, which makes perfect sense since most people wrongly dip their rice and not the fish into the sauce. At 1,000 Yen per plate, Endo is also one of the best bargains in Osaka. I really can’t say how much S and I loved this place. This is a must-visit!

Another fantastic place, albeit much more ritzy (no pun intended), for sushi is Hanagatami at the Ritz-Carlton Osaka. S and I enjoyed an amazingly serene sushi lunch at this gorgeous and deceptively large restaurant. Hanagatami has a small sushi bar, an equally small tempura bar (which I plan on lunching at next trip instead of going to Ippoh), and a large area serving Kyoto-style Kaiseki meals. Sitting at the sushi bar, you don’t even notice the rest of the restaurant. And as you would expect at a Ritz-Carlton, everything from the food to the service was perfect.

Yummy shio ramen

I’m a magazine junkie (which comes from having spent a decade in that industry); I like looking at magazines even if they are in languages I don’t understand. I love looking at layouts and photography. One of the magazines that had been thoughtfully placed in my hotel room was the latest copy of GQ Japan. In it, there was an article on top ramen shops in the country’s major cities. When I noticed that two of them had Osaka telephone prefixes, I quickly asked my concierge where they were located and if he had heard of them. One of them, in fact, was a less than 10 minute walk from where we were staying! We found Berashio easily and were thrilled by it. Berashio specializes in shio ramen. S ordered one with extra roast pork while I picked a Winter special, which came with pork, leeks, mushrooms, grilled scallops (yum!) and a pat of butter. We loved that they charcoal-grilled the scallops and pork in front of us. The stock was lovely and if it wasn’t for the fact that the portions were so filling, I would have loved to have sampled other variations. This reasonable ramen restaurant is definitely worth a visit.

Shabu-Shabu

On our last night, a friend arranged a large group dinner at a good, reasonable and very casual shabu-shabu restaurant called Udon-chiri Nishiya Iori. The beef was lovely and the restaurant was relaxed and reasonably priced.

There are of course many more restaurants in Osaka we didn’t visit. Four that I want to go back to try are Kawazoe, Nishi, the Harijyu Curry Restaurant (I was very excited by the huge line), and Becasse, a sexy-sounding French restaurant.

Sleeping

In Osaka, the best hotel (and the only one my friends recommended to me when I was looking for a place to stay) is the Ritz-Carlton, Osaka. This perpetually busy hotel is fantastically well-located in Umeda and is brilliantly appointed. It was perfect in December, right before the holidays. The lobby is furnished with a nod to 18th and 19th Century European opulance. The rooms, by contrast, are classic and very comfortable. The hotel has 4 pretty stunning restaurants, a Japanese, a French, a Chinese and an Italian. It also has two bars and a lobby lounge. The wine bar is really cool; it offers 25 different wines by the glass, including some pretty ultra-premium labels, stuff that you’d normally need to buy a whole bottle to taste. If you can swing it, get access to the Club Lounge on the 34th floor. It’s very plush and comfy and they serve drinks and food throughout the day. Be warned though; all your fellow guests will be similarly circling the food tables waiting for the next delicious something-or-other that will come out from the hotel’s kitchens. When we visited, the hotel was completely full. Amazingly, 90% of the Ritz-Carlton Osaka’s business is domestic. Fortunately, everyone here spoke English perfectly (which is not the case for the rest of the city). And the concierges are amazing. Without their help, we wouldn’t have been able to navigate our way through Osaka. These tireless and always helpful women made recommendations for us, made reservations, printed maps and gave us more help than I have ever gotten from any other concierge in any other city. Their help alone made staying at the Ritz a joy. (If and when you go Osaka and want to go to some of the places I’ve written about in this or the previous post, I suggest asking your own concierge for help. If you stay at the Ritz, I guarantee you’ll have no problem.)

Shopping

Osaka really amazed both S and I. We thought that Singaporeans lived to eat and shop. Well, they don’t hold a candle to the people that populate Osaka. The city was a buzzing, utterly mad, utterly wonderful, eating and shopping playground. The city’s two major shopping districts, Umeda and Shinsaibashi, were packed throughout our entire stay. The stores were full and the cash registers were ringing like crazy. The stores were also full of much cooler stuff than what we get here. Among our favourites were the 0101 department store in Namba for cool Japanese women’s fashion, Hankyu department store in Umeda for men’s shoes, the Tomorrowland store on Mido-Suji for really chic men’s and women’s fashion, and Doguya-suji and Hankyu department store for some nifty Japanese kitchen tools. Also, as expected, all the food halls in the department stores were pretty jaw-dropping. S especially liked the ones in Sogo in Shinsaibashi and Takashimaya in Namba. I can’t even begin to describe the sheer joy we had going from pastry counter to pastry counter snacking on gorgeous and delicious sweets. In a class of its own, though, is the food hall in the basement of the Hanshin department store. More like a giant market, this food hall was simply amazing. You can get everything there from fresh produce to specialty cooked foods. Unfortunately, it’s also perpetually packed. You’ll spend just as much time elbowing your way through the crowds as you will trying to buy stuff to snack on.

A drink after all that food

Finally, I had to mention what is one of the coolest bars I have ever been to. There are 3 B Bars in Japan. Owned and operated by Baccarat, these sleek and stylish bars are located next to the French crystal brand’s stores in Tokyo and Osaka. The Osaka B Bar is in Hilton Plaza East in Umeda. From the Ritz-Carlton, it’s a short 10 minute walk. The bars are gorgeously moody and dark. Spotlights highlight each patron’s drinks, which are served, as expected, in Baccarat crystal glasses. For those of us who can’t afford a collection of high-priced crystal, it’s a great chance to feel and use their products. The drinks, by the way, are also perfectly made and simply delicious.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Amber January 3, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Thank you so much for these posts! I am planning a trip to Japan at the end of 07 and I’m definitely saving these to refer back to!

  2. pennyideas January 4, 2007 at 4:32 am

    Hi there! I love tempura & ramen! The food looks too good to resist. thanks for the great post.

  3. schnauzie January 4, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    ur post came at the perfect time for me. visiting osaka in Mar 07 and it is a wonderful guide. would be good if more info on how to get to the restaurant’s provided as the websites of the restaurants are mostly in japanese. thks anyway!

  4. tigerfish January 4, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    What a wonderful trip ! Bet you had a good eat and a good sleep.:)

  5. lakeside girl January 4, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    I can’t tell you how much i enjoyed your travel dining stories.

    Wonderful job! :)

  6. Frederico January 4, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Hey Man…
    All I can say is… the Osaka Tourism Board needs to pay you man… hahaha.. after reading your 2 part review, I want to visit Osaka so badly!!!

  7. Chubby Hubby January 4, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Amber: Oh… lucky you. Have a great trip and have fun planning for it.

    Pennyideas: Me too. Thanks for dropping by.

    Schnauzie: You can try translating the websites into english with Google’s language tools (http://www.google.com/language_tools). Or just ask your hotel’s concierge for help. I emailed my concierges weeks before I arrived and got them to plan my schedule.

    Tigerfish: It was a great trip. Loads of good food. And yah, the bed at the Ritz was nice and comfy.

    Lakeside Girl: Thanks!

    Fred: Great idea. I should email them. Heh heh…

  8. GiuseppeWong January 5, 2007 at 1:26 am

    omfg. That beef looks delish.

  9. offspring January 6, 2007 at 12:22 am

    first you make me try the local restaurants, now i need to travel to osaka.

    cheerios

  10. Melissa January 10, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    Holy cow, what a great trip! Not to mention a fabulous writeup. Back in cold, grey Scotland, a bit of armchair traveling (and eating!) is exactly what I need right now.

  11. Anonymous February 13, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    ok i was just at endo sushi today and it’s good stuff! they also have miso soup with loads of clams for 300 yen.

    here are directions:
    1. take a train to tamagawa station (s12 on the sennichimae line)
    2. take exit 6 from the station
    3. walk straight down the road until you see a large market/warehouse on your right. there will also be a carpark.
    4. the shop is at the end of the carpark to the left of the market itself.

    a map of the osaka subway can be had here

  12. ritchie June 9, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Berashio has apparently closed down – can anyone confirm this? Tks!

  13. cookie December 19, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Yes, Berashio has closed in Osaka but still available in its town of origin(not sure where).
    The concierge at Hilton Osaka made enquiry during our stay there

  14. Yen October 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I visited Kahala and Momen back in 2007 and iKahala was a fantastic experience. Momen was good too but not as good as Kahala. I am going to Osaka again next month and will definitely try out these restaurants you mentioned. Tks for the great recommendations.

  15. James November 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Went to endo this morning after a pretty heavy breakfast and only managed 2 plates. The first plate is gorgeous .. Second plate less so. Tried to order the same one for second serving but they don’t seem to understand. The uni is fabulous but only on the first plate.
    Thanks for the recommendation

    Google map provides good directions there. Key in endo sushi Osaka and with hyperdia you will take subway to tamagawa

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