There’s a saying in Osaka, ‘Eat ’til you drop…’ well that’s a challenge for a food blogger if ever I heard one! We were soon to learn that while Tokyo is for glamour and culture, visit Kyoto for history but come to Osaka for fun and food!! As a centre of the economy and the rice trade, Japan’s second biggest city was once known as the ‘Nation’s Kitchen’ but the nickname still stands today as Osaka is food heaven. Known as being the origin of several Japanese dishes, housing hundreds of restaurants from three-star Michelin world-class gastronomic temples to humble street stalls, Mr S and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and try some food.
We arrived at The St. Regis Osaka just in time for lunch and I knew exactly where I wanted to head.
Dotomburi Street in the Minami city centre at the very heart of Osaka. The pedestrianised street is lined with restaurants, theatres and shops and filled with giant neon signs, billboards and 3D food signs…
Just in case there was any doubt over what they were serving! Dotomburi is complete sensory over load, our nostrils filled with the scent of street food, the signage flashed before our eyes and the crowded streets were filled with voices. People in Osaka are known for being some of the most fun-loving and down to earth citizens in Japan and we loved the carnival atmosphere. But it was already past lunch time and we were hungry…but totally spoilt for choice and we didn’t know where to start.
Seeing a seafood vendor we bought some crab legs to nibble on while we decided where to go for lunch.
There are two dishes that Osaka is very well-known for: okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake filled with cabbage and topped with Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes; and tako-yaki which is basically balls of batter containing octopus. Neither of us are keen on okonomiyaki and the tako-yaki was only being sold in batches of six or eight, so we decided to find a restaurant to test out the food on Dotombori street.
Seeing a seafood restaurant, and feeling super hungry and very hot we were relieved to head in. Taking a look at the menu I realised the speciality of the place was blowfish, a highly toxic fish. ‘Fugu’ is a speciality dish prepared from this fish, it’s a delicacy but has to be prepared carefully in order to remove all toxic parts as fugu prepared wrongly can kill you. Despite being a highly reputable restaurant, I wasn’t prepared to risk my life on a piece fish no matter how hot or hungry I was and I persuaded Mr S that we should find somewhere else that wasn’t serving a potentially deadly lunch.
One thing that’s quite amusing about restaurants in Japan is the plastic food that’s displayed outside the restaurant which helps to break down any language barriers and allows you to see exactly what they’re serving.
We had some delicious food at this rather more innocuous restaurant that we found including some tasty udon noodles, tempura and crab with rice.
Feeling satisfied and very much still alive we headed off for a walk around Osaka.
We took a walk down the Dotombori-gawa canal which was bustling with live music, plenty more restaurants and street food vendors. We loved the vibe of Osaka, known for its nightlife and vibrant atmosphere it was so easy to walk around the pedestrianised areas and just absorb the local colour.
Of course it was soon ice cream time and we headed for a quick soft serve from one of the food trucks.
Sadly, as we’d arrived in Osaka late and had spent the whole time exploring Dotomburi street, there was no time to see the other key sites of interest such as Osaka castle, the famous Aquarium or the Sumiyoshi Shrine.
But we did have time to cross the Ebisu-bashi bridge and get a picture of the famous Glico Man, an icon of Osaka that has been there over 70 years. From here we headed down the Midosuji boulevard, checking out some of the gorgeous upscale boutiques and department stores before arriving back at The St. Regis Osaka.
Have eating several extensive multi-course kaiseki dinners, Mr S and I wanted something lighter and to repeat the glory of our first meal in Japan and enjoy a omakase feast at a sushi restaurant. I asked the hotel to book ‘Saeki’, the best sushi restaurant in town but our reservation was refused as we don’t speak Japanese and do not have the full understanding of the chef’s sushi-ology. Instead the hotel reserved a Michelin-starred restaurant for us called Sushidokoro-Kurosugi, which also turned out to be an incredible choice.
There were about eight seats in the tiny dining room but the whole night there was only ourselves and one other couple with two sushi masters creating the most incredible food just for the four of us. It can take up to ten years to train as an expert sushi chef, otherwise known as an itamae which literally means ‘in front of the board.’ You may wonder why it takes so long to train when sushi is made from just a few very simple ingredients. How hard can it be to roll some rice and cut some fish? Especially when most of the fish isn’t even cooked! Actually the itamae are true master craftsman, learning the most precision knife skills, honing the exact right ratio of rice and vinegar that will perfectly enhance the fish.
The fully trained itamae will also interact with the guests and charm their customers and calculating the bill is even seen as part of the art of sushi making.
Nigiri sushi is one of the most traditional forms, and the sushi chef only uses a very small amount of rice which he fashions into a ball with his hands and drapes with a perfect piece of fish. There are countless varieties of nigiri sushi and we tried several that night at Kurosugi.
We watched the masters at work as fish was cut with absolute precision, rice was carefully rolled, and the lightest amount of soy sauce was painted on with a paintbrush. It truly was like watching artists at work.
Though we mostly used chopsticks, it’s actually acceptable to eat sushi with your hands and though the chef will usually add the exact right amount of soy sauce if you want to add more it advisable to dip fish first as the rice could fall apart.
Needless to say, everything presented to us on the omakase menu was absolutely sublime, and prepared to total perfection. I also love the fact that we left the restaurant not feeling overly full. Sadly as much as we wanted to partake in the buzzing night life in Osaka, we had an early flight the next day and we sensibly headed back to The St. Regis Osaka.
I think that from this post you can tell Mr S and I very much liked Osaka. There was a very special buzz and vibrancy about the city and the food scene is one of the best in the world.
PIN FOR LATER: