A Traveller’s Food Guide to Osaka

A Complete Food Guide to Osaka

‘First we eat, then we do everything else’ – M.F.K. Fisher. And that is what you should do in Osaka!

Known as ‘tenka no daidokoro’ or “Nation’s Kitchen’ in the olden days, Osaka was a thriving port with access to goods from all over the world. With a nickname like that you know why foodies from all around the world pay Osaka a visit when they are in Japan. And you can rest assured that every meal you have in Osaka will pretty much be a good one.

While typical Japanese foods that come to mind would include sushi, ramen and udon, you will soon realise that you have barely scratched the surface. From the ingredients to the ancient techniques Japanese chefs use, Osaka has so much more to offer the tourist and traveler seeking an authentic dining experience.

With countless of restaurants and street stalls, this guide aims to present you with the top picks of the entire city that you HAVE to try on your first trip to Osaka!

1. Okonomiyaki – Houzenji SanPei 
Okonomiyaki is one of the most famous dishes in Osaka and definitely a must-try. It is a savoury Japanese pancake made with egg, flour and a variety of other ingredients, which can range from shredded cabbage to sliced meats. ‘Okonomi’ stands for ‘what you like’ or ‘what you want’ and ‘yaki’ means ‘grilled’ or ‘cooked’. Houzenji SanPei serves one of the most authentic versions of Okonomiyaki in Osaka and is where all the locals head to get their fix. The Okonomiyaki served there tastes amazing. You will just have to go and try it for yourself!


2.  Takoyaki Wanaka @ Kuromon Ichiba Market 
Takoyaki is known to be one of the most favourite Japanese street foods, especially in Osaka. You can go almost anywhere along the streets of Japan to get some good Takoyaki and they almost never fail. However, Takoyaki Wanaka always has rows of queues in front of its stall.. So what’s so good about it?

In case you aren’t familiar with takoyaki, it is basically octopus covered in a flour batter and cooked till the exterior is nice and crispy – the resulting bite-sized balls are both great in taste as well as texture. They sprinkle an abundant amount of bonito flakes, which just takes this snack to another level of goodness. Do not be afraid of the long queues: they come and go pretty fast, as the service is superb. Waiting time is kept to a minimum but satisfaction is always at the maximum.

3. Takoyaki – Dotonbori Konamon Museum 
But hold up! There is another Takoyaki place that you should visit! They not only sell Takoyaki but there is a museum on the level above where you will be able to learn more about the culture and history of Dotonbori and learn about the roots of “konamon”, or flour-based foods.

4. Handmade Udon – Sanshu Udon 
Udon is probably one of the most versatile dishes in Japan. It can be cooked and eaten in so many different ways – Zaru Udon which is eaten cold, Kake Udon which is plain clear udon with broth eaten hot, Kitsune Udon served in hot broth and so much more.

In Osaka, you will find the Kansai version, where the udon is served in a lighter broth than the Kanto version in Tokyo.  For that, you can check out Sanshu Udon. They use natural ingredients and make their udon fresh every day by hand. If you are game to try something new, they also have a flavoursome Japanese curry udon on the menu.


5. Kushikatsu – Kushikatsu Daruma
Kushikatasu is a must-try in Osaka. These delectable bite-sized portions of vegetables or meat are skewered, battered and deep fried to a crispy golden brown. Said to have originated from Shinsekai in Osaka, you can now find lots of kushikatsu restaurants all over Osaka.

One of the most popular places for Kushikatsu will be the famous Kushikatsu Daruma chain of restaurants in Osaka – they have been serving kushikatsu since 1929. The outlets are small, with counter seating only. There are over 30 different types of tasty morsels on sticks here, which includes beef, white fish and asparagus. You can dip the skewers in a special sauce (the dipping sauce that is meant for sharing, so do note not to double dip!) for maximum flavour.


6. Oden at Kuromon Market 
I am sure all of you have some sort of impression that all Japanese food is always nicely presented and colourful…but not when it comes to this dull and not-very-pretty dish that is very well loved by all the Japanese. A dish that the Japanese will consume during winter to keep themselves warm, it includes a combination of radish, tofu, fish cake rolls and so many more! Despite the aesthetics of the dish, do not worry for it will definitely not disappoint.

7. Sushi – Tokisushi 
If there is any place you should go for sushi, it’s Tokisushi. The real deal conveyor belt sushi is priced very reasonably at Tokisushi. Enter the restaurant and sit at the counter tables to order your sushi just like the locals do. You can eat to your heart’s content as each plate of sushi is priced at only 158 yen each! Serving dishes such as the Toki Yaki, Toro, Uni, and the amazing Torigai (Japanese egg cockle).


8. Ramen – Ramen Yashichi 
Aside from sushi, Ramen is the next most quintessentially Japanese dish, and something that the Japanese take very seriously. Stop any Japanese along the road and ask them which shop is their favourite and e will bet that Ramen Yashichi will certainly be mentioned. It is ranked 39 on review website Tabelog’s top 50 ramen restaurants for 2016.

At Ramen Yashichi, there are three main ramen options on the menu that you can choose from – Shoyu (soy sauce), she (salt) or tsukemen. You will have to go to a vending machine, and then get a ticket- Although a foreign concept for many visitors to Japan, you’ll look like a local in no time if you know how it works beforehand. It is a small restaurant that serves quality and flavourful ramen that will definitely wow you! Definitely worth waiting in line for.

9. Ghar Curry 
Japan is known for having some of the best international restaurants in the world. Ghar curry is a restaurant that serves one of the best traditional Indian dishes with a contemporary, Japanese twist to its food. A fun way to discover the fusion cuisine scene in Osaka! Great food, great reviews with a great atmosphere..

10. Tayutayu Nambasennichimaeten 
So, you’ve got a great list of places to check off your list to enjoy authentic cuisine in Osaka already, but there is more! You may already be familiar with the word izakaya, if not then it is often translated as a sort of informal Japanese gastropub. Tayutayu Nambasennichimaeten is an izakaya that specialises in grilled pork known as yakiton and is often served with more unnusual cuts of pork. Rest assured it is a very flavourful stick that has an impeccable smoky taste to it. Come and squeeze in to the small space and rub shoulders with the locals to experience this unique Japanese cuisine as well as culture.

11. BonAppetour Dinner 

If you are really looking for an off-the-beaten path experience that gives you an insight into local life, this is one to try. Organised by BonAppetour, you will be given the opportunity to go to a local’s home and dine at their place, eating lovely home cooked food, sharing stories about Japan, introducing must-eat restaurants and much more. The possibilities are endless! Head over now, to subscribe as well as sign up and book the next meal that you are going to have with your hosts.

If you know of other must-eat dishes in Osaka, leave a comment in the section below! We would love to hear about them!

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Where to Find the Best Steakhouses in Japan

Where to Find the Best Steakhouses in Japan

To find out why Japan has become one of the top culinary hotspots for beef, we would have to go back in time to the history of how wagyu beef came about. Japanese beef has been coined ‘the caviar of beef in Japan' by CNN.

It was known that in the past, in Japanese culture, because of the Buddhist leaders during the Edo period who put a ban on the consumption of meat, no one bothered to over feed or stuff their cattle with food. However after when Japan was no longer under shogunate, during the Meji restoration period, people started to eat the cattle in their farms. This cattle was not made for slaughter, stuffed with milk and food in order to grow fat in 22 months (like western beef), the cattle was genuine working cattle since birth and hence the taste, texture and marbling of the beef was different – who knew it would taste so delicious?

Other than the way that the cattle is raised and later slaughtered, what makes the wagyu beef so significantly different from beef in the west is its pervasive marbling.

Wagyu Japanese beef has a smooth velvety texture and its rich yet delicate juicy flavour will linger on the palate. The Japanese categorise their beef into 4 different categories: Japanese Black, Seed Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn and Japanese Polled.

The Japanese Black beef accounts for 80% of all the wagyu beef in Japan and has a grade of A5, the highest possible grade given only to the finest beef. The standards of grading beef is very precise and of utmost quality. The A of A5 refers to the yield and the 5 of A5 refers to the quality grade. Unlike the yield grade, the quality grade has several components to it – marbling, meat color and brightness, firmness and texture of the meat and color, cluster and quality of the fat. 

You must be thinking ‘WHAT?’ so much goes into the selection of wagyu beef. This is why it is also very easy to differentiate the good restaurants from the bad ones – if you plan to eat wagyu beef in Japan, go for the best! They say go big or go home, right? 

1. Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511 

Expect to be treated as a king or queen when you enter Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511. Located in a rather private and intimate setting away from all the business districts of Tokyo, it is a very lovely place to bring your lover, friend or family. The name 511 stands for grade 5 beef and 11 is the marbling value. 

Using nothing lower than the highest A-5 grade beef that is carefully handpicked by the head executive chef – the wagyu picked scores 11 out of 12 on the BMS (beef marbling score) all the time. 

A famous saying by Masaharu Morimoto goes ‘’Japanese Chefs believe our soul goes into our knives once we start using them. You wouldn’t put your soul into dishwater’’ 

The wagyu beef grilled in a pot that is heated over 1000 degrees with Japanese binchotan charcoal, in order to enrapture the delicious flavours the wagyu A5 beef has to offer. As the restaurant's belief goes, with handpicked ingredients cultivated with passion, time and devotion, Kobe Beef Kaiseki not only brings to the table a dish of culinary excellence but also, simply put, a plate of happiness. 

2.  Dons de la Nature

A Michelin starred restaurant that offers only one choice: steak. Choosing either a filet from Yonezawa in Yamagata or a highly marbled sirloin from saga, the end result is that you will leave the restaurant feeling satisfied and appeased that you have probably tasted one of the best wagyu in Japan. 

Anyone knows that the mark of a successful restaurant would be being able to excel in not only the food but atmosphere and service. Safe to say, Dons de la Nature satisfy all the requirements. The chef – who you can tell, lives and breathes steak – will run through with you the process in which he picks the beef from the auction and ages the beef for over 2 months for it taste as sublime as it does. 

The wagyu is dry-aged for the first month in order to increase the natural umami in the meat and the second month it is wet-aged, to turn the fats into amino acids. Dons de la Nature serves up steak that is nothing short of amazing. 

3. Yakiniku Steak Atsushi 

Yakiniku Steak Atsushi provides Japanese meat with a Korean twist. Walking into the restaurant you will be highly impressed by the interior design. It is a very 21st century restaurant with sleek designs and dark wall linings, often making customers feel like they are eating straight out of a black bento box. With a wide variety of a la carte food choices to pick from, you definitely should not miss out on the prime marbled cuts as well as the more lean cuts. If you are an oenophile, you will be extremely impressed by the collection of wines that Yakiniku has at their restaurant. 

4. Kawamura 

Many rave online about how this beef steakhouse is the most brilliant beef steak that they have ever tried before. Coming first to other steakhouses in US, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Italy, it makes you wonder what is so good about the beef. A tepenyaki steakhouse that serves only the best beef. Though a marbling level less than the kobe beef 511, of 10 out of 12, the atmosphere of the restaurant is amazing and a contemporary interior design. It is said that when  the chef will come in and explain to you how they rear the beef – pictures of the cow that you are eating will be shown to you! So will the cows birth certificate and family line. Truly an amazing education experience.

Have a favourite beef steakhouse not mentioned above? Leave a comment below! We would love to hear about it! 🙂

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