Every foodie should visit the city to taste some of the gems of Japanese cuisine. Here’s our to-do list
Have a crab feast
You might have had crab before, but not like this. At Ami-moto Bekkan they serve traditional multicourse dinners in a style called kaiseki. The restaurant specialises in fresh crustaceans, from king crab to snow crab, served in various ways, but the must-have is their deep-fried king crab. It has a thin crust that reveals very fresh and well-seasoned, succulent crabmeat.
The shabu-shabu course that follows is also a highlight. After indulging in servings of luscious crabmeat dipped in a flavourful crab stock, rice is added into the leftover broth with egg and spring onions, to make a stew. Loaded with flavours and topped with seaweed flakes, it’s the perfect comfort dish to end the meal.
2-9-16, Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, tel: 06-6213-0055
Ami-moto Bekkan is a five-minute walk from exit No.25 of Namba station on the Midosuji subway line.
Sample street food in the city centre
Head over to the Namba, Dotonbori canal around 7pm to get the full buzzing city experience. This entertainment district is home to many popular bars, nightclubs, restaurants and arcades. Here you’ll find stalls selling ramen, fried chicken and savoury pancakes, but the one to visit is the Acchichi Honpo Takoyaki stall, located near Tazaemon bridge opposite the Glico man.
Takoyaki is a wheat-battered, ball-shaped snack filled with diced octopus, green onion and pickled red ginger. Crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, it’s topped with Japanese mayonnaise, seaweed and dried bonito, then served piping hot.
Keep your eyes peeled for the yakitori bars where office workers meet, stand by a counter and devour skewers of grilled meat along with sake or beer. Yakitori specialist Banchou, a 10-minute walk from Osaka train station, serves top quality grilled fare. Try their tsukune — grilled minced chicken meatball with melted cheese oozing from the middle, dipped in a sweet soy sauce with raw egg — and charred chicken, an aromatic dish of chicken cooked over charcoals with onion with fresh Japanese lettuce on the side. Wash it down with a jug of Asahi and you’re in food heaven.
Acchichi Honpo Takoyaki stall: 7-19, Soemoncho, Chuo-ku, tel: 050 5868 5078
Banchou: 2 Chome-4-43 Umeda Kita Ward, tel: 06 6346 7373
Snap something sweet
Green tea and matcha desserts are a must-try on any trip to Japan. Head over to Nana’s Green Tea and treat yourself to a heavenly matcha and rice-flour dumpling parfait, or creamy soft serve ice cream with adzuki red bean paste and syrup.
Alternatively, if you’re after a chilled coffee shop with a bossa nova vibe, try Elk’s cafe’s strawberry pancakes, topped with strawberry jam and whipped yogurt. The real reason to visit, however, is to Instagram their 3D latte art; you can choose from a variety of cute figures and animals.
Nana’s Green Tea: Grand Front Osaka South Wing 4F, 4-20, Ofukacho, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, tel: 06 6485 7078
Elk’s café: 1-10-28 Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, tel: 06 6245 3773
Discover the delights of Kobe
The art of teppanyaki requires a lot of flair and technique, so visiting its city of origin is a must for gastronomic tourists. Teppanyaki comes from Kobe, which is also home to some of the finest beef in the world.
Located just 30 minutes away from Osaka’s city centre and a two-minute walk north from Sannomiya station, Beefsteak Kawamura requires booking in advance, but the meal is worth the wait and the splurge. Kawamura buys the finest, most decadent, marbled steaks of Kobe beef and serves them seared teppanyaki-style, ready to be cut like butter.
Each cow is raised in Hyogo prefecture, bathed in sake and fed a regular diet of beer. It is also a tradition to massage them to release stressed muscles, as farmers believe this helps give their meat its fatty texture.
Even if you’re with a non-beef-eater it’s worth the visit because Kawamura also offers fresh seared giant abalone and top-quality prawns.
4-5-13 Kano-town Chuo-ward, Kobe City, tel: 078 335 0399
Help yourself at the nation’s kitchen
If you want to understand the essence of a country’s cuisine, check out the local markets. Seasonal fruits in Osaka’s Kuromon Ichiba market are fresh and sweet.
While you’re there pick up a box of local artisan mochi, or follow the aroma of freshly baked sweet potatoes that are always ready to eat at stalls — the melt-in-your-mouth texture is to die for.
Drop by Kuromon-Sanpei within the market for the freshest selection of sashimi and other seafood. The vendor beheads a blue-fin tuna at the front of his shop every morning at 10am, the same experience as the famed Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. There are tables and bars ready for you to indulge in the fattest bluefin tuna sashimi or largest fresh scallop, not to mention blowfish sashimi and others.
2-4-1 Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward, tel: 06 6631 0007
Get off at Nihonbashi Station, and depart from gate 10. From there, it’s a couple of minutes’ walk to the Kuromon Ichiba.
Take a turn for the batter
Most people consider tempura a mere deep-fried snack, but once you’ve tried the dishes at Ippoh Edobori, your perception of it will change forever. With 100 years in the business, Ippoh certainly has the experience, and it serves classic tempura in a traditional Japanese-style banquet room. The set includes seasonal appetisers, assorted sashimi, 13 to 15 pieces of tempura, rice, miso soup and dessert — all served in a private dining room where the chefs deep-fry and serve each piece of tempura individually. The chef is also great at presenting dishes. First, he presents the fresh seasonal ingredients he will be preparing. Once the oil and batter are ready, he quickly dips each ingredient into the batter, then into the pool of frying oil. He knows when to pull the crispy ingredient out at just the right moment.