Having been asked for some restaurant recommendations in Osaka the other day, which served as a reminder I am way behind in completing a full write up on our recent trip there and to Kyoto. So I am posting this as a reminder to get my act together and finish it–meanwhile this brief piece will serve you well for a diversified eating itinerary for a weekend, or three or 4 day visit.
Would I stay at the Ritz-Carlton Osaka again? Probably not, after a debacle on checking in, they did their utmost to make amends over the next few days, but frankly the hotel is tired, old fashioned and well, boring. he problem is Osaka has no decent (tourist) hotels and totally geared towards the business and budget clientele, which is a pity as its a great city in terms of eating.
Rokukakutei - counter seat the best Ph 06-6633-1302 Takoso Building 2F, 1-21-16 Nipponbashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka
This is an brilliant Kushi Katsu restaurant (small skewers of delicious morsels crumbed and deep-friend) that just keep coming; there’s no menu, just indicate when you are getting full, and beware of the competition at the bar with other guests to see who can rack up the most skewers. It is also very much a wine bar and you must sit at the counter and let the sommelier help you chose wines to match the food. Actually there is no wine list, just a bunch of brim-full wine fridges and they open up wines to serve by the glass depending on the mood. It is a one-star Michelin but not formal, indeed very friendly chefs and language not a problem. It is not an easy place to find as the taxi cannot take you to the door, being in a small lane, upstairs in 2nd level, and the entrance is not obvious. We did have one of the enjoyable meals I have had in memory, great food with lots of local specialities and would be suitable for vegetarians as well with a lot of seasonal vegetables, leaves and herbs in the selection.
Tenshige – 1-22-12 Shimanouchi, Chuo-ku, Osaka http://gm.gnavi.co.jp/shop/0220130199/
A tiny, one-chef tempura restaurant that seats only 12 people, 8 at the bar and one table in a corner. It is a one-star Michelin and very much deserves it serving up exquisite tempura and its fascinating to watch the chef go quietly about his business. Actually, its quite an intense dining experience as you find yourself concentrating so much on the chefs cooking technique and knife skills. We had an absolutely brilliant experience, unique really and left with a very full belly. I recall they had a couple of wines on request but beer and sake are the chosen thing here.
Makino 6-11-13 Fukushima, Fukushima-ku, Osaka
Tiny Soba Noodle restaurant, a one-star Michelin, family-run, with beautifully presented, simple food but very tasty and an intriguing dining, if not totally unique experience. There are only about 20 people max in the restaurant at one time but you sometimes get a synchronised chorus of everyone slurping noodles (loudly as etiquette dictates) at once which is quite amusing. There are some wonderful small starters before you have noodles so be sure to go through all the menu with the service staff; actually there is only two very friendly ladies who do not speak much English but that did not seem to be a problem and we ate extremely well. Sake and Beer are the go here.
Hajime – 06-6447-6688 – 1-9-11 Edobori, Nishi-ku, Osaka
A three-star Michelin and serious dining experience; formal and intense and the food is absolutely outstanding, actually spectacular would be more accurate in its presentation and themes, combined with impeccable service, a great wine list and multi-course dining which needs a good two hours to get through, this is possibly one of the best restaurants I have experienced of this calibre/genre. We took our daughter with us (not revealing her age as it is not usual in Japan to have children in fine dining restaurants, however they looked after her brilliantly and as challenging as some of the dishes were, they managed to tailor to her tastes. The salad with no less than 52 ingredients was extraordinary and when I get to doing a full write up, listing all the ingredients and the chefs narrative will look more like a thesis on Japanese contemporary dining. This is cutting-edge, modern Japanese cuisine but does not lose any respect for tradition and painstaking research and foraging for local seasonal food and you will have some very unique experiences here. Chef Hajime came out to say goodbye, out on the street, (apparently he does not like coming into the restaurant and interrupting the dining atmosphere, and yes there is a bit of Zen going on here), a most humble, youthful-looking, serious but friendly chap who is clearly at the top of his game and this is arguably one of the best restaurants in all Asia. We drank very well here, Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer, Armand Rousseau Gevery-Chambertin Clos St Jacques so the bill was not small but very fair value for what we experienced. Bravo!
When in Osaka, a visit to Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street is mandatory with amazing food stalls and shops…in one of the Tenjinbashisuji side-lanes—is an Okonomiyaki place called chigusa, (cabbage and egg pancake that you cook yourself, not only delicious but a lot of fun… read all about it at http://www.thewanderingpalate.com/produce/tenjinbashisuji-shopping-street-osaka-japan/
A little tip, the Michelin Guide to Japan (English Version) is online (free!) through http://gm.gnavi.co.jp/
Also, I can highly recommend a private Japanese, English-speaking guide from a company called Narawalk www.narawalk.com Our guide, Reiko Hirasuga, was wonderfully friendly and a real foodie as well as quite a historian. She took us to the Osaka Castle giving us an excellent narrative of Japanese feudal history and architecture. I can highly recommend her and you can contact Reiko direct at email@example.com, mobile 090-51-68-6982