Osaka Gourmet 0
Japan is renowned for being a sort-of mecca for foodies. Throughout the year, gastronomes from all around the world make their way to the country in order to sample the massive variety of cuisine and local gourmet options that Japan has to offer. From sushi to ramen, there is just about something for any type of food enthusiast. For the discerning traveller with food on the brain, Osaka is perhaps the most vital destination. Home to a range of original culinary creations, the capital of the Kansai region offers visitors an experience that they will not soon forget. Consider the following a crash course in the best, most authentic food that Osaka has to offer.
Literally translated as “grill what you like”, okonomiyaki is perhaps the most popular dish for visitors to the region. Primarily made from batter and cabbage, okonomiyaki comes in many variations with different toppings and ingredients added depending on where you go and what you like. The most common versions contain either seafood, pork or both, with combinations of squid, shrimp and pork being very popular. There are countless different okonomiyaki spots throughout Osaka, but here a few recommendations for keen eaters:
An incredibly popular local spot for okonomiyaki situated just behind the Dotonbori area. Wait times are long but it is worth the wait according to the locals! The restaurant is actually listed in the Michelin guide.
Hozenji Yokocho Yakizen
A little more expensive, but a more intimate and entertaining experience, Yakizen is located in the tiny Hozenji Yokocho, a narrow street considered one of the better nightlife spots in the Minami area of Osaka.
This is the go-to restaurant for those yet to try okonomiyaki for the first time. With several locations in Osaka, no matter how busy the season, you will be able to find an open table. Upon my most recent trip to Osaka, I stopped by ‘Chibo’ to grab some okonomiyaki and a tall, cold beer.
As a solo customer or even as a couple, you can often be seated along the grill where the chefs actually prepare the food. This is definitely the best way to enjoy the experience. As it was my first time, I asked the server for their “osusume” (recommendation), and was recommended to try the “Dotonbori Okonomiyaki”, which is kind of the standard version of the dish, containing pork, squid and shrimp, topped with okonomiyaki sauce and bonito flakes. It is difficult to describe eating okonomiyaki, but perhaps the most accurate way is to see it as both a flavour and texture experience. With all the different elements, from cabbage to the various meats, each bite will be different. Usually okonomiyaki is served on the grill, and you will cut pieces off to then eat from a small dish. This way it keeps the food hot the entire time – quite ingenious. Okonomiyaki is quite a filling dish, so I often suggest to sharing the dish as a couple and perhaps grab a side, or save some room for something else later on, like Takoyaki! Prices start at around 2000-2500 yen for a meal plus drink.
Possibly the pinnacle of Japanese local gourmet street food, and my personal favourite dish from Osaka, takoyaki (literally “grilled octopus”) is a flavour and texture explosion. Made from savoury pancake batter grilled into a spherical shape, each ball has a piece of octopus inside, usually served in batches of four to eight, with various toppings such as bonito flakes and mayonnaise.
My absolute favourite place to get my takoyaki fix anytime I am in Osaka is from ‘Kureore’, an incredibly popular restaurant situated along Dotonbori. They primarily operate as a sit-down restaurant, serving a variety of Osaka delicacies alongside takoyaki such as okonomiyaki and kushikatsu. However, they are also very busy running a dedicated takoyaki stand outside the main restaurant, where lines can get extremely long during the busier periods. For less than 1000 yen you can get a good amount of delicious takoyaki. Be careful though – they are often piping hot inside! I recommend poking small holes in each one to let them cool down a little before eating.
If you are looking for a different kind of meal, perhaps of the more fried variety, look no further than kushikatsu. Another unique dish originating from Osaka, kushikatsu is basically skewered meat or vegetables deep-fried in a batter of panko bread crumbs. Perhaps the best place to get Kushikatsu is in Shinsekai, a small restaurant and entertainment district in the Shinimamiya area to the west of Tennoji. One of the most popular spots to grab a few pieces of kushikatsu is ‘Kushikatsu Daruma’, a well-known chain with locations all around Osaka.
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, I am a freelance filmmaker based in Tokyo. I moved here to study Japanese language and like many others fell in love with Japan and decided to stay. In my rare moments of spare time you can find me reading Dragon Ball manga or having a beer at an izakaya.