Osakans are known throughout Japan for their love of food. As a former city of merchants and still a port city, Osaka has developed a reputation for being all about money, shopping, and eating. A stroll through the Dotombori Arcade amazes with the variety and sheer number of restaurants. Perhaps even more amazingly, it often seems as if every one of them is full! No matter where you go, you’re certain to have to wait at dinner time
To keep our spring break budget- and vegetarian-friendly we steered clear of some of Osaka’s more indulgent dining options. I remembered a visit to Ninnikuya fondly from my study abroad days at Kansai Gaidai, so we tried to grab a late dinner there on Sunday night. Unfortunately, they were not as vegetarian-friendly as I had hoped they would be. Some of the dishes were a bit of a flop, too. I can say, however, that the ishiyaki-chahan (hot-stone bowl cooked fried rice) is still tasty, and hopefully their crab and garlic spaghetti is still as good as I remember too.
Okonomiyaki: before mixing – cooking – ready to eat
We came back to Dotombori the next morning for some shopping and strolling. For lunch we introduced J and P to okonomiyaki, one of Osaka’s famous and favorite dishes. J had the vegetarian mochi and cheese, Alex had the kimchi and mentaiko, and I had the deluxe combination. The okonomiyaki was grilled at the table, of course. The cakes here were quite a bit thicker than I make them at home, and cooked to perfection. Since the cakes were so thick, the runny batter from the middle would sneak out and make these little fingers, reaching out towards the other okonomiyaki on the griddle, before being pressed back into shape by our waitress/cook.
After our delicious, salty, saucy lunch, we ran across a young man with a Turkish ice cream stand. The ice cream was fascinatingly stretchy, and he would use a paddle to stretch and aerate it (and I’m sure it helps attract some customers too). The viscous texture allowed him to do some tricks flipping our cone of ice cream back and forth as he filled and shaped it with the paddle. The ice cream had good chocolate flavor and a delightfully creamy taste and texture. If you’re in Osaka, I highly recommend stopping here for a delicious and entertaining dessert.
Turkish ice cream – Aka-Oni Takoyaki – The line at Aka-Oni
Although we didn’t stop here, I was tempted to try the takoyaki (griddled octopus balls, another famous Osaka favorite) at Aka-Oni (Red Devil). Even though the Dotombori itself wasn’t very busy since it was just lunchtime on Monday, Aka-Oni had quite a line. Some customers would get their takoyaki and walk right back around to the end of the line to get some more before they had even started eating. I think I’ll put this one on my list to try next time I’m in Osaka.