Tag Archives: japan food

Hidden & delicious Osaka

I have a confession: this is maybe not the MOST unusual or hidden side of Osaka because, I mean, this city is pretty legendary in terms of WTF spots. However, since I didn’t do the usual Osaka circuit, I do feel I have a few new insights to bring to the table (haha, yes I’m that clever!). So pop a takoyaki in your mouth, and read on!

Takoyaki Baby

Ya, let’s start with takoyaki, because it’s Osaka. You can get them everywhere. You can BECOME a takoyaki if that’s what your heart desires. Since I’m currently trying to become a yuzu, I’ve settled for just eating them instead.

There was no way I was coming and going from Osaka without having their famous takoyaki, and so I initially settled on going to Hanadako near Umeda station. SPOILET ALERT: it never happened!

Oirginal with onions, mayo and ponzu.

It never happened because, NO THANK YOU Google Maps, we kept turning around in circles, always missing it by 10 metres. But happy accidents always lead to tasty discoveries, and that’s how we ended up at the closet sized Takoyaki Baby. It’s not far from Hanadako, it fits about 5-6 people (standing up) and is VERY delicious! We shared the classics with mayo and a mountain of green onions, as well as the cheese and ponzu sauce version. Those balls were HOT and HUGE, yes, you can insert a dirty joke.

Cheesy goodness topped with parmesan.

*Unfortunately I don’t have an address to provide, as it’s one of those hole in the wall finds BUT if you look for Hanadako, it’s close by.

Oui! Bar

2 Chome-4-11 Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo, Osaka, Osaka

Osaka is THE party city in Japan, or so I’ve heard, since I was travelling with family I didn’t exactly get my freak on but, we did indulge in many a drink. Hey, we’re French, of course apéro is going to make an appearance here.

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I don’t know why but, we just kept flocking to closet sized establishments on this trip, and that’s exactly what Oui is. A delightful bar, whose owner is a Francophile and played George Gainsbourg for us when he learnt we were French; with room for about 8 people, and many a wonderful drink to offer. My highlights were the 2014 Umeshu national winner, a milky umeshu, as well as a coffee whisky.

To the right, the milky umeshu
The milky umeshu bottle, in case you wanted to try it

Now, you need to know, that we had a few drinks there as an apéro  before supper (which happened to be right next door at 串焼き バッテンよかとぉ アメリカ村店)* and we went BACK after supper for our digestif.

Yes yes, we do good things twice!

*See Izakaya, last piece

8G Horie RiverTerrace

〒550-0015 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Nishi Ward, Minamihorie, 1 Chome−5−17, キャナルテラス堀江

If you check out their website you’ll see the word “wedding” in there as well as pictures with foreigners. DO NOT BE ALARMED. Leave whatever building prejudice you may be having at the (restaurant)  door or else you’ll be losing out on a delicious experience.

Located in the rising hipster neighbourhood of Horie, the restaurant is a big black building that overlooks the Shirinashi river which means you’ll have a pleasant view during your meal.

Stairs leading to the restayrant are beautifully illuminated

The look of panic from the seating lady at seeing foreigners appear was the first sign that, if this is a touristy-place, it’s certainly not foreigner-touristy; having all the waiters AND chef in the open kitchen stare at us with outmost surprise seemed to confirm my theory. Luckily we had made a reservation so, everyone knew we meant to be there and didn’t just accidentally wander into the wrong building.

In a blissful haze of satisfied tastebuds!

You’ll get your own private room so as to enjoy your meal in utmost privacy. So let’s get down to the food shall we? Now pay close attention, this is VERY important: skip to the END of the menu, past all the individual plates, and order the menu of the day. You’ll be served around 7-8 courses, kaiseki style.

Starter course… tofu? Maybe? Forgot!!!
The BEST chawanmushi to date

My standouts were the delicate (seabream?) sashimi, dipped shabu shabu style into a broth that had yuzu jelly, the kalbi marinated beef that was both buttery and juicy, as well as the apple sorbet whose texture I’ve never before encountered! There was no ruggedness or flakiness to the sorbet, it just evaporated in your mouth. The fish, meat and a final rice dish, were all individually cooked on a mini stone oven, which added to the delight of the eating experience.

Sashimi waiting to be dipped, with a side of yuzu jelly that will melt into the broth
Delicate yet flavourful broth in a beautiful metallic nabe pot
Close up of our “oven” and grill, with our beef pieces waiting to be sizzled!
Mind blowing apple sorbet

Pablo cheesecake

They can be fluffy, they can be jiggly, they can be wiggly, they can be airy but they must ALWAYS be cheesy! Or so is my motto for Japanese cheesecake. There was SO much cheesy goodness, we went twice.IMG-0948

Hit up the location in Dotonbori so you can enjoy sitting down at their cafe, as opposed to just grabbing and going. Although you’ll probably wait in line, don’t be discouraged as it moves quite quickly; this despite being able to enjoy your time inside with no sense of rush or urgency. We went during the Christmas holidays between 4-5pm, thus avoiding the later afternooners and early dinner…ers?

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Whatever your choice, don’t bypass the original taste in favour of the other fancy flavours. Just go twice! It comes with apricot jam and ice cream, the jam being a really good pairing with the cheese. Oh and you’ll probably end up sharing it because that cake is RICH. CHEESY. GOOEY. All around goodness oozing out of a buttery and flaky crust. We tried the original flavour as well as matcha, and chocolate-cognac; the last two not being of the runny kind, but just as delish.

Matcha cheese tart
Chocolate cognac cheese tart

Izakaya

串焼き バッテンよかとぉ アメリカ村店

Osaka is foodie heaven, and we hit up so many izakaya that were all so delicious and had their own stand out dishes, but this one holds a special place for my no doubt liquored up taste buds.

Closet sized yet delicious

Allow me to praise the house made kimchi from 串焼き バッテンよかとぉ アメリカ村店 as well as both their chicken liver and tongue yakitori; melt in your mouth tenderness, with none of that overly strong offal flavour. If you’ve finally convinced yourself to go for those funny bits, let your first time be there. I’m really not a potato person, unless it’s sweet or fried, so if I praise ANYTHING with potato, you know it’s damn good. Such is their potato salad. Usually a bland mayonnaise mess, this is anything but! Last but not least, try the seemingly bland an uninteresting nagaimo (long mountain potato), grilled and topped with soya sauce and katsuoboshi: crunchy, starchy, salty, a surprising delight.

Best kimchi experience in Japan so far
Unexpectedly good potato salad
Unattractive grilled nagaimo, try it before you judge it!
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Okayama Pt 2 : Eat… and eat, and eat!

Admit it, this is really the main post you wanted to see about Okayama! Of course we filmed our indulgence, so check out the videos.

WARNING: do not read this before dinner (or doing groceries), you may not be able to control the impulse to indulge in #nom.

Parfaits (ice cream y’all)

Okayama is famous for producing their parfaits so fork out that ¥¥¥ and dig in!

We had a black sesame & soybean flour with mochi, chocolate cake, anko, whip cream and pudding parfait (and an extra 10 pds!) at Korakuen garden, but we also had a decadent budo grape parfait in Kurashiki at Momoko.

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I will never get over this parfait!
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Worth every penny in grapes.

There were 3 kinds of grapes and they ALL tasted different. The green one was fresh and citrusy, the red one was… well, like a grape, and the purple one tasted like red wine. Yes, yes, red wine!

Here’s more recommendations for your taste buds:

Contents Cafe

HOTEL GRANVIA OKAYAMA Café Restaurant Olivier

Kibi dango

Okayama is, after all, the city of Momotaro, legendary peach boy! As the story goes, his adoptive mother gave him kibi dango to take on his journey, he shared it with his friends (dog, monkey and bird), and together they defeated monsters!

Let me tell you, the dango here do NOT disappoint! They are light and fluffy, not dense, and are so fresh they only “keep” for 20 days. The peach dango actually tastes like REAL peach and there’s a harder to find, but totally worth it, chocolate & sea salt kibi dango.

So how can you get your hands on either or both of these delicious treats? The easiest is at Okayama station, right in front of the Central Exit.

Koeido has multiple flavours ranging from white peach to brown sugar and soybean flour; you can easily spot their colourful boxes covered in onni (monster) faces. Walk straight out of the Central Exit to the shops in front of you, the first one on your right should be Koeido. * There’s also a Koeido in Kurashiki.

岡山名物“きびだんご”。お子様からお年寄りまで愛され続ける日本一の桃太郎の“元気の素”です。
Photo curtesy of koeido.co.jp

As for the shio choco kibi dango (chocolate & sea salt), you can also find them at Okayama Station just off the Central Exit. I think… they where in the store on the right of the Central Exit? If not, just circle the omiyage shops until you spot them.

4. Best Buy in Okayama: Shio Choco Kibi Dango
Photo curtesy of allabout-japan.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oyster okonomiyaki

Along with fresh fruits, oysters are another BIG food feature of Okayama so YOU BET we were gonna lay our hands on some oyster okonomiyaki! Kamon okonomiyaki is close to the train station, so once you found your kibi dango, you can reward yourself by stuffing your face nearby.

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Oyster okonomiyaki

We got 8 giant oysters and nothing else (save the basics that come with) because we wanted to taste them pure. They were juicy and fresh, really delicious. But if I’m totally honest… I most fondly remember the grilled mochi and cheese okonomiyaki. This is my new favourite combo! The grilled mochi has a satisfying chewy, soft texture, and coupled with the cheese #perfection.

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Mochi okonomiyaki

Chocolate & fruit jelly

My life is now richer, for having eaten too much chocolate and for having discovered that Rokumeikan exists. Everything looked so good from the outside and this was day 1 of vacation adrenaline rush, so naturally we just had to buy their chocolates… and jelly… and cookies #foodie. The chocolates have very interesting flavour pairings (shout-out to the champagne!) and the jelly is like the most perfect gummy bear. I recommend both for self-indulgence and as a gift.

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Image curtesy of Rokumeikan

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Image curtesy of Rokumeikan

Izakaya

Being the intrepid walkers that we are, and fearless adventurers, we ventured out into the unknown for an izakaya! Right in front of our Air BnB to be exact, at Nojika .

Can’t remember what sake we drank, but it was a tall glass and it was GOOD. They had Yuzu wine, but tragedies of tragedies they were OUT… so they kindly made us a yuzu sour on the house! * Apparently that wine was from Hiroshima.

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LOOK at that sashimi!

The standout dishes were an octopus salad entre, assorted sashimi and ochazuke. And I won’t snub my nose at the fried chicken, daikon soup and chicken stock onigiri freebies we got! Besides the food, the chefs behind the counter were very friendly and it made the experience that much more enjoyable.

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Octopus salad

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Royal milk tea pudding

Fruit liqueur etc.

Okayama is fruit heaven and white peach as well as budo grape are the shining stars. You can find sake, wine, liqueur and beer featuring their flavours. I enjoyed both the peach sake and liqueur and would recommend them as a gift. You can find them in any omiyage store, grocery store or specialty sake store.

Image may contain: drink and coffee cupStarbucks

… let me just hang my head in deep, deep, DEEP shame. I am NOT a Starbucks afficionado, I only go back home if it’s on a roadtrip of some kind with friends or as a meetup point, and I NEVER get the flavoured/seasonal coffees. But FOR SOME REASON, in Japan… they’re very enticing! I live in the deep inaka remember?

We were in Okayama right before the Christmas season so the Gingerbread latte, Pistachio candy latte, and Rasberry mocha were the featured items. Yes I tasted them all, yes they’re surprisingly delicious! Not sickeningly sweet, not syrupy, not articifial in taste (although they clearly are). It’s a good thing we indulged here because the week after, both the Pistachio and Rasberry mocha were mysteriously out of circulation. Thankfully the Gingerbread latte lingered on until mid-December.

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Rasberry mocha
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Pistachio and gingerbread lattes

Tales from the inaka: 3 months in

A little over 3 months into my life in Japan, sounds like a good time as any to update you on my inaka life! WARNING… this is a long one:

September ended with a 2 for 1 deal, culturally speaking. My town and a junior high school in New Zealand have been partnering in an exchange program for over 20 years. Good news for me, since I was the English attaché for the duration of their stay! I discovered New Zealand culture AND Japanese culture in one breath. We started off with a trip to a local aquarium that had very beautiful fish BUT the show stealer that day was the majestic, black male deer that appeared out of nowhere on the road: we did a hard brake, it stared at us, we stared at it… then it jumped back into the forest! That was some Princess Mononoke level experience right there.

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Following that was a whirlwind of local dancing (yosakoi), flower arrangement (ikebana), summer kimonos (yukata), temple visits, tea ceremony (sado), and the gutting of an unsuspecting bonito (katsuo). If you aren’t already following me on facebook or insta, then let me enlighten you about bonito. It is THE local fish, star of every tourist meal, an unmissable delicacy. A famous restaurant here kindly organised an activity where the students prepared the fish themselves, A-Z.

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This was the yukata I picked out for the day! I love that the obi belt wasn’t pre-made and I had it done in a pretty bow.
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Green tea ceremony (sado)

Speaking of bonito, October 14th there was an entire festival dedicated to this delicious fish. That’s right, you heard me, a fish festival. Basically, it’s a bunch of tents with a bunch of food and IT IS AWESOME. Don’t take my word for it, watch the video I made instead! Of course I had seared bonito (katsuo tataki) and I washed it all down with yuzu shaved ice (kakigori). Yuzu looks somewhat like a lemon, either yellow or green and is SUPER aromatic. Forget lemons, once you’ve had yuzu, you don’t go back!

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yuzuuuuuuuuuu kakigori #nom

Dear readers, you may or may not have had the chance to taste Yuzu before, so you may or may not understand my sorrow when *cue dramatic music* the “#%&$’”%& damn typhoon cancelled a Yuzu matsuri I was planning on attending.

Most of October was overwhelmed by typhoons which means rain, rain, rain. But hey, I didn’t let that dampen my spirit! In fact, before the rain hit we had the JET surf camp and yes, I went surfing for the first time in my life EVER! Omg, omg omg omg omg it was so amazing. I managed to stand on the board TWICE in 2h #goals. I can’t wait to go again!

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Exactly what I looked like on the water

Kochi city held a local products festival mid-October, at a shrine that had my name written all over it. Deer hot-dogs? Rose petal soda? Yes please! That very night was also the last performance of traditional dance (kagura) held at Kochi castle and I had been obsessing about seeing it. The entrance to the castle was lit with beautiful light installations and we were given paper lanterns to carry up the stairs. Check out the video I put up on my YouTube channel!

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#nom
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Kochi castle by night

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Multiple rainy weekends means keeping yourself busy. I spent one very wet and windy Saturday at Cap Ashizuri, touring Kongōfuku-ji Temple (one of the largest temples on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage) and walking along the high cliffs that jut out into the Pacific.

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Kongōfuku-ji Temple

22550032_1474990815909845_1964867755258620107_nI’ve also been playing the local tourist which in my book means FINALLY tasting the local katsuo tataki burger! I could talk about it buuuuuuuut I have a great video up on my YouTube channel that gives you a much better idea of how delicious it was. And if the burger isn’t a big enough draw for you, well I’ll have you know there’s also the skeleton of a whale in that video!

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Katsuo tataki burger = DELICIOUS

22851683_1480589298683330_4181534632271501283_nI’ve passed the 3 month mark and am loving every minute of it! Well… not so much the minutes spent on the surprise malfunctions of my car (looking at you alternator) but hey, no point sweating the small stuff.

Fall is kicking off here which means season themed decorations everywhere, including decorations made from Japanese pampas grass (susuki), eating rice dumplings (Tsukimi dango), roasting sweet potatoes and finding chestnut products everywhere; my favorites are the homage to the mythology of a rabbit living on the moon.

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Chestnut cake!
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Rabbit in the moon.
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Rabbit in the moon