Apr 21, 2015

Japan Travelogue: Food Hunting & Attractions Hopping in Osaka (25 Oct 2014)

Morning View from Hotel Consort's Twin Room
My brain still couldn't wrap around the idea of sunrise at 6am. By 7.52am, the sun was already up and blazing. Waking up was made harder by the lovely bed in Hotel Consort Osaka; bedding was so fluffy soft and cosy that my body just refused to accept why anyone would want to leave its comfort.

Random Instant Noodles for Breakfast
Similar to my first breakfast in Haneda Airport, my second breakfast was some random instant noodle purchased at Lawson across Hotel Consort. For about 300yen, what I got was soba noodles and a fried cracker topped with chopped vegetables. I must say it was actually quite yummy!

Lawson Milk
To go with my not-so-healthy main course, I had Lawson's milk, which was happened to be on promo. Though I half expectedly it would be somewhat different, it tasted no less different from what I could get hold of in Malaysia.

All Ready for Osaka
Right after we were all prepped and filled, we took a 1km walk to ShinOsaka Station, headed to Osaka Station (via JR Tokaido/Sanyo Main Line), switched to Osakajokoen Station (via Osaka Loop Line), and took another 1.5km walk to our first destination, Osaka Castle.

Ducklings at Moat @ Osaka Castle Park
On the way up to Osaka Castle, we passed by one of the moats, historically used as a defence line, now manned by these cute ducklings cruising on the water. Birds were chirping, the sun was shining, the water was rippling. Morning couldn't be lovelier.

Osaka Castle 大阪城天守閣
Shortly after the moat, Osaka Castle, standing tall and glorious, finally came into view. It was hard to believe such beauty was once served as the stronghold of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which attributable to his success in unifying the nation of Japan.

Side View of Osaka Castle 大阪城天守閣
Visible even from far, the gold adornment on Osaka Castle was a living proof of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's fascination with gold. According to www.osakacastle.net, he ordered that gold be applied to furniture, weapons, armor, and furthermore. There is even a golden tea room in Osaka Castle!

Banana Milk
Considered an unfortunate timing, on the day itself, there was some events going on in Osaka Castle. Not only queue to enter into Osaka Castle was long, the entrance ticket prices were higher than usual! Since we figured that we would be better off not entering the castle, we explored around Osaka Castle and found this unique banana milk in one of the drinks dispensers.

Fighting over Banana Milk
This banana milk was lovely. Not only it was smooth to the tongue, it also tasted strongly of banana (yet did not taste like chemical).  With barely 300ml in this tiny can, tanner half and I had to ration between us. He would gave me this look whenever he thought I drank too much but truth is, I am the one with smaller gulp here.

Overlooking Osaka City from Osaka Castle Park
Standing at the higher ground of Osaka Castle Park, one could overlook Osaka city, surrounded by the changing autumn color. Imagine all the trees had turned, it would be lovely. Though it was my first time experiencing autumn, I am already fallen in love with it.

Subway @ Osaka Business Park Station
After an hour or so in Osaka Castle Park, we made our way to our lunch destination, Usami-Tei Matsubaya. We walked 1.2km from Osaka Castle to Osaka Business Park Station, took a subway train (240yen) to Shinsaibashi Station, and walked another 500m.

Front View of Usami-Tei Matsubaya
For one to food hunt in Japan, you must either be able to read Japanese or able to recognise the shop from images online. We were the latter. If it weren't because of google images, we would never be able to locate Usami-Tei Matsubaya on our own!

Interior of Usami-Tei Matsubaya
With about 20 pax seating, Usami-Tei Matsubaya was almost full. It was lucky that we managed to grab a table but generally it was not a worry as Japanese does not usually hang around after they were done with their meals in small establishments.

Kitsune Udon @ Usami-Tei Matsubaya (580yen)
There were plenty of choices on the Japanese menu but we were here for only one thing, i.e. Usami-Tei Matsubaya's famous kitsune udon. With just three key ingredients, i.e. udon, soup and aburaage (sweetened deep-fried tofu pockets), this was the simplest piece of heaven served! Every part of this kitsune udon was flawlessly executed, by that I meant, silky smooth chewy udon, flavourful soup base, and sweet soft tofu pockets.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = 1,160yen

Random Donut @ Mister Donut (194yen)
After our simplest yet most satisfied meal at Usami-Tei Matsubaya, we headed southwest to Shinsaibashi Shopping Street and there we chanced upon Mister Donut, which also has presence in Malaysia. Curiosity had gotten the better of me, we decided to give it a try. Truth is, Malaysia or Japan, it was all the same. The texture was cold and slightly tough, which was a stark difference to soft fluffy texture that I personally like.

Total Damage = 194yen

Famous Glico Man @ Dotonbori 
Shinsaibashi Shopping Street was women's heaven. Skincare and cosmetics were common trade, so was fashion. From local skincare and cosmetics brands to famous counter brands, bargains were up for grabs (FYI I am comparing to same brands available in Malaysia). The whole shopping street is really long but at the end of it you would find yourself overlooking this signature view of Dotonbori, where I finally met Glico Man!

Creo-Ru くれおーる 道頓堀店
Our arrival at Dotonbori meant that we were now one step closer to takoyaki, kushikatsu and yakitori. There are plenty of takoyaki stalls along the main street of Dotonbori but Creo-Ru was what we were looking for. Famous for its takoyaki, the queue for takeaway (4 lanterns outside Creo-Ru) was terribly long that we had to wait for half an hour for our order.

Takoyaki Menu @ Creo-Ru くれおーる 道頓堀店
Tanner half and I were not a fan of octopus to begin with. To be safe, we steered clear from any variation of the famous product and ordered takoyaki octopus dumplings.

Compiling Ingredients @ Creo-Ru くれおーる 道頓堀店
Made of wheat-flour based batter, tenkasu (also known as tempura refuse), diced octopus, spring onions, takoyaki is something I would never try in Malaysia but here I was, in Osaka, where takoyaki thrives. I just had to try.

Tossing & Turning @ Creo-Ru くれおーる 道頓堀店
All the takoyaki maker needed was two pointy sticks to work his/her magic. From the flat mixtures, a toss and turn with these two pointy sticks formed takoyaki balls within split seconds.

Close Examination of Takoyaki @ Creo-Ru くれおーる 道頓堀店
Patience is essential in making (and also eating) takoyaki balls. After tossing and turning the mixture into takoyaki balls, more delicate cooking is required to ensure it was golden brown outside, yet semi molten inside.

10 pcs of Takoyaki Octopus Dumpling (730yen)
After 30 minutes of wait, finally we received our piping hot takoyaki octopus dumpling, topped with sauce and bonito flakes. Crispy on the outside, semi molten inside, I could almost feel the diced octopus swimming in my mouth. Creo-Ru has definitely done it right. My advice to you, "Do not pop it whole into your mouth, or you would end up with a scorched tongue".

Total Damage = 730yen

Osaka Night Market @ Dotonbori
Along the same street as Creo-Ru, you would come across Osaka Night Market, where you can find store after store, restaurant after restaurant, selling similar products. More shopping avenue for shopaholics, if Shinsaibashi Shopping Street does not satisfy.

Daruma Nanba
Now that we had checked the takoyaki box, our next mission was to find Daruma for some kushikatsu. The closest Daruma from Creo-Ru is no other than Daruma Nanba. Again, if it were because of google images, I wouldn't have recognised Daruma and gotten my kushikatsu.

Staff Buzzing Around Getting Order
Truth was we were not that hungry but we ordered some anyway. The thing about dining in Japan is wherever you go, there will be free flow of green tea on your table. Especially quenching after a whole day of walking, drink up while you wait for your food. Alternatively, have a pint of draft Kirin beer for about 300yen (God, beer is cheap in Japan!)

4 Sticks of Kushikatsu (120-240yen/Stick)
Here we had chicken skin (120yen), classic beef kushikatsu (120yen), sausage (120yen) and karaage (240yen) to share. All kushikatsu was so marvellously done. Its crispiness was not by chance, but by way of consistency. Almost vinegar like, but well balanced with sweetness, Daruma's dipping sauce was unusually appetizing. I must say it was the best fried skewer I had so far in my life!

Crowds in Daruma Nanba
With about 30 pax seating, Daruma Nanba is considered huge in local restaurant standard. Look at the overwhelming crowds at 5.30pm. In fact, we had to queue for about 5 min for a table for two.

Total Damage = 777yen

Kamigata Ukiyoe Musuem
Right opposite Daruma Nanba, you can find Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum and Hozenji Temple. For fans of Japanese art, you could pay a visit to Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum with 500yen entrance fee. Some sample of Ukiyo-e art was seen adorning the exterior wall of Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum.

Hozenji Temple
For fans of temples, Hozenji Temple could also be your pitstop for your prayers of good luck. Throng was seen queueing up right outside of the temple at 6pm.

Peacefulness of Hozenji Temple
In contrast, this corner of Hozenji Temple, where one could pay a token and post some blessing, was deserted. I found this corner had its exuding peace which one could feel by merely passing by.

Hozenji Yokocho Alley
Passing through Hozenji Temple, you would find yourself at Hozenji Yokocho Alley, where restaurants flanking both sides of the alley. Despite the numerous restaurants in the vicinity, we had hard time deciding which to go to.

C1000 Lemon Water (100yen)

Take a break, have some lemon water. Besides banana milk, this lemon water was the best drink off dispenser. With light citrusy flavor sans sugar, it was particularly quenching after a long day of walking.

Entering Hottokeya Doutonbori
After much exploring and hesitating, we ended up in an izakaya named Hottokeya. Quietly tucked in a higher floor, it is totally missable if one paid little attention. If it weren't because of their funny mascot downstairs, we could easily be one of the many whom missed the restaurant.

Salad @ Hottokeya Doutonbori
Hottokeya Doutonbori has a comprehensive menu for one to choose from but what was better to try than Osaka's specialty, i.e. kushikatsu and some yakitori for variety? Shortly after order was made, a small portion of salad was served. Dressed in citrusy dressing, it was particularly appertising.

Yakitori @ Hottokeya Doutonbori
Under the grilled skewer section, there are 9 types of yakitoris for one to choose from, out of which 3 are innards. That left us 6 options, so we ordered each a pair of chicken thigh (90yen/stick), chicken skin (120yen/stick) and chicken thigh with green onion (120yen/stick). So tender, juicy and flavorful was the yakitori that I must applaud Japanese for their attention to details.

Kushikatsu @ Hottokeya Doutonbori
Fried skewer section, on the other hand, has 32 types of kushikatsu for one to choose from. To make your life easier, they do have kushikatsu combos with different mixtures. Worry not, none of the kushikatsu has innards, so we safely ordered a 10 sticks combo (1,350yen). Compared to Daruma Nanba, Hottokeya's kushikatsu was pretty decent. Each kushikatsu had golden crispy coat, which enhanced what was enwrapped. Its dipping sauce shared similar traits of Daruma's, albeit less intense.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = 4,590yen (including 1 x 450yen ume liquor, 2 x 390yen beer, and some entertainment charges)

Random Alley on the way to JR Namba Station
Our food hunting had proved to be fruitful so far. At the end of the night, we were exhausted but satisfied nonetheless. During our 850m walk to JR Namba Station, we passed by this unique alley, brightly lid with white fluorescent light, in contrast with the usual yellow lights hung outside restaurants/shops.

MOS Pork Burger (340yen)
From JR Namba Station, we took a train (via JR 大和路線 line) to Tennoji Station, before boarded another (via JR Tokaido/Sanyo Main Line) to ShinOsaka Station. On our 1km walk back to Hotel Consort, we dropped by MOS Burger to try out their MOS Pork Burger (340yen). With pork patty, chopped onions, tomato based sauce and tomato, the burger itself was small but decent, though nothing to shout about.

My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Usami-Tei Matsubaya - 3.5/5
    • Mister Donut - 4/5 
    • Creo-Ru - 1/5 (no designated seats for takeaways, so you have to eat standing)
    • Daruma Nanba - 3/5 
    • Hottokeya Doutonbori - 3.5/5 
    • MOS - 3/5
  • Price
    • Usami-Tei Matsubaya - 5/5 
    • Mister Donut - 2.5/5 
    • Creo-Ru - 2/5 
    • Daruma Nanba - 3/5 
    • Hottokeya Doutonbori - 3/5
    • MOS - 3/5
  • Food
    • Usami-Tei Matsubaya - 5/5
    • Mister Donut - 1/5
    • Creo-Ru - 4.5/5
    • Daruma Nanba - 5/5
    • Hottokeya Doutonbori - 4.5/5
    • MOS - 3/5
  • Verdict
    • Usami-Tei Matsubaya - Super value for money, i.e. less than 600yen for a proper meal
    • Mister Donut - Steer clear, if you may
    • Creo-Ru - Must try their takoyaki, totally worth the long wait
    • Daruma Nanba - Excellent kushikatsu, queue is required but wait is not long
    • Hottokeya Doutonbori - Quite pricey in total bill, visit sparingly if you may
    • MOS - A good option for midnight snack

My personal attraction verdicts for:
  • Osaka Castle - Interesting architecture with gold adornment, serene park (good for leisure and/or sports)
  • Shinsaibashi Shopping Street - Totally recommended for those wanted to shop for skincare and make up! I did buy quite a fair share here too :)
  • Dotonbori - Food and shopping intertwined, best of both worlds
  • Hozenji Temple - Small but high traffic, worth a visit if you were around the area


Usami-Tei Matsubaya
3 Chome-8-1 Minamisenba, Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu, Japan
Operation Hours: 11:00 - 19:00 (Monday - Thursday), 11:00 - 19:30 (Friday - Saturday), closed on Sundays and public holidays
Tel: +81-6-6251-3339
Credit Cards: Not sure (We paid cash)

1-6-4 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku
Operation Hours: 11:00 - 00:00 (last order 23:!5)
Tel: 06-6212-9195
Credit Cards: Possibly (We paid cash for takoyaki takeaway)

Daruma Nanba
1-5-24, Nanba, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka, 542-0076
Operation Hours: 12:00 - 22:30 (last order 22:00)
Tel: 06-6213-2033
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard

Hottokeya Doutonbori
1-5-6 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Operation Hours: 17:00 - 01:00 (Sunday - Thursday, public holidays), 17:00 - 03:00 (Friday - Saturday, day before public holiday)
Tel: 06-6214-7866
Credit Cards: Yes

MOS Burger
3-23-9 Nishinakajima, Yodogawa-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
Operation Hours: Likely to be 24 hours
Tel: +81 6-6885-5777
Credit Cards: Possibly (We paid cash for ala carte burger)

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