It’s been said the people of Osaka spend more money on food that anything else. Here’s why.
Often called the food capital of Japan, Osaka is as well-known for its street food and lively bar laneways as it is its high-end dining – the city’s restaurants even give the French and Italians a run for their money. Here is our must-eat list of the best in Osaka.
If you want to go top-shelf, this three-Michelin-star experience will be one you’ll never forget. Inspired by Kyoto’s traditional tea ceremony, Kashiyawa is a homage to classical Japanese kaiseki cuisine with contemporary context. The dining room is designed in a traditional style with tatami mats, shoji paper screens and sliding doors. Renowned second-generation chef Hideaki Matsuo has a continually changing eight-course menu that holds on to seasonal signatures such as tilefish in shrimp dip, puffer roe and turnip soup.
2-5-18 Senriyamanishi, Suita
Don’t be fooled by the 1935 reference – this is contemporary Japanese fine dining at its best. Two Michelin stars is an astounding achievement and this is modern fusion that gains inspiration from Europe as much it does Asia through the eyes of chef Tetsuya Fujiwara. Together with his wife, he delivers a degustation-only menu that holds its own against any contemporary restaurant of influence anywhere on the planet. Must-tries: thin goat-milk cream puffs; prawn and sea urchin capellini; and wasabi pasta.
2-4-14 Yariyamachi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
Who knew the Japanese did Italian and French so well? Something cultural about attention to detail has manifested in wonderful expressions of both all over Osaka – especially in the Namba area. There are a few venues under the moniker Pieno, where the pasta, carpaccio and pizza will knock your socks off, but if you want a French bistro meets Italian trat where the locals eat then Bistro Olive is quite special. A duo in their twenties (one chef, one front of house) work a tiny room with classics like carbonara, pork terrine and ragout with pappardelle. The menu isn’t in English but don’t let that stop you – Google Translate and helpful hosts are on hand. Pull up a pew and let the boys feed you – the international wine list ain’t bad either.
4-5-8-1F Nanba Osaka City, Chuo-Ku Osaka-fu
This two-Michelin-star restaurant is the home of famous chef Hajime Yoneda, who takes influence from landscape, memories and the elements as much as the produce on the plate. With a backbone of French technique and Japanese sentiment, the menu is a journey of astounding aesthetic beauty and enlightened eating in a smart, tranquil environment. For those wanting to escape the neon-lit frivolities of Osaka nightlife, Hajime could be the ultimate food Zen moment.
1-9-11 Edobori, Nishi-ku, Osaka
Takoyaki Yama Chan
Osaka is home to Japanese street food: you can have just as much fun spending a few yen sampling from laneway vendors as you can dropping a bomb at the pointy end of Michelin-starred dining. Osaka is famous for its takoyaki (octopus balls made with a wheat flour batter) and although you can walk the streets of Doguyasuji (aka Kitchenware Town) and fill your belly, Michelin-rated Takoyaki Yamachan has got your back for the best takoyaki in town.
2-10-25 Nambanaka, Naniwa-Ku, Osaka Prefecture
A trip to Osaka would not be complete without indulging in the charred, oozing delight of okonomiyaki. The savoury Japanese pancake has many guises – in fact, you can choose your own adventure with various ingredients. Negiyaki is the style unique to Osaka; it’s thinner than most and has egg, green onions, minced greens and your choice of filling such as pork, cheese or a combination of pork and seafood. Sit and watch the chefs at Fukutaro make it in front of you – but be warned, they are filling.
3-17 Sen-nichi-mae 2 Chome, Chuo-ku, Osaka
There are not many comforting, grandma-hug culinary experiences better than plumbing the flavour-bomb depths of ramen. It might be a chain but some tout Ichiran as the best ramen on planet Earth. And the experience is a solitary one. You'll probably queue for a while but once you’ve circled your preferences on the form provided, you can sit at your own private booth and hover your face over an umami experience for the ages.
7-18 Soemoncho, Chuo-ku | 1F, Osaka Prefecture
On a trip to Osaka, you need to experience the the full omakase sushi experience (in which the chef chooses each morsel and prepares it before your eyes). There are many amazing sushi restaurants in Osaka but be sure to visit the fish markets. Eating the freshest catch of the day – think tuna, mackerel, sea urchin and eel – straight from the auction floor and sliced by the best is hard to beat. But before you get started at Endo, take a tour of the markets – sure, it’s not as tremendous as Tokyo’s famous Tsuikji but Osaka Central Fish Market has its own story to tell.
1-1-86 Noda Fukushima-ku Osaka City
There is an art to eating soba (buckwheat noodles) one must master in Japan. It’s all in the slurping. And at Genji Soba, it’s not only one of the most satiating soup experiences, it’s also one of the most joyous. There is a genuine connection and celebration of provenance of all produce and it shows; it’s mostly organic and MSG-free. Try the juu-wari cold soba with dipping sauce (and make sure you sign the guest book when you leave).
4-5-8 Namba, Chuo-ku | Nanchi Terminal Building, Osaka Prefecture
Hankyu department store
The food levels of the Hankyu department stores are nothing short of extraordinary. You could lose half a day sampling the fare – and you should. It’s like being a kid in a candy store – only it’s karaage, sushi, ramen and more. Levels B1 and B2 of Hankyu is a treasure trove of Japanese delicacies, global goodies and fresh produce, too. And down the road, the Hanshin department store food hall is just about as good.
Hankyu Department Store 8-7 Kakuda-cho, Kita-ku, Osaka