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HK Magazine Archive

7 Must-eat Food Items When You Visit Osaka, Japan

Snack your way around town with our pick of the city’s best bites.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 3:56pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 5:18pm

Tokyo may be famous for its nightlife and Kyoto for its temples, but for serious foodies there’s only one destination that’s a must-hit on every Japan itinerary: the food capital of Osaka. Nom your way through this mouthwatering metropolis with our pick of Osaka’s seven best eats.

Pancake Mandate
If you thought nothing could beat American-style pancakes with maple syrup and whipped cream, you probably haven’t tried okonomiyaki—the savory Japanese pancake that’s smothered in mayo and bonito flakes and stuffed chock full of shredded cabbage, green onion, octopus, shrimp and everything else but the kitchen sink. For some of the best in Osaka, head to fan favorite Mizuno, where you can customize your own Japanese yam-based pancake with all sorts of meat, seafood and vegetable fillings. The signature topping of seaweed powder, brown okonomiyaki sauce and mayo is what sends this street eat over the top. 
1-4-15 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka, mizuno-osaka.com

Ootako Octopus
You can’t visit Osaka without trying takoyaki, the grilled octopus balls made with egg batter and filled with large chunks of octopus. Takoyaki is best eaten fresh and piping hot right out of the mold—the thinly shaved bonito flakes on top should still be swaying and fluttering from the heat. For takoyaki that doesn’t skimp on the seafood, pay a visit to Dotonbori Honke Ootako, and indulge in the popular street snack while people-watching.
1-4-16 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka, (+81) 6-6211-5223.

Cushy Kushikatsu
With several locations dotted around the city, Daruma is frequented by both visitors and locals alike, with a simple, fast-food like atmosphere that lets you overindulge on kushikatsu (fried skewers) and beer without denting your wallet. The kushikatsu here are lightly battered and fried to a golden brown, with little residual oil or fat—making the popular Japanese snack almost feel like a healthy dinner option (almost). Fry up all sorts of meat, seafood and vegetables, and don’t forget to wash it down with copious amounts of ice cold Japanese beer.
2-3-9 Ebisuhigashi Naniwa-ku, Osaka, (+81) 6-6341-2730, kushikatu-daruma.com/kiwami

Beef Busters
Expensive as all hell but worth every penny, Japan’s Kobe beef—the pinnacle of finely marbled steak—is a luxury to be enjoyed at least once during your trip to Osaka. Take an easy day trip to the beef mecca of Kobe itself, which is less than 30 minutes away by train, or enjoy grade A Kobe beef at Tsurugyu, right in the heart of Osaka. Here you can sample Tajima cattle touched briefly on the grill to render the fat and then straight into your mouth for ultimate beefy heaven. 
3 Chome-5-14 Kawarayamachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, +(81) 6-6767-2989.

Oodles of Noodles
Of all the different types of udon dishes in Japan, kitsune udon (meaning “fox udon”) is the bowl you’ll want to hunt down in Osaka, featuring thick udon noodles in a dashi-based stock with pieces of flattened aburaage (deep-fried tofu) making for an ultra-savory topping. It’s so named because aburaage is thought to be a fox’s favorite food. Make a pit stop at Usami-Tei Matsubaya, renowned for its perfectly balanced home-style version. 
3 Chome-8-1 Minamisenba, Chuo-ku, Osaka, (+81) 6-6251-3339.

Yakiniku Masters
On the hunt for meat? Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M is a failsafe option for satisfying your carnivorous cravings. Known to have a stronger beefy flavor but just as much delicious marbling as Kobe, Matsusaka beef is what’s on the menu here, grilled and sliced tableside with an assortment of rice, salad and cold noodles. Feast on different cuts including sirloin, ribeye, rump and tenderloin filet.
1-1-19 Namba, Chuo-ku, Osaka, (+81) 6-6211-2917.

Tuna Time
It goes without saying that raw fish is ubiquitous in Osaka, and you won’t have to look far to locate the most prized cut of all—fatty, buttery tuna belly, or otoro sushi. From the lowest part of the belly, otoro is a blushing pink color and highly marbled. Seek it out at Shinsaibashi’s Ichibazushi, which delivers pristine slices of otoro, along with fresh salmon, eel, squid, yellowtail and more at an average of $20 for two pieces of nigiri—an absolute steal for the quality and portion-size.
2-7-3 Shinsaibashi, Chuo-Ku, Osaka, (+81) 6-6211-9070.

Where to Stay

Here’s where to rest your head (and belly) after a serious day of feasting:

High-end: Above $2,000
Japan may be decked out in temples and zen gardens, but The Ritz-Carlton Osaka is a jolting throwback to a Georgian-era mansion (think something out of the mystery game Clue) in the best sense of the word, with its rich collection of furniture, paintings, mirrors and porcelain, grand backdrops and intricate wood paneling. The highly ornamented common areas make you feel as if you’re gallivanting about in a grand country house attended to by private butlers and bellboys. Restaurants and lounges offer food that's par-for-par with the best of Osaka: Settle down in The Bar which touts comfy old-school armchairs and live jazz; Italian eatery Splendido, resembling a sun-kissed Tuscan villa; and renowned Japanese restaurant Hanagatami that serves up elegant washoku fare within the hotel’s beautifully landscaped gardens. Centrally located in the Nishi-Umeda district, The Ritz-Carlton provides easy access to Osaka’s major shopping centers and tourist points, and guestrooms are available in both the western style—complete with modern amenities such as Egyptian cotton linens, plush terry cloth robes, high-speed WiFi and a flat-screen TV—and the Japanese style with tatami mats, futons and shoji screens.
From $2,606 per night. 2-5-25 Umeda Kita-ku, Osaka, (+81) 6-6343-7000. ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/japan/osaka

Mid-range: $1,000-$2,000
A five-minute walk from Dotonburi St., Hotel Nikko Osaka is excellent for travelers needing a convenient base to travel to and fro in the midst of a jam-packed itinerary. Great for couples, solo or business travelers, Hotel Nikko offers a solid selection of F&B outlets to grab a hearty Japanese-style breakfast or an evening drink, and is connected directly to Shinsaibashi Station for convenient access around the city. 
From $1,043 per night. 1-3-3,Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, (+81) 6-6244-1111, hno.co.jp

Budget-friendly: Below $1,000
With rooms starting at just $662 a night, Hotel Keihan Tenmabashi is one of the best budget options you’ll find in central Osaka. It boasts clean and comfortable surrounds and is less than a 10-minute walk from the train station, with a friendly concierge available to help with transport and sightseeing recommendations. As a bonus, the famous Osaka Palace is right at your doorstep, which makes it easy to cross off at least one attraction on your list. 
From $662 per night. 1-2-10 Tanimachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, (+81) 6-6945-0321, hotelkeihan.co.jp