If you thought my 1st post on my trip to Osaka was massive, let me feed you with this behemoth, consisting of Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba, Ramen and Tsukemen!
Although both Yakisoba and Okonomiyaki are different, with the former being pan fried soba and the latter pan fried pancake, both are prepared a la teppanyaki. Therefore, where you can order Yakisoba, you can usually get Okonomiyaki.
Okaru – Doraemon for Okonomiyaki?
Okaru was not opened throughout the day, and considering its raving reviews online, we thought we would arrive earlier to avoid disappointment.
Indeed! There was already a queue even 15 minutes before the restaurant opened for the evening shift! We were lucky that we still managed to be the first batch of customers to make it right after it opened, so we didn’t have to wait for another 30 minutes or even longer!
When you are early, you get to wait at an indoor seating area, very much like how traditional Japanese homes have a small holding area after the main door, but before one enters the living room.
The whole restaurant was decked out in light wood, which was unlke Mitaseimenjo, though both strive for the authentic, nostalgic Japanese decoration.
There were only booth seating, which could seat 4 (any more would be a REAL squeeze), with a table decked with griller for the personalised teppanyaki.
Yes! Instead of sitting at a counter with the chef pan frying your food, one gets more privacy at the booth, without missing out on the chance to watch his okonomiyaki and yakisoba prepared from scratch close up!
The raving part of this restaurant was how the chef would draw out cartoon pictures on your okonomiyaki using the mayonnaise. For us, it was good old Doraemon! (which was cute, because some tables got Osaka Tsutenkaku; but I guess the chef knew 2 young people wouldn’t be wowed by an outdated architecture) Although one can request for the chef to draw something in particular, I refrained from doing that since I’m not an influencer and I didn’t feel like tipping him for the extra work.
And what if he doesn’t know how to draw Ayumi Hamasaki??
The okonomiyaki was thicker than the usual one, which was puffed up with more of the radish-flour mix. It was actually my first time eating such thick okonomiyaki, which had a fuller, mushier bite to it, though the flour, being less seasoned that the bacon, gave it an overall lighter taste.
Our yakisoba was less of a spectacle but yummy nonetheless. We quite liked how the noodles were seasoned well and how fragrant the pork slices were. Our only regret was that we forgot to stop the chef from adding the ginger into the mix! Lol
Also, as the stove was right at the table, it did get quite warm and the food too hot to be eaten straight from the grill. But this was just some of the first world problems of entitled travellers lol
Dotonbori Takohachi Sohonten
Located just beside the canal and at a prominent junction (where storefronts were decorated with their huge crabs, gigantic human face and elaborate dragon mascots), Dotonburi Takohachi Sohonten was just a stone’s throw away from our hotel and made a good place to start before or after shopping.
I mean, Don Quixote Osaka (a.k.a. Don Don Donki) was literally just a few shops away!
For yakisoba and okonomiyaki, we were brought to level 3 of the restaurant, where the seating was like Okaru, but less elaborate (perhaps a “more budget” description would be more apt). I felt more like dining at a Korean grill restaurant that at a Japanese one!
We conveniently chose a set meal (Set B, to be exact), from an English menu, that had 4 items, Yakisoba, Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki and Tonpei (it was as though they knew what we wanted! Or perhaps we were just being typical tourists…) meant for 2-3 to share.
The yakisoba and okonomiyaki were also grilled real time at the table, though the others, like the Tonpei and takoyaki were served like a normal food item. Because of that, the takoyaki seemed too cold and hard, though the tonpei, which was basically grilled pork wrapped in a thin slice of egg, was very umami!
The okonomiyaki was a standard, fried to crisp on both sides, leaving a thin mushy interior mixed with pork and condiments, and topped with bonito flakes waving leisurely at us to beckon us to eat them up.
Compared to Okaru, the yakisoba at Takohachi had less vegetables – for me, with a few days of bingeing lined up, I appreciated the additional vegetables from the former! They also served the ginger chopped, which was sliced at Okaru… For the ginger-haters, you all know how torturous it is to have chopped ginger stirred into your yakisoba!
That set meal that could serve 2-3 pax was in fact overkill for the 2 of us. My take would be to leave the takoyaki for the last, considering that it would be easy to tabao, there were plenty of takoyaki stalls around Dotonburi and that their tako balls weren’t that mind blowing to squeeze all that food in. 😛
Watch the Staff Prepare Your Okonomiyaki at Ajinoya 2nd Shop
We searched for Ajinoya based on online reviews, and it was a special effort, since Ajinoya was more like outside the fringe of Dotonburi, Osaka.
Again, the storefront was also unassuming, so much so that we couldn’t believe it was The Place that garnered raving online reviews.
The entrance was like that to a 7-11, except that the internal space was much smaller. The open kitchen lined the length from the entrance to the back of the store, while the counter seats lined the other side of the wall – with space that reminded me of the Big Al’s Chicago Style Pizza, where we also had breakfast on a counter top that could just fit the bagel nicely!
The store was also amazingly quiet, as there was only 1 other couple who was there before us; I reckoned the space could only accommodate a few more diners, though there was that al fresco space outside the store, which would be good for any time other than the summertime when we were there! Lol
The staff was friendly and allowed me to take pictures and videos of them preparing our okonomiyaki and yakisoba, though the space was so cluttered it was hard to get a good angle.
Our yakisoba came in a generous serving, complete with the waving bonito. Of all the yakisoba we had, we liked this version the most, which came with the strongest and most umami flavours, though this is a warning for those with lighter palettes!
Ajinoya’s okonomiyaki topped the bonito flakes with a brilliant sunny side up, so imagine the yolk oozing into the gap and sizzling onto the hotplate beneath as you slice the pancake open!
Well, here comes the punch line of this experience: The store we went to was not The Outlet that was receiving likes online!
As we walked down the street after our meal, we found the “real” store just a few metres away! This store had a more elaborate storefront that literally shouts “I’m Ajinoya!” into your faces, and yet we missed the place!
To be fair (and accurate), the store we went to was also Ajinoya, just that it was not the flagship store that we saw after that. We thought it was a blessing in disguise when we also saw the long queues outside the flagship. We managed to savour the taste of Ajinoya’s yakisoba and okonomiyaki, without having to endure the crowd!
So, if there’s any value add my post can provide, it’s that it is totally safe to have your fill at the Ajinoya 2nd outlet without missing out on al the yummy goodness!
Ramen, like takoyaki, is all over Namba area in Osaka. 2 franchises stood out: Ichiran and Kinryu Ramen, as they both had multiple outlets in that same area. As our objective in Osaka was to eat takoyaki and okonomiyaki, we weren’t that particular about ramen, hence we dropped by each store when we had no idea what to eat for lunch.
Ichiran is the most renowned ramen brand in the world, I guess. From ordering of ramen via the machines, to payment, to types of ramen, Ichiran actually don’t differ much from the run-of-the-mill ramen stores in Japan, much less Osaka.
What set Ichiran aside was their cubicle-like anti-social eating counter meant for singles who are dominating the dining scene in Japan.
After payment, one would proceed to the dining area that is usually one floor above. Even then, you would have to enter a dining hall, where 2 rows of eating counter extends deep into the space. Each row would be sub-divided into personal space, via a partition that could be removed if you are not travelling alone. Otherwise, one can have peace having their ramen, slurping away as no one would be able to find out who was making that din!
The 2 rows of eating counters were supposed to face each other, except that in between those rows was where the servers were. Basically, this is like the service aisle where the servers take and deliver your orders from, except that even this aisle is covered up.
When you settle in the cubicle, the server would hand you the ordering slip from the food aperture in front of you. Once you make up your mind about what you want to eat, from toughness of ramen to saltiness of the broth, to addition of char siew and soft-boiled eggs, you pass the order slip to the server, who would then bring down the straw curtain covering the aperture, thereby leaving you totally alone and oblivious to the ongoing in the kitchen.
For me, I always liked my ramen tough, because I know that they would be soft by the time I reach the last bits. What I liked about Ichiran was that their broth was super rich, and yet it did not become jelak when you finish the whole bowl. In fact, I used to be able to finish the whole big bowl of broth, if not for the concern that my ever-ageing body could no longer handle the high salt and protein content!
Ichiran is a rather consistent brand, so whenever you feel lost at what to eat while in Japan, you can count on Ichiran. The issue in Namba was Where?
The outlet beside Achichi by the canal had long snaking queues. Granted, the queue was for 2 outlets, one that was beside Achichi, and the other for a nearby outlet that is in the same block, but facing the other street. In our queue for Achichi takoyaki, I noticed that the queue moved very slowly, which really puts one’s patience to the test.
The outlet I went was actually across the canal, just less than 5 minutes’ walk away from the Achichi corner. In fact, after crossing the bridge, one just need to cross the street and turn into one of the lanes and that Ichiran outlet is just a few stores away.
It was interesting because that particular outlet was NEVER seen with a queue! This was despite the fact that they were right in the main area of Namba (the one across the river was already considered along the fringe) and if you walk from Namba Station to shop around the district, you would come to this outlet first!
Kinryu Ramen also had multiple branches in Namba, Osaka, and they all sport a common theme: they were all by the roadside, so you can just drop by for a quick bite and go on with the shopping.
That made eating at Kinryu a rather interesting experience, since you would be watching the crowd brush past you as gobble down your ramen, while the tourists look at you eating like a monkey in the zoo.
The seating was also unique, as they had big benches with big tables, making it seemed as though you are dining at old style Japanese restaurants where you are seated on the floors. That configuration, however, made it a bit difficult to climb in and out, especially when you have to bring your own big bowl of noodles back and trying very hard not to spill your soup!
The most unique part of their ramen was that it tasted like the “Original” flavour of instant noodles. In fact, it felt as though instant noodles took their inspiration from Kinryu ramen!
The soup was light, unlike many “old” ramen stores with thick broth. There was generous serving of bean sprouts and big slabs of char siew.
Mitaseimenjo Namba, Osaka
I’m not sure if I could classify Tsukemen as ramen, or dipping soba… It’s a bit of a mix of both. It’s dipping ramen – you receive your ramen dried (and cold) and dip it into a piping hot broth (miso is standard, with variants like garlic and shoyu as common alternatives). My first experience of tsukemen in Tokyo was great, so I was keeping a look out for it while in Osaka.
It was tough to find, indeed. We took a long time to find Mitaseimenjo, which was right smack in the middle of Dotonburi, but has a very unassuming shop front.
The entire shop looked vintage, with heavy wooden furniture and counter seating. Space was cramped, so we had to carry out bags on our backs even when eating.
Like all old style counter-seating that lines up diners along the length of the open kitchen, it really depends on your luck to get a seat with a good view. For us, we were seated near the entrance where all the equipment was, but we were blessed with the view of a very hunky chef who flexed his biceps every time he tossed the noodles!
But we’re there for the noodles…
Unlike tsukemen in Singapore, there’s no option to “upsize” the noodle portion for free. However, when you’re in Osaka, you’re there to try the myriad of delicious food, so we did not miss the ability to add more noodles!
Instead, the thick, chewy noodles were paired with a bowl of umami broth that coated each strand of noodle with thick, gooey goodness! This is also where the SG-JP difference comes in.
I remember my tsukemen experience in Japan being with thick broth, so thick that the broth just sticks to the noodles! In Singapore, the broth tends to be watery, so in order to savour the taste of the broth, you either have to soak the noodles for a longer time (which defeats the purpose of separating the noodles) or to use a spoon to sip on a mouthful of broth with each mouthful of noodles.
I prefer the former.
The place gets crowded easily as there were limited seating. Even so when the tsukemen was so yummy!
Even though the tsukemen at Mitaseimenjo Namba was a pleasant surprise, the silly mistake made at Ajinoya also uncovered an unknown gem for us (imagine tasting the same, famous okonomiyaki and yakisoba without the hassle of queuing!). Pop by Okaru if you are looking for some variation in the local food!
To be continued..
This post is part of a series of travelogue on my trip to Osaka. If you enjoyed reading it, please click Like and Share the post with your friends!
I had previously blogged about our day trip to Kyoto and our hunt for pancakes around Osaka, Takoyaki and Taiyaki and of course, my Business Class experience on Cathay Pacific from Singapore to Osaka via Hong Kong. Follow Live.Life.Love to get updates on my travelogue to Osaka, Japan and get inspired for your summer vacation!
Till then, stay wanderlust and eat happy!
All photos and videos in this blog post were taken with Google Pixel XL and edited (where necessary) with Google Snapseed app.
Where to Find Them
Okonomiyaki / Yakisoba
Okaru お好み焼 おかる (Doraemon)
1 Chome-9-19 Sennichimae, Chūō-ku,
Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0074, Japan
Dotonbori Takohachi Sohonten たこ八 道頓堀総本店
1-chōme-5-10 Dōtonbori, Chūō-ku
Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0077, Japan
Ajinoya 2nd Shop 味乃家 2号店
1 Chome-7-１３ Nanba, Chūō-ku,
Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0076, Japan
Ichiran 一蘭 道頓堀店別館
1 Chome-4-１６ Dōtonbori, Chūō-ku,
Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0071, Japan
Kinryu Ramen Dotombori 金龍ラーメン 道頓堀店
1 Chome-7-２６ Dōtonbori, Chūō-ku,
Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0071, Japan
Mitaseimenjo Namba 三田製麺所 なんば店
2 Chome-11-3 Sennichimae, Chūō-ku,
Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0074, Japan