Osaka may be the land of street food, but we also had a couple of non-street eat meals here, with varying degrees of success.
Every trip needs at least one Anthony Bourdain recommendation; this time it was Koyoshi Sushi, a tiny little sushi bar run by a sweet little old couple.
We were a bit apprehensive, because they don't speak English, but armed with both a physical phrasebook and a few loaded onto my smartphone, and a perfunctory knowledge of sushi names, we actually managed to get by.
This was definitely one of our more memorable meals of the trip. The space was absolutely tiny - slide the door open and the seats are literally right in front of you. The sushi here isn't fancy and delicate either. They're big, hearty portions with thick, generous slabs of fish.
We ordered omakase, and left ourselves in chef's good hands. The quality was really good - very fresh and tasty, and some items just lightly seasoned to bring out their flavour. In particular, the bonito with thin slivers of garlic was a burst of flavour, and the otoro was possibly the best I've ever had.
Despite being somewhat lost in translation, we had a really enjoyable experience. They were very amused by our attempts to speak Japanese, and somehow, we managed to communicate on a very basic level.
Osaka is also known for kappo cuisine, where the chef prepares the food in front of you, open kitchen style. Chef Ueno, from Kigawa, is known as the father of kappo cuisine, and we read some good reviews of his place, so we thought we'd give it a try.
Suffice to say that it was a bit of a letdown. The kappo experience is somewhat lost if you can't really banter with the chef. And while I appreciate their efforts to provide us with written translations of our food, I think they viewed us more as tourist inconveniences. Maybe they're right, to some extent. While some of the dishes were good, I honestly couldn't appreciate some of the offerings, like the very strongly flavoured nori served with the porridge at the end, or the heavy hand with the mitsuba that tasted disconcertingly like cilantro.
Maybe fancy Japanese just isn't for us. Our palates aren't quite refined enough for the onslaught of different flavours that are part of the whole seasonal dining experience.
Koyoshi was hard to find but a thoroughly enjoyable experience in a tiny mom-and-pop-style sushi joint. Plus, great value. I'd rather come here than the more commercial places.
Kigawa was good, but I think we were fine-dined out after Kyoto and weren't really blown away.
Overall, in Osaka, I'd stick to the Dotonburi street food for great value. Oh, and the Hanshin Department Store Food Hall. RAWK. Easily rivals any you would find in Tokyo.