food

Osaka Food Marathon

I went to Osaka for the long weekend and had a great time like I always do. I’ve been to this city so many times and always enjoy myself. It’s big but laid back, with plenty of touristy things to do that never feel overcrowded or unworthy of the hype. I love being able to walk around, eat, chat, and take in the sights. This weekend in particular was full of wonderful company and food. Lots and lots of food.

Day 1: Okonomiyaki in Dotonbori (Fugetsu | 風月)

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Okonomiyaki is one of the most satisfying Japanese foods and an Osaka specialty. It’s chewy and savory in all the right ways. In Dotonbori there are plenty of Okonomiyaki restaurants to choose from. At Fugetsu we ordered four types (I almost remember accurately) from bottom left clockwise – 1) pork, egg, green onion 2) seafood 3) kimchi 4) potato and mochi. All excellent, but there’s something about the spiciness and texture of kimchi in okonomiyaki that I really love. Potato and mochi is also good, it makes it a little sweeter and more chewy.

Day 2: Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream and Takoyaki (Osaka Castle)

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 I went to do hanami at Osaka castle. By “hanami” I mean I went to see if there were actually any flowers. There weren’t but I spent a sunny afternoon sitting outside and trying some of the food vendors nearby. I had some Hokkaido milk ice cream which was very thick and creamy. They served much smaller portions of this than for other ice cream which is good – any more would be too much of a good thing. I also had takoyaki, another Osaka specialty. Usually takoyaki is covered in sauce and mayonnaise but restaurants have a lot of creative toppings to try from. The flavour above is just salt, and skipping the sauces makes it taste entirely different. I really enjoyed it!

 

Kushikatsu (Shinsekai Kushiya | 新世界串や

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It was my first time having kushikatsu and I am hooked. It was also my first time really hanging out in the Shinsekai area which I now know I have to go back to. Kushikatsu is basically just skewers of battered meat and vegetables that you dip into sauce. Generally you can order as you go and try lots of different varieties. We got an all you can drink all you can eat menu (I’m going to miss this) for around 3000 yen. You have an hour and a half to order as much food and drinks as you want! But if you don’t finish the food you have to pay a fee. They also bring continuous raw cabbage that you can munch on while waiting for your next round of food to come. At the place we went we could order up to five different items at a time and they would bring one skewer of each for each person in our group. We tried octopus, lotus root, eggplant, quail egg, chicken, beef, mushrooms, and a few more I can’t remember! The mushrooms and quail egg were my favourite, but they were all good. I left feeling very, very full.

 

Day 3: Pancakes! (Eggs ‘n Things

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… more like whipped cream and things. I was pretty pumped to order pancakes with blueberries and coconut. Little did I know the portions are massive including a tower of whipped cream (aka white cream in Japanese).  I couldn’t finish all of it and got help from other people. At home I  make an effort not to eat any added sugar and this breakfast had me had me on an intense sugar high all day. I have no regrets!! Though if I ever do it again I’ll plan on sharing.

 

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Where’s the water? |Nyuzen Ramen Matsuri 2015

You might remember that I went to a ramen festival last year. I ate a lot of good ramen and I was eager to go again. I actually went both days this year because I am very, very committed to eating. This year I interviewed people about the ramen they were eating and put it all together in one article over at The TRAM.

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I tried a total of four ramen over these two days. The first day I split a Hokkaido seafood ramen and a green ramen with the friend. I had the green ramen from Takaoka last year too and I should have remembered that it was good but not mind-blowing. It’s worth trying but I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to get it. The seafood ramen was pretty good, but the broth made me a little sad. I also ate a white ramen from Oyabe which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve eaten white ramen before in Toyama, but I didn’t like it. I think the restaurant was running it as a special dish for a few months, which might explain why they didn’t nail it. The one I ate at the festival, however, was realllyy good. Satisfying, and a little spicy, it was exactly what makes ramen a comfort food.

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Takaoka Green Ramen

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Hokkaido Seafood Ramen

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Oyabe White Ramen

The second day I ate the ramen from Kanazawa which was definitely the best I had! It was meaty and oily and very, very, very unhealthy. I assume that’s why it was so delicious. The meat was almost like bacon instead of the regular chashu that’s served in ramen. It was a little spicy, too. Always a plus. Funny story, my friend asked me to get him an egg since the stall he got his ramen from had none left. When I ordered one ramen with two eggs the guy at the stall was super confused that I would want two eggs. I felt this weird awkward compulsion to explain that “it’s for my friend…ha ha”.  lol.

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After we ate, my friend and I went looking for water. But every vending machine was sold out of anything possibly thirst-quenching. So we went to the nearby convenience store and laughed when we saw that the fridges with drinks were almost completely empty. We ended up buying a large litre bottle of water to share.

All in all, it was a successful day. It’s hard not to be content (although very sleepy) after eating ramen as your day’s main activity. Whenever I go to Oyabe or Kanazawa next, I’m going to try the ramen again!

Kyoto Gogyo’s Burnt Ramen

Gogyo restaurant serves burnt ramen just off of the Nishiki market in Kyoto. I don’t usually put the word “burnt” in front of food and expect positive results. I was a little skeptical the first time I went, but I thought hey, “I’m sure everyone eats it, I might as well try!” Actually as it turns out, no one eats burnt ramen and all my co-workers gave me dubious looks when I told them about it. So this restaurant is a little experimental, but for good reason because this ramen is amazing!

I liked it so much I’ve gone back every time I’m in Kyoto. The broth is cooked to 300 degrees which gives it an earthy smokey taste. I’ve had both the Soy (Shoyu) and Miso Ramen. The Soy Ramen broth was a little clearer and more salty and the Miso brother more dense and smokey. Both are pretty oily and the portions are big so it’s best to go when you’re really hungry and you have a leisurely evening planned.

The restaurant itself is gorgeous, with dark wooden furniture and a dimly lit atmosphere that feels both elegant and cozy.

Shoyu Ramen

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Miso Ramen

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Price Range: 900-1200 Yen per bowl

Monday to Friday – Lunch: 11:30-3 |  Dinner: 5:00-11:00

Saturday and Sunday – Lunch: 11:30-4 |  Dinner: 5:00-11:00

The restaurant has now opened locations in Tokyo and Nagoya! Check out all their information and menus on their website!

Location near the Nishiki Market in Kyoto.

Amen for Ramen! Nyuzen Ramen Matsuri 2014

Yesterday I took the train to the town of Nyuzen, in the East of Toyama Prefecture for “The 14th Nyuzen Ramen Matsuri 2014”. It was the perfect day for a food festival, with the already not-so-cold winter feeling like it was coming to a definite close. The main street was lined with Ramen vendors from different areas of Japan (although many were from Toyama prefecture) averaging around 800 Yen a bowl. Ramen sounds pretty straightforward in theory, but this festival was evidence enough just how much variation is possible. My first was a miso ramen from Ishikawa, and it was super oily and a little spicy- amazing! My second was a Soy Ramen from Hokkaido which was a little lighter and more sweet.

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Miso Ramen from Ishikawa Prefecture – Smokey and Oily, my favourite one!

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Sea Urchin Ramen from Toyama

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Spinach Ramen – perhaps the “healthiest” of all the options!

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Soy Ramen from Hokkaido! Clear and a little sweet.

I managed just over one and a half bowls all together (with plenty of taste-tests from my friend’s picks), which left me in a slight food coma for the rest of the day. It was a great way to spend an afternoon, you really can’t go wrong with good food, weather, and company. They also happened to play pretty great music, including some Barry White which was an excellent soundtrack for noodle slurping. We also ran into the official Nyuzen mascot- a giant watermelon! Or, watermelon King to be precise.

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Cat Cafe in Kyoto (Wan Nyan Chu)

While wandering through the streets of Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward  we came across the  “Wan Nyan Chu” Cat Cafe. Although I am a self-professed dog-person, I couldn’t pass up the chance to spend time with some cuddly friends. 

Cat Cafe in Kyoto, Japan.

Cat Cafe in Kyoto, Japan.

Cat Cafes are quite popular in Japan, and for a fee visitors can spend time with these furry felines and are served drinks. 1000 yen bought us a cold drink (I believe mine was peach juice?) and half an hour of play time.  From this visit, I would consider the term “Cat Cafe” to be a bit of a misnomer. I had envisioned myself seated at a table, with cats purring next to me and cuddling between my leisurely sips of coffee. In actuality, this Cat Cafe felt more like play time with the drinks (although enjoyable) being largely insignificant. 

 

The “Cat” area of the cafe was a comfy room with rugs, benches, climbing trees and dozens of toys. Cats roamed around, slept in nooks and in typical cat fashion seemed relatively unimpressed by the strangers in the room. On the day that we came, a new kitten was being introduced to the group, eliciting great curiosity (and perhaps wariness) from the others. 

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I felt a great sense of comfort from my brief hangout at the Cat Cafe, I hadn’t realized how much I miss having a pet. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of cats, I definitely recommend a visit to a Cat Cafe, if only for the unique experience and some heart-warming cuddles. 

 

Incidentally enough, cats were a prominent theme during my first day in Kyoto:

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Lucky Cats

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A wild cat at Fushimin Inari

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And, of course.. Cat donuts (Fun fact: the ears are made of almonds)

Cafe Information

Cafe Website: http://balu.jp/list.html