Sunday, October 1, 2017

Closing our gastro journey with a burp - Kuromon Ichiba and Dotonbori

Day 7 (Fri, 29 September 2017)

Our last day in Osaka 😢 In the morning, we took a short walk to Kuromon Ichiba Market, right by Nippombashi station.

Kuromon Ichiba Market is a fresh food and seafood paradise - a souped up version of Nishiki Market in Kyoto. Everywhere you turn, vendors are selling trays and trays of seafood that they can cook or prepare for you on the spot. If you are a seafood lover like I am, then this is probably as close to food heaven as you can get.

There are many stalls where you can sit down and eat the food you ordered, but we were headed specifically for Kuromon Sanpei.

Kuromon Sanpei is one of the larger stalls, with quite a lot of seating inside. You can pick up one of their many trays of seafood on display or you can order one of their rice bowls.

We did a combination of both. We ordered three rice bowls:

Special seafood bowl (Y1,500)
Two of today's special - featuring the catch of the day (Y3,000 each)

And a few extra items. Kenneth loves these octopus stuffed with quail's eggs. Very good value here - a pack of 3 for Y300. Other stalls sell them for at least Y200 each.

There's a guy outside the shop who grills some of the seafood for you.

I saw the lobster and couldn't resist - had to order one. Y1,500.

And of course, we had to order their specialty - otoro or fatty tuna belly sushi (Y2,300 for a pack of 4).

Just look at it! The slices of tuna are massive and completely cover the rice.

As they like to say on Japan Hour, everything was oishii.

It was a hearty brunch and we were quite full, but we gave in to the temptation to try a few more items as we walked the rest of the market.

Grilled large prawn
Sardine tempura
Grilled scallops with butter and soy sauce

Since this was our last day in Osaka, we had dedicated the afternoon to shopping at Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori. Shinsaibashi is the main shopping street in Osaka. It's said that some 60,000 people pass through it on weekdays and double that on weekends. It stretches almost 600m end to end, with stores lining both sides of the pedestrian walkway. Orchard Road is an amateur wannabe compared to Shinsaibashi.

However, most of the stores along Shinsaibashi are high end ones or commercial chain stores, eg. Forever 21, Zara, etc - nothing we were interested in. So we kind of wandered around aimlessly. The only store that caught our eye was this one:

Only the Japanese can have an entire store dedicated to Calbee. You can find a gazillion types of potato chips and snacks. There's even a sit down area where you can eat the chips you've bought!

After a not-so-fruitful trip at Shinsaibashi, we returned to our favourite street - Dotonbori.

We had already walked Dotonbori several times but I'm blogging about it all at once here. Dotonbori is a quirky, uniquely Japanese food street. Everywhere you turn, you see larger-than-life 3D installations fighting for your attention. It's almost like being in cartoon land.

Dragon ramen?
Because Spiderman loves scallops too, apparently.

But it is at night that Dotonbori roars to life. There is no subtlety here - everything is bright and loud, with a carnival vibe. The ubiquitous Glico Man leads the charge with a flashing LED background. To me, the Glico Man is vitality, illusion and nostalgia all rolled into one. That seems to sum up the dreamlike quality of Dotonbori.

Both sides along a canal, hordes of people gather to eat, meet and soak in the atmosphere.

Dancing girls advertising products in shop windows

Being in Dotonbori is a heady experience. You are bombarded by bright billboards, jingles and announcements from loudspeakers, as well as the enticing smells wafting from street vendors grilling seafood and meat. It's a sensory overload...and we love it.

One of the items Andre wanted to try in Dotonbori was takoyaki (octopus balls), as that's one of Osaka's most famous street foods. The most well-known takoyaki stall in Dotonbori has to be the Osaka Takoyaki Museum, where you can actually make your own takoyaki on the second floor. You can't miss the shop - there's a huge octopus above the awning, with moving tentacles.

No, Andre didn't make his own takoyaki. He preferred to leave it to the professionals.

Sticky, gooey and delicious.

Finally, we went for our last dinner in Osaka. (Of course we had space for dinner! What do you mean?) As mentioned in my first post of this trip, I had almost all our meals planned for each day. The reason is simple - there's simply too much good food in Osaka, and only a limited number of meals. We didn't want to waste any of them eating randomly. Also as I said in the first post, we're pigs 🐖.

This dinner was the only one that was not planned. We decided to try some yakitori as we had yet to eat that during this trip. In one of the alleys close to our hotel, we had come across this Izakaya (Japanese gastro pub) that looked interesting. It doesn't have an English name and we tried to look it up on Google but to no avail. (In case you're interested, it's directly opposite Ten-Ti-Jin ramen shop). 

We checked out the menu on a signboard outside the restaurant and decided to try it.

We ordered 9 sticks of yakitori and some small plates of food. 

Potatoes with butter, potato with cheese and karaage (fried chicken)
Fried tofu
Beef short rib, pork rib, chicken skin, chicken gizzard, asparagus

It was a noteworthy experience. We were the only foreigners in the restaurant, most of the patrons were there to drink and snack (and smoke, unfortunately). It's really the Japanese equivalent of a pub. We got to try some things for the first time. Chicken skin was a hit - light and crispy. Gizzard, less so - it had a strong taste. Kenneth and Lesley-Anne loved the tofu. The karaage was beautifully crisp and addictive.

And that marked the end of our mouth-watering culinary journey in Kyoto and Osaka. Oh, unless you count the red bean fish we bought for supper. What do you mean, how did we have room for supper? We're on holiday! 😍

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