Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A night in Osaka

After returning from an amazing Tokyo trip with the BrandWorks team, I spent a week at home recharging, before jumping back on another flight back out to Japan for a personal trip. Call me crazy, but hey, who can get enough of Japan really? 

This time my destination was Osaka, and having regained my bearings (and some of the language I learnt in high school) in a slightly more familiar Japanese city, I was keen to see what Osaka had to offer me, as this would be my first time visiting. 

After my first flight getting into Hong Kong a little late, and therefore getting put onto a later connecting flight to Osaka, I got in a little later than I expected so didn’t get as much sight seeing time I was hoping for on my first night, as I was meeting up with friends the next day. 

But first thing’s first, one must go to the Family Mart and get hot green tea and a green tea ice-cream sandwich. Yes. Yes. Yes. 

It’s relatively easy getting from the airport into the city, with a choice of a bus or train, just make sure you speak to the ticketing office to get the right train and check with your hotel which train station you should be getting off at or changing at!

I eventually settled myself into the Daiwa Roynet Hotel in Kitahama; which is a great little hotel, which seems to be used as a hotel for businessmen and corporates. I was surprised at how affordable it was, and it was clean, quick and easy, right next to one train line, and about a 10 minute walk from another. Would definitely use again for a quick trip!

After making my obligatory pilgrimage to the Pokemon Centre in Daimaru in the heart of town, it was time to explore and obtain some sustenance! 

I loved Osaka at night, filled with lights, a happy buzz and delicious smells in the air. It felt different to Tokyo, with everything clustered together even more tightly, and a little more of a street vibe going on. I loved the little streets that stuck out from the main thoroughfares, with plenty of hidden gems. 

On Paul’s recommendation, I made my way to Jidorisemmontakatori Namasennichimaeten (phew, what a mouthful!) for Yakitori, which literally translates to ‘grilled bird’, which is one of the many types of food that Osaka is renown for. 

Jidori Takatori (is what I will shorten it to), was a charming space, not too busy when I rolled along, with a  mix of tourists, couples and local businessmen making merry with beer and skewers over low tables and stools. 

I got myself a seat right up next to the kitchen, in front of the charcoal grill itself, where one man managed and timed everything on his grill to cook it to perfection, turning it this way and that to get just the right char. It was a great little bit of theatre, with a burst of flame every now and again, and was most definitely left me salivating as I waited for my food to come out. 

At Jidori Takatori, they proudly serve a high quality free range jidori chicken, called Kyojidori. There’s an explanation in their menu (they do have an English menu, just ask for it!) as to why it’s so good, but I was a little sleep deprived and forgot to take notes. Ahem.

So with beer in hand, and a little starter to whet the palate, I was ready for some chicken time!

I’m all about the offal, and my skewer choices reflected that. Kokoro (chicken heart), Sunazuri (chicken gizzards) and Kimo (chicken livers) were my skewer choices, and I was absolutely thrilled. The heart was meaty, beautifully seasoned and tender, if you’re tip toeing your way into offal appreciation, this would be one of my early recommendations to turn you into a seasoned offal eater. If you didn’t know it was heart, you probably wouldn’t question it. Really.

The gizzards were quite like the heart, but with a little more crunch and my favourites, the chicken livers were sensational. Although I’ve had other liver before, I think this might have been my first time with chicken liver, and I was surprised at almost how rare it was cooked, impossibly soft and velvety in texture with a richness on the palate. Not for the faint of heart, but for you adventurous eaters out there? Go for it. 

I also ordered a serve of their Amakara Tebakara, one of their recommended dishes, deep-fried, sweet and spicy chicken wings…and there’s definitely good reason that they’re popular! Just enough sweet and sticky, and plenty of spices, I loved the toasted sesame on top, and although it didn’t look super crisp, the skin was quite crunchy and decadently moreish. I wished I had visited with other people so I could have had more! 

Satiated and full, I left Jidori Takatori to wander down Dotonbori, the famous shopping street which is like a theme park at night, filled with people, flash lights and huge animal sculptures that guarded restaurant doors, showcasing specialities. Osaka definitely knew they had some good things going on, food-wise, and it was clear what you should be eating just looking around, from great big crab legs to fugu, to the simple street food like okonomiyaki and takoyaki. 

I loved watching the takoyaki shops at work, turning over hundreds of squid balls in amazing amounts of time, and served in so many more ways than I’ve seen in Tokyo! I regret not just getting one sandwiched between senbei (rice crackers), as I was far too full for my box of Takoyaki that I bravely tried to work through. 

Osaka simply glowed with energy, and although I had given myself a curfew of around 8:30 or 9pm, as I didn’t have much sleep coming in and was quite tired when I originally landed, there’s something about the lights and the people and the buzz that had me looking at just one more shop, or just walking down a little further to see what else there was. I didn’t end up in bed until about 10:30, quite past my expected bedtime! 

But I would need that sleep, as the next day I was meeting my friends to travel up to Koya-san… 

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