09 November 2010
Japanese Street Food Tour Day 2.3 ~ Izakaya Heaven
After a day lost deep in the 'burbs of Osaka we have our first izakaya experience.
Completely lost in the 'burbs of Osaka. Osaka is dead flat, great for walking or cycling, but finding landmarks for navigation is near impossible. We could have brought the GPS but what's the fun in that? Fortunately there's train stations everywhere and we could always find our way home.
A fine and friendly hound... daschunds were the breed of the month. It was surprising this one wasn't wearing a little outfit.
Making takoyaki (octopus ball) mixture by the bucket with a paint mixer in Osaka Castle Park. A box full of empty cartons of low fat milk proves that takoyaki MUST be healthy (if you ignore the oil slick!)
Random standup bar. Don't let the flags deter you, if you see a spot at the counter march on in.
Puffer fish restaurants were everywhere but many had fish doing underwater backstroke, sidestroke and upsidedown stroke. Not very encouraging.
Dinner time! This izakya bar looks friendly and its just a short stagger from our hostel, J-Hoppers in Fukushima. We thought we'd start here with a beer, just one...
The staff and customers here were so incredibly friendly. They were gobsmacked to see a pair of Westerners in their bar, even though there's a backpacker hostel just a few doors down. We get the impression that most of the backpackers bypass this place on their way to McDonalds around the corner. During the rest of our stay in the area the girl above would cat leap out of the bar, and shout "hello hello hello" and laugh and wave madly whenever she saw us. You don't have to go far off the beaten track to find friendly folks here!
The three staff could make an incredible array of dishes in this tiny kitchen. They worked eleven hours a day, six days a week, they worked hard and smiled and laughed the whole time. We were so pleased to see the bar closed on Sunday, at least they got one day off.
The whole concept of an izakaya bar is wonderful. Sit down, relax, a have a beer or three, order small portions of food when you fancy, take your time, it's like Japanese tappas, this is living... The izakaya concept is catching on in Sydney, with joints such as the wonderful Wagaya, but it's never quite the same. Here the bars are very small, room for about twenty people on average, and the atmosphere is casual, friendly and intimate.
There's wasn't much English spoken here so it was order by pointing. There's a few prepared dishes on the counter, we take a punt on the brown lumpy one which turns out to be wonderful.
It's a simple, homely meat stew, just a couple of bucks for a wee bowl. It's a staple of most bars in Osaka, each one with their own style.
Grilled Samma fish. Dressed with salt and popped under a broiler for a good 10 mins then ready to chow down on.
Grilled fish undressed. A small fish but each mouthful tasted different, a very interesting fellow. Served with grated radish and lime. Later we saw another punter with this dish pour soy on the radish and a bit on the fish before eating.
Schochu, a clear rice spirit, with lime and soda. Very popular and very refreshing. Heartily recommended by a number of other bar regulars who had been tasting them all evening.
Tofu in broth, with a dollop of mossy seaweed on top.
We always love tofu the it was the mossy seaweed that was mind blowingly tasty.
This place has a lovely style.
Our next dish is underway. Iron chef sears a hunk of tuna over a naked flame, then plunges it in the bowl of ice next to him to stop it cooking through. The result is a wonderful piece of fatty tuna, raw in the middle and seared on the outside, just the way I like it.
Iron chef plates the tuna with shallots and lemon. It's under there somewhere.
The dude next to us advises us to take a morsel of fresh garlic with each bite. Magic.
Tempura squid. The locals were amazed that we liked squid.
The staff put so much care and attention into the food and presentation, it was amazing to watch them work. Even a simple blob of mayonnaise is served with an artful touch.
Fresh pickled cucumber served with bonito flakes. We ordered this after seeing the bloke next to us eating it. He was so concerned that we may not like it that he insisted we sample his dish before we order our own. Little did he know that Miss Chicken is a pickle junky.
An amazing beef soup\stew, kind of like shabu shabu, with a raw egg to dip your goodies into. The sauce was quite sweet so when the beef was dipped in the egg it tasted like cake batter, strange but yum.
After we had eaten all the goodies in the stew, Iron Chef took our dish away, heated up the remaining liquid on a hotplate then added udon noodles.
So simple, so good. A great stodge filler to finish the feast with.
We stagger out of the bar only about $50 down after a few beers each and all that wonderful food. Once again we must stress how amazingly friendly this place was and how much care and attention went into the food. Miss Chicken and I want to marry Japan.