Friday, August 8, 2014

Two Days in Osaka

We awaken, rather late, past 8AM, and, of course, we look for breakfast.  We utilize the lounge on the Granvia floor, with free coffee, cookies, etc.  I plan to use the computers and printers to get our boarding passes the next day.  I track our suitcases from Tokyo to Haneda, and find that they found their way to their intended destination at the proper time.  What a relief, given the huge hurdles I had at the Yamato Kuroneko station in Tokyo.  That had been gnawing at me for almost a week.

Now, my stomach was gnawing at me, and after some meandering about Osaka / Umeda Stations, we decide to go to one of the ubiquitous, inexpensive Japanese breakfast places.  We get some simple, but filling breakfasts to start the day.

Afterwards, we get over to the Hankyu Depato, and peruse their basement food floors.  They really have a nice one (and later in the next two days, we find nice ones at Hanshin (a bit more low end) and Daimaru (also a bit more low end than the Daimaru at Tokyo Station). The girls, I admit, are a bit underwhelmed so far with Osaka, but it really is quite crowded and there are four big department stores adjacent to the stations (the Isetan-Mitsukoshi appears to be closed due to renovation), and there really are more shopping venues than right at Tokyo Station.  I believe that if they saw Osaka Station first, that Tokyo Station would be underwhelming.

Connie really wants ramen for lunch, so I search and find that there is an Ippudo nearby.  Ippudo is real traditional Hakata (Fukuoka) style ramen, with real Tonkotsu broth, and thin chewy noodles. There are branches all over the world.  In the US, only in NYC.  This place was down to earth, unlike the place in NYC.  They give a choice of hardness of the noodles, which is nice, because with thin noodles, it is easy for the ideal al dente, chewy noodles to become quite limp. While waiting in line outside in the light rain, I ordered the hard, Connie the regular, and Sam hard.  Em didn't want ramen and went to 7 Eleven and Don Quixote. Who would order soft noodles, really?

Anyway, we're seated really quickly (amazing for a Saturday right at noon), and soon, this burly guy comes over with a bowl, and says, a mile a minute, what this bowl is.  I ask, in very simple terms, if this is the hardest, and he blurts out the exact same thing, only this time, two miles a minute. Again, I ask him to slow down his speech for my small brain, but I think he had a thing against gaijin.  So, rather than continue this banter, I just say, leave it here.  We have trouble figuring out which one is the softest; they are all pretty firm.

The thin noodles absorb the nice pork flavor and stay firm through about the 1st half of the bowl.  The broth was not as thick as I have had before, but still had a lot of flavor.  They had fresh garlic cloves on the table, but I failed to see the garlic press, and I just made a slight effort to crush with my spoon.  In essence, I ate whole fresh cloves of garlic.  The rest of the family avoided me the rest of the trip, but I enjoyed my meal. Here's the front, with some customers in line.

We spent the balance of the afternoon shopping.  The others had leg and feet fatigue from two weeks of virtual non-stop action, so we took a late afternoon break before we ended up going to Kani Doraku, a tourist trap in Dotombori, an action filled place in Namba, the other crowded area in Osaka. I say tourist trap, but it is said to have quite good crab, which is all it serves. It was raining a bit harder, and the four of us crowded under the ¥570 umbrella I purchased earlier that day.  The walk from Namba station (three stops from Umeda Station, which is basically the same station as Osaka Station, just that it is the subway portion, where Osaka Station is the JR station) was less than a couple of blocks. I immediately spy the big crab on the building, and we approach.  We are greeted immediately and shuttled to our 4th floor table.  We had no reservations, but I heard that the place was huge, and seldom was there a wait (but when we were done with our ~ 1.5 hour dinner, at about 7 PM, there was a substantial line).  This place worked just like the crab restaurant we went to in Sapporo two years ago (Kani Honke). The four of us ordered three dishes.  A large Kani Shabu dinner, a large Kani Suki dinner, and a whole Kegani (Hairy Crab).  I figured that would be enough, since we also ordered two orders of the Zousui (okayu in Japanese, jook in Chinese) to end.  We were stuffed after.

Here's our Hairy Crab with Crab butter. Boiled and chilled.  Really, very nice, but Dungeness, I think, is just as good. Firm flesh. Not as sweet as dungeness. Easy to remove from the shell, with the way it is presented.  The Crab butter is the best I've had, way better than plain dungeness. However, we're spoiled to live on the west coast of California; Dungeness takes no back seat to this crab.

Here is the Kani Shabu, with the king crab pieces and veggies.

We're asked to cook the veggies first.  There is a little piece of dried plain mochi, which is ingenious.  Em eats the whole thing.  We gotta remember this.

The Kani Suki (nabe), which is basically cooked in the same broth, making that broth really rich. We cook the crab, which basically takes about a minute or so.


After we're done with our crab, we're pretty full.  But then we had ordered two portions of the zousui.  I knew, going in, that we shouldn't order four full portions, and our waitress understood!   She placed the cooked rice into the broth, and began scooping out the foam and tended this nabe with great care.

We're getting the tsukemono (including a nice eggplant).

She puts the egg slurry into the broth, and adds green onion.

The finished product was superb!  A little nori for a garnish.

Later that night, we go to a dessert place in Lucua, a shopping center adjacent to the station.  Our favorite, shave ice.

These are huge!  We cannot finish them.  They're quite good, but I am partial to the ones in tokyo station. Something got over Em.

So, the next AM, our last day in Osaka, we head out in search of breakfast!  Here's what we end up with.  We found an "ok" France pan, not as good as Hokkaido France pan.  

White an taiyaki like dessert.

Anago sushi for the Shinkansen to Tokyo.

Spaghetti and omuraisu. Not too good according to Connie, but Sam ate it all up.

Once we get to Haneda after one transfer at Shinagawa station, we get pick up our takyubin-ed luggage, get it straightened away, mail back our pocket wifi, and we get ramen again.  This place has Tonkotsu ramen with nice noodles, not quite on a par with Ippudo. It's called Setagaya, named after the district that Haneda is located in.

They have tsukemen too, but again, this is airport food.  It beats any US airport food, I think, but...

Anyway, we go through a super short security line and we relax at the gate, and explore, and find, rats, a Rokurinsha!!!  It was beyond security!!!  No wonder we couldn't find it two weeks ago!!!  And we were full!!!  Next trip!!!  Sayonara, Japan, for 2014.

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