The City of Love. The Big Apple. The Eternal City. Fashion Capital of the World.
The world’s most iconic cities are identifiable just as much by their nicknames as they are by their landscapes. And there’s good reason for this. A city’s nickname captures its cultural essence. For travellers, it signposts exactly how they should remember that place.
For Osaka, Japan, its nickname “the nation’s kitchen” is one with historical roots. As Japan’s central economic hub for the rice trade during the Edo period (between the early 17th century to the mid-19th century), the idea of Osaka as Japan’s “kitchen” was an appropriate metaphor.
Nowadays, Osaka’s nickname is all the more relevant, with food placed at the cultural epicentre of Osaka’s lively, bustling lifestyle.
Osaka Sushi and Yakitori are easily recognised iconic Japanese dishes.
But while Osaka may seem worlds away from your local town, the iconic status of their dishes means it’s likely you can still experience them in your city. The issue that arises is trying to find an authentic place that keeps these dishes true to their Osakan roots.
We attended the launch of Osaka Bar in Potts Point, a new eatery with the goal of bringing a little piece of Osaka to the people of Sydney through the best way possible: their stomachs.
Image credit: Osaka Bar
Owner and Head Chef Kazu’s (pictured above) new casual dining eatery is a culinary reflection on his hometown of Osaka, which he misses very much. Naturally, Chef Kazu says Osaka Bar has emerged as an avenue for him to bring a piece of Osaka here to Sydney with him. Three particularly delicious ways he is doing this is through the three iconic Osakan street food dishes that any visitor to Osaka MUST try: Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki and Kushikatsu.
Chef Kazu was more than happy to share a few recommendations for finding and experiencing the authentic, mouth-watering, something-to-tell-all-your-friends-and-family-about Osakan soul food.
Debatably the most famous of Osakan soul foods, Takoyaki is also known as grilled octopus balls. The dish is cooked in an iron spherical mould using a thin pancake-like batter which encases the chopped octopus tentacles, shallots, deep-fried dough and pickled ginger.
Watching Chef Kazu cook the Takoyaki using the hot moulds and chopsticks is a delightful treat in itself, as the initially messy batter slowly begins to take its shape as a perfectly rounded ball.
Chef Kazu’s Takoyaki is filled with different textures. One bite will be a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth experience, while the next will feature the chunky octopus pieces that lie at the heart of the dish. It’s near impossible to think of Osaka soul food without thinking of Takoyaki!
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake that historically was used as a stomach-filler, but has since earned its place as a delicious meal in its own right. Okonomi is translated to “as you like” and this is precisely the attitude that chefs adopt when making this diverse dish.
Chef Kazu says okonomiyaki in Osaka is given a distinct quality and flavour through the use of fresh Japanese yam – an ingredient not so easily obtained here in Australia. Luckily, the nature of the dish welcomes improvisation, and Chef Kazu strives to create the most authentic okonomiyaki that he can with the ingredients available to him.
In addition to standard Okonomiyaki ingredients like eggs and cabbage and condiments like Otafuku okonomi sauce and dried seaweed flakes, Osaka Bar’s winning ingredient for making its tasty Okonomiyaki is sliced pork belly, which Chef Kazu cannot recommend enough.
Not to be confused with Kushiage, which features a number of different ingredients, Kushikatsu is a popular Osakan street food featuring a single deliciously deep-fried ingredient on a skewer. Unlike other deep-fried foods that are coated with dry flour, Osaka’s Kushikatsu is dipped into an already made flour and taro batter before being covered in bread crumbs right before going into the fryer.
Image credit: Osaka Bar
Kushikatsu is then blanketed with a Worcestershire style sauce, but Chef Kazu notes that it is customary for diners in Osaka to only dip their skewers in the sauce once because dipping bowls in restaurants are shared amongst the table. So you’d better make your dip a good one!
Chef Kazu’s absolute favourite for Kushikatsu is pork loin, which is a magnificent combination with the deep-fried batter. For any vegetarians out there – or for those who would like to ease the guilt of eating an undeniably indulgent dish – Chef Kazu’s favourite vegetable for Kushikatsu is zucchini, which also tastes amazing. But to be perfectly honest, to me almost anything deep-fried sounds tempting, and Chef Kazu’s deep-frying skills are completely on point. The amount of crunch on Osaka Bar’s Kushikatsu is to-die-for.
For those who can’t get themselves to Osaka any time soon, but who are craving an Osaka soul food fix, Chef Kazu’s new eatery has you sorted.
Shop 15 Lankelly Place, 24-30 Springfield Avenue, Potts Point NSW
Phone: (02) 8970 1143
I Ate My Way Through attended the media launch as guests of Osaka Bar