In all my buffet-eating experiences – on cruise ships, in RSL clubs, school camps and the like, I’ve always found that they tend to lure you in with the spectacle of plenty – plates of fruits, desserts, carved roasts and breakfast pastries that seem to stretch endlessly and attractively on – but kind of end up quite ordinary to actually eat. How could it not be, when you’re making things in such bulk?
The Intercontinental Osaka’s NOKA Roast and Grill takes your buffet and raises you restaurant quality food, and authentic Western cuisine with the attention to detail that is quite Japanese in nature. The hotel is located right within the Umeda and Osaka station precinct, within the Grand Front Osaka shopping complex. It’s a very convenient place to finish a day of shopping at the huge and distinctive shopping complexes in Osaka that boast basically everything under the sun you could wish to buy – Grand Front Osaka, Lucua, Hankyu Umeda, Grand Front Osaka and HEP Five are only some of my recommendations. It’s also a mere 5 – 10min walk from the famous and futuristic Umeda Sky Building which will give you panoramic views of the city. The view from the restaurant, located on one of the top floors of the tower, is pretty impressive too.
The atmosphere inside Noka is dark, sleek and sophisticated, with rich red accents and an open kitchen concept, which means you can watch the chefs at work and where you know the mains are made fresh to order. The buffet costs 6000yen per person, and includes one main to pick from the menu via waiter and free access to the salad, snack and dessert bar are freely open for all to choose.
The most crucial buffet tip is to never overload on one thing – get tiny amounts of each dish to try first and you can always go back for more. Usually at buffets, I end up finding one or two standout dishes and tend to just stick to those. Not so with Noka, which boasted an impressive variety of food on offer at the buffet tables, especially the salads which, in larger quantities, could be legitimate mains themselves: smoked duck breast with watercress and hazelnuts, squid and mussel with celery, tomato and salsa verde, portobello salad with bacon and broccoli and lentil tabouleh. As you might expect, everything is beautifully and thoughtfully presented – I especially appreciated the little cards identifying each dish which also includes details like whether they’re gluten-free or suitable for vegetarians.
I was seriously almost full despite only taking a spoonful of each dish — and that was just the salads! There was also the usual buffet selections of cold cut meats, cheeses, fresh vegetables and savoury tarts, to name a few – along with a pretty stunning dessert selection. Feel free to skip lunch so you can fit it all in – actually, I very much recommend it!
‘Melt in your mouth’ is truly the perfect descriptor for my main, the braised beef cheek with grain mustard gravy. The beef was so tender that it literally just fell apart into the gravy, full of strong beef umami, rich flavour and the perfect distribution of fat.
The caramel pudding was a definite highlight from the dessert selection – it wasn’t too sweet and had a pleasant weight to the pudding with that satisfying hint of burnt caramel bitterness to give the sweetness a bit more depth. I also quite enjoyed the hazelnut opera, but I sense perhaps the best desserts are saved for the Intercontinental Osaka’s popular dessert buffet that happens during the day – definitely something to look into for your resident sweet tooth traveller.
NOKA Roast & Grill is a little spot of western food authenticity hidden away in Osaka’s glitzy shopping districts, and a place to seek out if you’re looking for a genuinely good buffet experience in Osaka because, hey, if you’re going to go all out, it’s worth making sure the food is top notch, right?
Intercontinental Osaka: NOKA Roast & Grill
20th floor of GRAND FRONT OSAKA North Building
3-60 Ofuka-cho, Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan
Phone: +81 (0)6 6374 5700
Web: NOKA Roast & Grill
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Intercontinental Osaka.