Thursday, April 23, 2009

Revival of the Bistro's

Ten years ago when I landed in Japan,French restaurants filled up every nook and corner of Osaka.But within a few months nearly every of these bistro's,restaurants were in hot water. Centuries of snobbish waiters, stubborn chef nearly lost their jobs or swallowed their pride and participated in welcoming of the new king Italian cuisine.

For years the french cuisine in Japan,graduated from the original to something which was so Japanese french fusion.Prices were exorbitant,places to stiff to sit down and really enjoy the meal and atmosphere and when the meal did arrive you could not decipher one sauce from the other.In short there was too much and too little of it on the plate. So in the typical monkey see monkey do tradition followed by the media controlled young population of Japan, they gave the boot to the French and opened the doors to fresh breathe of Italian cuisine. Understandable,simple and the key word Healthy olive oil based dishes were welcomed.Within a year most of the french were closing the doors or converting to Italian cuisine.

But after ten years of learning most aspiring Japanese hard headed chef finally understood the trick and hallelujah the bistro's are back.Simple stark decor,simple classic reciepe's of roast chicken or duck breast,well seasoned pork rillette,skate wing meuniere with capers,yummy boudin noir all at affordable prices. There are a few new places in Osaka that now you can head too for a heavenly french meal.

La Tortuga though named in Spanish is my first recommendation lunch is highly recommended as he serves the same meals for two in the night.Prices 3500¥for lunch choice of one appetizer from a selection of 5, one main course from five, dessert or cheese and opps I forgot the daily soup and coffee are included.Dinner time prices range from¥3500-6000¥per person.
Reservations are necessary.
Located in Kitahama Tel:0647067524

La Cocotte this place has stood tall during the time of duress now nearly 25 years old the place serves great classics from Escargot to L'agneau persille.Lunch is classic french bistro pan roasted pork with potato puree and vegetables to grilled black snapper witn beurre blanc sauce.
¥850~¥1500 for lunches night starts from ¥2000~¥3500 per person
Located in Minami senba behind the namba jinja.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Summer in the city

Summer in Japan means booming business for the curry restaurants.Some how Japanese associate curry with summer and as the heat hits the city everybody is starts out for the nearest curry joint.On television curry commercials replace the cream stew ones.
So how many Indians take to spoil a curry?Perhaps a hundred living in the Osaka city.I have visited,eaten and cursed a lot of Indian restaurants in the Osaka region.Every curry you order tastes the same as the base sauce/gravy they use is the same just they add a bit of this and that change the name and voila you have a hundred curries to choose from and which taste all the same.Recently however a lot of Japanese owned curry joints have sprung up and to tell you the truth their curry taste better and closer to home then all of the Indian restaurants in Osaka,which are run by Indians and a hand full of Nepali's.Why?As tradition goes the Japanese have always taken a product studied it carefully and wiped off the unnecessary things and come out with a good quality finished product.Here similarly they follow the recipe to the dot and using fresh ingredients they make a hell of a curry.
One such restaurant sprung up in fukushima,hidden in the back gully's of ABC broadcasting corporation.After many back packing trips to India the Mr.&Mrs Katakura decided to open their own shop.In a bustling area of fukushima ,Chowk was born.Chowk has a twist to it.Its one of the very few restaurants which serves great south Indian thali,which consist of one vegetable of the day,lentil curry(dal),Sambhar(south Indian speciality of lentil vegetables with special spices),Raita (cucumber and yoghurt salad),pickles and a choice between Japanese or jasmine rice.All for 850¥.
The carnivores are not forgotten.There is a meat set which consists of meat curry of the day and rice for 750.I had some great chicken curry with a hint of tamarind and the next was a mutton curry cooked perfectly with the meat melting in your mouth.Better still order the above vegetarian set and add the meat curry for an additional ¥300.There are also a lot of side dishes to choose from Samosa(vegetable sambusek),raita,biryani etc.
The secret to why I keep going back to Chowk lies in Mr.Katakura's dedication to the curries he cooks with freshly ground spices,slow cooked curries and Everyday the curries change.So with just a couple of curries he can concentrate hard in perfecting all his recipe's.Sometimes the Japanese in him comes out and the curries may taste a bit mellow then the punch of spices may be missing but its best to point it out to him.
And for the finishing touch there chai to end the meal a big burp Indian style(tradition demands it, no burp the meal was not good,haha)
Chowk operates everyday from 11.00 -20.30
2-4-17 Fukushima,Fukushima ku,Osaka City.
Home page:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hungover Sunday afternoons at Ata-go & Seyhan

Six years ago I swore never to walk into any of the fast food chains from McDonald's to Subway,but that did not diminish my cravings for a burger or a kebab on Sundays.Its the day when I wake up with a hangover from the Saturday binge and really need these meaty,heavy meals with another beer or Coca cola with lots of ice.Bet you know the feeling too and for me just any joint wouldn't do it. The food had to be good and done with care. Today I will introduce to you one of the best places I have settled down for after some horrendous experiences.
Ata-go Sasebo burger plus cafe
The concept of Sasebo was born south of Japan,close to Hiroshima where all the US army bases are.With loads of soldiers posted dying for a good American style burger.Sasebo burger comes in a big bun (bigger then Big mac)with a choice of 150-200 gram patty and stuffed with all the goodies a fried egg,crispy lettuce,fresh tomatoes,bacon,ketchup and mayonnaise.There are different franchises owned by individual owners who put their own touch to the burger.

I met Takeshi owner of Ata-go three years ago.During that time he used to run ata-go in Minami horie in a place which used to convert into a disco in the night.With this part time business becoming popular he decided to go big and opened up shop in the Namba walks shopping arcade.Originally a jewellery designer he modelled his shop in an American Navajo style joint where he sells Six kinds of burgers and a big list of side dishes from buffalo wing ,Blt,etc.

My favourite after trying all is the Ata-go burger with 200gram beef patty loaded with bacon,lettuce,fried egg,tomatoes.All of this comes to in a plastic bag to catch all the juices that fall of and get your fingers messy.

The menu is all in Japanese but order the Ata -go burger,its the biggest 950¥guaranteed to fill you up.Or add 300 for fries or soft drink set or 450 ¥for a beer.Corona or any bottled beer is 500¥.Choice between chicken or burger patty.Burgers range from 800¥to ¥950

Ata-go is located at the end (south side) of namba city walk food court,just below the tracks.

With a few hundred Turkish people calling Osaka home no wonder there are so many Turkish restaurant popping up everywhere.But there is not a single joint which sells a great kebab every single kebab is smothered with the horrible instant cocktail sauce and filled more with cabbage then with meat.In Europe I always walked down after the pubs closed to the kebab joint where you could choose from at least three varieties of kebabs.Stuffed with onion and parsley salad,sliced tomatoes great tasting meat and Tzaziki(yoghurt mint sauce)it was a meal in itself,a perfect sandwich.So after trying out quite a lot of places in osaka I have settled in for Seyhan.Seyhan is a professional Turkish chef who used to work for a Turkish restaurant that closed down.He opened up his small joint right in front of the the Osaka prefecture gymnasium.

Seyhan serves a wide rage of dishes starting from 600¥-¥1000 yen.

He too smothers his kebabs with cocktail sauce but if you insist and ask him he will make you a great kebab with onions,tomatoes and yogurt sauce.Also try the Durum kebab,beef onions and tomatoes wrapped with homemade pita ¥950.Iskender kebab is another one of my favourites,cubes pita sauteed in butter,topper with sliced beef yogurt and tomato sauce ¥900.

Seyhan is open everyday from 11:00am-10pm


Osaka-shi,Naniwa-ku Nambanaka 1-14-12

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Good old bottle-Boccio

'Boccio' means bottle in the Piedmont dialect in Italy. This is the place where the rude shock of Naples mellows to the north European sophistication.So does the food.North of the border lies Switzerland and to the west lies France with Genoa nestling in between.This region is very fertile and accounts for most of the rice and other produce of Italy's best.No wonder Ferrero chocolates as well as Fiat has made home in this region.

The Owner of Boccio brings to Osaka the fabulous food the Piedmont region has to offer. Very north European flavours, subtle, relying entirely on good produce and the chefs finesse in using them.

Boccio is in the heart of the bustling Minami senba business district,a bit tricky to find with a posh Italian trattoria under it.You climb up to the second floor and the decor amazes you.Very north European trattoria style with sparse tables and high ceiling the beige decor makes you at home.The Owner himself a trained french chef,who worked at the famous Tortuga, gave the reigns of his kitchen to his wife also a trained Italian chef with vast experience in the cuisine of her own.

They surprised me with an unbelievable bold starter of thinly sliced roasted venison leg on a bed of crispy lamb lettuce,sweet and sour fruits tomatoes,sweet apples and a bold Gorgonzola dressing.The starter gets my taste buds tingling at the same time I start trusting the chefs skills at matching the right produce to get a startling product.

The second dish is what I am waiting for,a homemade egg noodle(same as spaghetti)with leeks.
Perfection and that's the word the Japanese know the best,the noodles are cooked exactly as housemate pasta should be cooked,with the sweetish of pan roasted leeks and the saltiness of the oysters , flavour of the sea just perfect.I am always very critical of seafood dishes but this one I cleaned the plate out in a matter of minutes.

I sip the red waiting for the main trying to get the first two dishes settled in my stomach,next comes a zen simple Yamagata's pork spare rib braised with chick peas.Tender pork just falling of the bone the light wine pork stock braise preserves the wonderful flavour to the rib,unlike Tony Roma's where you do not taste the pork at all only the marinade.(haha never was a fan of chain fast food restaurant)

At Boccio the prices will seem a bit high for the menu but it does make it up with the ingredients,effort and nearly all the portions are for two.The wine list is a bit difficult,since there is no wine list and you explain to the service the kind of wine and he will get you what you need,prices can vary so be clear how much you want to pay per bottle,also the staff is not very knowledgeable about wine,I did order a dry wine and got a sweetish one so get the staff to get the bottles in front of you and choose one.

But all in all it was a fantastic experience at the Boccio and will really recommend food lovers to this place.Tables are limited so please call in advance.


Phone no:0662600055
2nd floor 202,life and design building minami senba 2-2-21 ,chuo ku ,osaka city

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Perfect coffee at Bardini

At the time I was cheffing in France, Switzerland and Italy I always had a special Bistro around the corner from my house where all the people from the neighbourhood used to gather before and after work for a cup of great coffee,beer or a snack,exchanging the local news gossip or arguing politics.
These places were the a second home to most of the neighbourhood where you read the morning news paper,ate Sunday lunches with the family,left messages for friends (before the invention of mobile phones)or escaped a nagging wife.But you always got a great cup of coffee.One reason why Starbucks did not catch up in Europe.
Osaka too is dotted with numerous coffee shops serving horrible dark liquid which I would not call coffee.Some of them sport an laboratory apparatus from the 1960's ,which look as if they are genetically modifying the coffee then making a great cup of coffee.These places are frequented by salary men, sales personal whiling away their time before the next meeting and the usual morning punch perm "Oyaji"(Japanese old man) with their sports pages with a bit off saucy soft porn at the end.
The youngsters and the fashionable lot usually head for the Starbucks close by.But in my neighbour hood Bardini changed that all.Tanaka san the owner of Bardini spent a couple of years cheffing in Italy and when he came back brought back the Taverna concept with him.
Bardini sports a standing bar around which the regulars gather and have great cup of coffee from Tanaka san's expensive Cimbali machine.Apart from the great strong flavour of italian beans the coffee has a great mousse on top which is always a sign for a well made coffee.Here a espresso cost 250¥ as compared to 400¥ of Starbucks and is a hundred times much better tasting than the later.
Bardini also show cases Italian food with a hint of french.My personal favourite are the "Polpette" pork balls in tomato tyme sauce.Tanaka san puts pork ear cartilage in his pork balls to give a crunch to it. The combination of the soft pork mince and the crunch of the cartilage is perfect.Also do not forget to order a piece of baguette to mop up the sauce.
Opening time : 11:30~16:30(L.O 15:30)
16:30~23:00(L.O 22:00)
Tuesdays closed and every 3rd Monday of the month closed

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Most fantastic Japanese lunch in town-Roca

Few years ago when I opened my restaurant, a quiet slender woman walked with her friend in my restaurant after quietly studying the menu ordering the choicest dishes which most young people had ignored and devouring two very fine bottles of red, she left.The image was not right most of the youngsters who walk in my tapas bar order the usual tortilla,mushroom al ajillo,paella and a glass of sangria and leave,but here was a woman chewing and tasting every bite as she really enjoys food.

Later on that year I met another client who told me about this amazing woman Midori san and said she runs a cafe very close to my Bar.So as restaurateurs etiquette has it I must go there at least once to eat.Now came the real problem, I had quite a few times tried to have Japanese style lunches and some how they do not fit my list of likes.Sometimes laden with grilled mackerel and Japanese omelet and rice,with a side of miso soup and rice within an hour of eating the fare I am hungry again.But restaurateurs code is the code so obligingly I went for lunch and unwillingly sat myself in a comfortable chair at the bar counter.

What hit me next made me go to that cafe again and again for the past two years.There is only one set per day for 750 yen with an assortment of 3-4 ala carte choices starting from150¥-400¥.In a plate of handpicked Japanese crockery ,you get a salad of potato,home made radish pickles,tofu and seaweed croquettes,gently simmered pork belly with a light ginger sauce.This is accompanied by miso soup with clams,barley rice or brown rice of which you can have refills.

If you have a sweet tooth you can always order the home made dessert of the care of the day.After for those who follow the chef tradition of a beer with lunch guess what the beers only400¥for a bottle of Heineken.

I know that this all sounds normal and a thousand places fit this description but what makes Roca special is Midori sans detail for food.Over the three years Roca has been there, Midori san has researched and put together contacts with farmers living just outside Osaka or on a day off this mother of one takes an excursion with her daughter out of the city where she engages in making Japanese pottery and at the same time purchasing local village produce.All the vegetables and other produce are fresh and every day the menu changes.

The flavour of natural produce is kept unblemished.No other flavour kills the true flavour of the daikon or cabbage,it is gentle seasoned and all the dishes on the plate complement each others flavours.

At 25 ,Midori sa already a mother of one tried to get an apprenticeship with some Japanese chef ,but as the japanese tradition goes professional cuisine is a mans job so with all the doors locked she put herself through one of Japans very expensive and famous school and today Roca is her image proving that in Japan a female can cook professionally and put out exceptional food .
At Roca the food speaks for itself.

Delicate flavours,blend of very fresh vegetables and a calm quiet cafe in a busy neighbourhood makes Roca an perfect island of temporary peace in a busy schedule of the day.a must lunch f you are passing through Osaka or living in it.

Lunches are served everyday except Sundays and national holidays.

11:00 am to 16:00 pm
Bf 5th Nakamura kousan Bldg
1\26\16 shinmachi,nishi ku
Osaka 5500013


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Flavours of tranquillity@Del cooks

For decades people in Europe have driven to close by vineyards or villages where a renowned chef has his /her restaurant for special occasions,just a get away from the hub dub of the city or just to try great food.

This trend caught up in the past fer decades in America where famous chefs started their restaurants in small villages just a short drive away from the city.This produced dual prosperity great,fresh seasonal ingredients for the chef and the local farmers and B&B owners got their share of clients(no one wants to drive after drinking great wine).This trend however has existed from the past in Japan.But the food served was solely Japanese.Recently,in the past few years a lot of Italian as well as French restaurants are blooming up in small towns around Nagano,Osaka,Shikoku and Hokkaido.

Del cooks is one,but with an exception,it is one of the few such establishment run by a Canadian.
One cool summer afternoon pulled me and my wife to take an excursion down to Nose just a couple of hours out of Osaka.(by train of course)After exiting the concrete monstrosity of Osaka ,where we have even forgotten the colour of the sky and see no wildlife except for pigeons ,all of a sudden we were hit by green rice paddies with cranes,butterflies and the smell of nature.Sudden peace, believe me you feel lost.

In such beautiful surroundings we reached Del cooks where we had reserved a table for two in a high ceiling ,spacious restaurant the only sound was of the smooth music playing and through the french windows vast stretches of green with a occasional bird perching itself in front of the window.

A crisp white is poured and I relax in the chair gazing out at the trees and minimal activity which brings a sudden calm.The amuse bouche arrives in a glass bursting with colours,cold sliced cucumber topped with citrus saffron jelly and sea grapes(umi boudou).Spot on.Flavours of summer and it does not cling to the palate,just refreshes the mouth leaving the taste buds tingling awaiting the next dish.Second course Del hits me with a nice strong flavoured chicken soup with, well seasoned with a hint of lemon grass just perfect....

Third course is a white fish ,wait a minute fish in the mountains hmmmm..........well guess I also had fish in Yamagata which is further off the coast then Nose and didn't I pass a sushi restaurant on my way here? Well the first two course were spot on so I dig in,the fish skin needed to be a bit more crisp but the seasonal carrot puree and grilled eggplant wrapped around home made ricotta with a hit of anchovy makes up for it.

The fourth course is a choice between Tajima beef medallion or roast chicken. As restaurateurs
I take the chicken and my wife the beef. Both come perfectly cooked the chicken ,crispy skin with its jus and the beef a perfect 'red' medium with red wine reduction.All this served with delicious crusty bread baked in house.Now when that happens,its a sure shot sign that the chef cares.

Last but not least we get two fabulous deserts blancmange set just right with fresh raspberry coulis and fresh fruit sorbet made in house.After contemplating where we should open another bottle we decide against it and head to the station to catch the last train home.Back to grim reality.

Del uses all the produce available around him to perfection.All in all its a great excursion with a real happy, satisfying ending.

Del cook:
Lunch:3675 yen-Dinner 8500

Contact10 am-5pm for reservation(must)