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Osaka - Japan

The Japanese have a special term that sums up the people of Osaka: kuidaore, eat till you drop. This is good news for visitors. Whatever tickles your fancy is available here, whether it be a local speciality or something from one of the far off corners of the globe. And you can dine on the tightest of budgets or splurge and spend a month's wages on one meal. The choice is yours!

Umeda

Okonomiyaki, a thick savory pancake made of shredded cabbage and diced seafood or meat is another famous Osaka dish that has now spread throughout Japan. It is often grilled by diners at their tables and usually topped with a brown sauce sprinkled with dried seaweed powder and shaved bonito flakes. Check out Kiji Umeda to sample some of the best food of this kind.

Although you will find many restaurants serving sushi, you should make a point of trying Osaka-style oshi sushi: vinegar rice pressed into a mold and topped with marinated fish. Those on a budget can try the kaiten sushi, where plates with pieces of sushi revolve around the counter on a conveyor belt. Diners take what they want and when they have finished, the bill is calculated by the number of plates they have piled up.

Minato-ku

For a substantial meal at rock bottom prices, there is an amazing selection of restaurants specializing in noodles. Chinese-style ramen is ubiquitous in Japan and, like many other cities, Osaka has its share of restaurants offering ramen of different styles. Gionzuchi OCAT Mall-ten and Shinanoji are two excellent choices. Or, you could opt for Japanese noodles such as soba, udon—eaten either hot or cold—or somen, thin wheat-flour noodles that are eaten cold in summer. Try Kineya.

Chuo-ku

The top Japanese restaurants serve kaiseki ryori. Try Kanidoraku Honten. Be prepared to pay top prices in these restaurants, but what you get for your money is a total culinary experience. Waitresses in kimonos will serve you a gorgeous selection of seasonal seafood and vegetables—including sashimi, tempura, boiled vegetables, pickles and soup—artistically laid out on exquisite ceramic platters.

Osaka is blessed with European restaurants that cover just about every country on that continent. Along with the French and Italian restaurants, you will find Spanish, German, Greek and a generous selection from Eastern Europe. England (Pig & Whistle) and Ireland (Key Point) are well represented in the form of pubs that serve pub fare to go with British and Irish beers. Sample Thai at Krungtep or indulge in Indian cuisine at Bombay Kitchen Shinsaibashi, a popular local spot.

One of the best ways to eat economically, while at the same time enjoying a unique experience, is to drop into a Japanese tavern. Noticeable by the large, red lanterns hanging outside, izakaya or akachochin (red lantern) establishments serve a wide selection of local and foreign dishes. Expect to find fish (sashimi, grilled and deep-fried), grilled chicken and meat, vegetables (salads, cooked and pickled), pizzas, noodles and oden, a traditional Japanese stew consisting of fish-paste cakes, vegetables, boiled eggs and tofu in a kelp-based stock. It is often sold at street stalls.

There are restaurants that specialize in tonkatsu or pork cutlets, serving them in sets that consist of the cutlet (fillet is the best) on a plate with shredded cabbage and topped with a thick brown sauce along with a bowl of rice, miso soup and pickles. Tempura (fish and vegetables deep-fried in a seasoned batter) is another popular dish. Then there is sukiyaki, thin slices of beef and vegetables in a sweet sauce, and shabushabu, tender slices of beef and vegetables boiled at your table. Unagi, boiled eel served on a bed of rice is popular in summer, when it is supposed to give you the strength to combat the heat.

If you are really hungry, you should dine in one of the restaurants that serve chanko nabe, such as Gomasuri Chanko. Chanko nabe is the stew that helps sumo wrestlers stay on top of their game. Diners are treated to a selection of seafood, meat, vegetables and tofu simmering in a huge pot at their table.

Another characteristic Osaka cuisine is blowfish, or fugu. Restaurants serving this dangerous delicacy (restaurants need a special licence to cook it) are not cheap, but if you live to tell the tale (which most people do). Try Taka. Fugu is mostly eaten as sashimi in very thin slices or in a stew that is called fugu-chiri. Gourmets like to enjoy hire-zake (hot sake) with a grilled fugu fin in it, while they dine.
 
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