Hajime opened in 2008 and within 18 months, received its three Michelin-star rating in 2010. The restaurant, which serves French cuisine, also ranks in the Foodie Top 100 Restaurants Worldwide, as well as Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Chef Hajime Yoneda was a former design engineer at an electronics firm, before switching careers to open Hajime in 2008. His food and the whole dining experience is an active art piece. The 35,640 yen tasting menu (US$313 per person) gets you approximately 17 dishes and lasts about four hours.
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Hakozushi is a boxed style of sushi unique to the Osaka area. The ingredients vary and could include sliced fish, prawns and tamago (omelette) layered on top of sumeshi (vinegared rice). This is pressed neatly into a box to make a delicious and beautiful parcel of goodness. Yoshino Sushi has been in business since 1841 and is one of the most well-known hakozushi restaurants in Osaka. They now have three restaurants in operation but the flagship store near Osaka Station is probably the best place to try this food, even though they removed the traditional zashiki (floor seating) a few years ago in favour of a modern seating arrangement with tables and chairs.
Kushikatsu, skewers of battered and deep-fried, bite-sized pieces of meat, seafood or vegetables, is one of Osaka’s signature dishes. It may seem similar to tempura, but differs in that breadcrumbs are added to kushikatsu batter. Yaekatsu (3-4-13 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa-ku), located in the Shinsekai region of Osaka, is a famous kushikatsu restaurant that is more than 50 years old. The kushikatsu here is light and crispy because of a secret recipe, and is so popular that it’s likely you have to stand in long queues to get your order in. As a matter of etiquette, it is very important to only dip your kushikatsu once, as a container of the dipping sauce is generally shared between customers at the counter.
You can’t meet a geisha easily in Japan, but Maikoya Osaka has changed this by offering a dining experience where you are served by a geisha in training. You can chat with the geisha to find out more about the culture, and take photos with her. Visitors can also learn to cook traditional Japanese dishes ranging from sushi and okonomiyaki to desserts, or take part in a Japanese tea ceremony.
5. Naniwa Kappo Kigawa
In a historic cobblestone area of Osaka, you’ll find the Michelin-star Naniwa Kappo Kigawa restaurant (1-7-7 Dotombori, Chuo-ku). This restaurant offers authentic, traditional Japanese meals like cuttlefish sashimi, abalone, shiitake mushrooms and pike eel wrapped in soybean milk skin. Sit at the sushi counter to see the chefs preparing your food, or opt for the private tatami room if you’re in a group. A 10-course lunch will cost you around US$70.