23 April 2017

Osaka: Kuromon Market & Dotonbori


Osaka is truly a feast for the eyes and the tummy-- from its waking neon signs to its tempting food. And really, there's no better place to indulge your senses than the famous Dotonbori area.

After a warmup in Shinsekai, it was time to take the train to the JR Namba station-- our starting point for the second-half of that day. It was, unexpectedly, a rather long walk from the platforms to Kuromon Ichiba (translation: Black Gate Market), perhaps the most famous food market in the country. We stayed underground for the most part, but the wide array of clothing and food stores made up for the lack of sunlight and scenery. It always fascinated me how central train stations in Japan were malls in their own right, too.

The walk was just what we needed to make sure there was enough room in our tummies for all the food that awaited us. Dubbed as "Osaka's Kitchen," the market was the perfect venue for lunch. Our plan? Try a little bit of everything!

We visited on a Sunday, and not all stalls were in business that day. However, there was still a whole row bustling with visitors and vendors alike. Most of the street food you'll find in Kuromon market are seafood; and since it's Japan, they are guaranteed fresh. But also since it is Japan, the food doesn't exactly come at the lowest prices. (Tip: Tags seen in photos may be roughly converted to 1JPY = 0.50PHP)

Out of all the food I tried in Kuromon Ichiba, my favorite find would be the kobe beef (!!!) I got to take a photo of neither the item itself nor the stall, but the tell-tale sizzle and smell will be hard to miss when you're there. At an eye-dropping price of at least* Y1500 (*I couldn't remember the exact price, sorry!), you get a stick with three cubes of beef-- kobe, wagyu, and something from the lower-end of the spectrum.  It's a pretty hefty price to pay for a cube that's barely 3 x 3 x 0.5 inches, but it was absolutely worth it. I've tried wagyu beef on a stone grill on multiple occasions before, but I have never tried kobe beef until then. It definitely melts in your mouth and leaves this delicious and borderline-sinful feeling. So I'd say that a small portion of kobe beef is good enough to try, because I feel like my brains will explode from too much! In case you want to go for it, they have bigger slices available for consumption.

Uni (sea urchin)
Scallops? Yes, please!
Yep, that's a quail egg stuffed inside the baby octopus's head
Feel free to skip on the crab gratin, it's nothing much lol!

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Our legs were put to the test again as we walked approximately a mile from Kuromon Ichiba to Dotonbori, home to the iconic Glico man. It's yet another major destination for foodies, and the gigantic signages that mimic he likeness of all sorts of food are proof.

It's best to go at noon, and stay all the way until nighttime, so you can witness the place's natural state under daylight, as well as its all-lit-up glory. While you're at it, walk down the street of Shinsaibashi-suji, and feel free to do some (window-)shopping. Stores I frequented during our trip to Japan that were there too are Uniqlo, its more casual sister-brand GU (!!!), basic fashion brand WEGO which is reminiscent of American Apparel in pastel form, and shoe giant ABC Mart. In case you get a little hungry, do drop by Garrett's-- a famous popcorn shop all the way from Chicago. Their Chicago Mix (a perfect combination of caramel and cheese popcorn) is a no-brainer, but they sell matcha popcorn exclusively in Japan, so you better think twice on what to get!

Now that we're back on the subject of food, allow me to share with you a micro-review of yet another ramen joint in Osaka-- Kinryu Ramen. It's that store with a dragon as its figurehead; after all, kinryu means "[golden] dragon". Let me just say that if you're going to try just one ramen during your stay in Japan (but why???)-- don't let it be this one. Just like Ichiran Ramen which I raved about before, Kinryu uses a vendo for its ordering system. However, their restaurant has a less intimate, and more casual vibe. Its table setting was more suited for big groups, and not much for solo diners. Once your order is ready, they will call your number. Upon claiming your bowl of ramen, you can also serve yourself portions of side dishes and garnishes. I felt underwhelmed by the whole experience, as well as the taste of their ramen. Its soup was overflowing in volume, but not so much in flavor. Perhaps that's why they had side dishes up for grabs, in case you felt like there was something lacking with your food. I wouldn't have expected too much from the place if it didn't have two branches in Dotonbori, but there was that. Good thing we bought ourselves dessert in the form of a Pablo Mini choco cheese tart from Pablo, which totally washed over the disappointment with its divine texture and taste! So yes, my vote still goes to Ichiran Ramen. It deserved its own blog post, after all!

Kani Doraku
We ate takoyaki twice that day-- because why not???
Don't be fooled by this dragon!
It wasn't that bad really-- it just wasn't extremely good???
THIS was REAAAAALLY good!!!

Dotonbori takes a life of its own once the sun goes down and the lights go up. We sort of panicked when it was already 7pm and the Glico board did not light up. I don't know if there's an exact schedule for its lighting, but hey! No visit to Osaka would be complete without saying "hi"-- or rather, "konnichiwa!"-- to this running man.

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