DOTONBORI, located in the Namba area of Osaka, is a true culinary, sensory experience.
Dotonbori is one of my absolute all time favorite places in Japan (and on Earth!), truly because of it's variety of different foods and such an awesome, electric general vibe. The smell in the air that you encounter when you enter Dotonbori is one that will instantly set off the hunger in you, and from there, it's time to 'kuidaore' (食い倒れ) which literally means 'to eat one's self into ruin'. The food offered in Dotonbori is essential to try, as it is the center of the nation's 'kitchen' after all.
If I could recommend any restaurants straight off the bat, it would have to be 'Osaka Ohsho' a gyoza restaurant offering pork base ramen as well as the tastiest gyoza I have ever tried in Japan or anywhere else for that matter. 'Osaka Ohsho' was recommended to me by my friend Kevin, who ate there once in a Youtube video (the infamous Only in Japan webseries), it was the first food that I had in Dotonbori, and I not only went back for seconds (see below)... but a third time too! Kevin then told me to try some more of the smaller establishments the next morning when we were a little more refreshed!
The next morning we felt alive after the previous day, where we almost hit twenty-four hours of being awake getting to Japan. The flight had truly conquered us, however, we decided that a proper foray into Dotonbori awaited us. We were ready, for Kuidaore. The first stop was, you guessed it, another bite at Osaka Ohsho (see above!). It was too good to resist it's truly insatiable goodness. Fast and prepared amazingly, the taste combined with the tare was something reminiscent of heaven (if they do have gyoza up there). Next, we decided to follow our noses and see where the smell takes us.
My friend Joe spotted another place we recognized from Youtube, a Kushikatsu joint on one of the side streets, near a bridge adjacent the one entering Shinsaibashi arcade. Once seated, we looked at our menu, and my word... the choice! Kushikatsu is skewered vegetables and meat, dipped in batter and deep fried to perfection. Once cooked you only dip once (the big rule!) in the special Osaka sauce, which reminded me of a Worcester sauce taste. The combination is impeccable! We tried shrimp, pork fillet, some vegetables and also a chicken kushikatsu. It was a little pricey, around 700 yen for a few skewers, but it is worth trying 100%. Osaka prides itself on it. Although I hear the best kushikatsu in Osaka is located further down the road in Shinsekai. Our stomachs were starting to panic after this one, what else could we feed ourselves you ask?
Kinryu Ramen is an all night Dotonbori landmark, instantly recognizable by the giant green dragon that lingers above the veranda of the restaurant. It serves a beautiful Kyushu style tonkotsu pork broth ramen, which when I paid for it, made my stomach yell with absolute delight. We were taken here by my Japanese friends, and after a quick greeting and gift exchange, we finally got our third meal of the day in quick succession. The broth itself was a gorgeous warm delight, but with the side of rice and unlimited pickles from the service counter, my stomach was being tested to its inner limits. I was ready to explode. Kuidaore... it truly got me. After this meal, I yelled for surrender. Even though it didn't seem like I had much, it was a filling, gut-busting experience. But we weren't finished yet!
After a quick detour to Osaka Castle, we headed to Umeda to indulge ourselves in a phenomenal sushi dinner. Even though this was completely unrelated to the Namba area as we were now in Umeda, it only added to the incredible culinary episode that I had immersed myself in that day. After drinking copious amounts of Asahi beer and sake, and adding unagi and countless varieties of sushi to my expanding system... I remembered feeling like I could've taken on the world. Osaka is truly a planetary wonder, filled with sensory experiences like nothing I have ever witnessed. If you are in the area, try everything. Because there were two foods that I had unfortunately missed: Osaka okonomiyaki and takoyaki. For next time I guess!