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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dotonbori, okonomiyaki and a hotcake sandwich - Osaka, Japan

Cakes at Takashimaya, Namba, Osaka

For a country that exhibits remarkable restraint when it comes to snacks and junkfood, Japanese depaato (department store) food halls are a haven for dessert lovers. It's all about quality of course - each slice of cake as meticulously crafted as an exquisite work of art.

We spent hours roaming these basement levels. The pastry chefs wear pristine white uniforms and there are plenty of glassed booths dotted throughout the floor that give passing customers a live view of the cooking or decorating action.

Gramercy New York cakes

Adjacent, or beneath the cake level is the area devoted to fresh food - fruit, vegetables, teas and seafood. And don't forget the pickles. Pickles are an intrinsic aspect to every Japanese meal.

Pickled vegetables

Double-stemmed rockmelon 15,750yen (about AU$197)

I love that fruit is viewed with such reverence, and is valued and appreciated just as much as artisan hand-made chocolates. The obsession with perfection within nature is a particularly Japanese quirk, leading to handsome prices for double-stemmed rockmelons or gargantuan-sized strawberries and pomelos.

St Valentines Day fruit gift box

Torafugu tekki - said to be the most poisonous fugu puffer fish


Mebaru rockfish


On our second day in Osaka, we ended up at Nakau for a late lunch - a fast food style chain that specialises in gyudon, or beef on rice or udon noodles.

Beef udon set 590yen

Beef gyudon set 490yen
Beef, onion and shiitake mushrooms with special sauce on rice
with haikara udon

Beef gyudon

There isn't a lot of beef, but the thin slices have a lovely ribbon of fat, stir-fried on the grill with lengths of onion. It's fast and filling, and a whole lot healthier than most of the fast food options we have available here in Australia.

Driving gloves at the 100yen shop

We found ourselves stalking 100yen shops (oh so many things and oh so cheap).

"I'm hungry" card at a 100yen shop

Kids dinner trays in a car, train and space shuttle
spotted in a kitchenware store at Doguya Suji

Doguya Suji is perfect for anyone who loves kitchen porn. This covered alley beholds commercial takoyaki grills, massive steamers, cake decorating equipment, turning slicers, crockery, massive lanterns and plastic food replicas that will keep you amused for hours.

Giant crab on Dotonbori

Along with every our tourist in town, we end up at Dotonbori by night, a long stretch of neon, food stalls, souvenir shops and restaurants adorned with supersized paper lantern puffer fish or mechanical giant crabs.


Angry or determined chef?

Ramen house

Another giant crab that moves

The Glico running man

Food-themed keyrings galore at a souvenir shop in Dotonbori

Sushi keyrings

Egg, pizza and hot dog keyrings

Final Fantasy XIII Elixir

Puffer fish

Dinner in Osaka? It has to involve okonomiyaki. We troop down a set of stairs to Domusu, a basement eatery that's all booth seating around hot plates.


Domusu menu

Cooking okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is often called Japanese pizza - it's a pancake made with cabbage, batter and an assortment of toppings like bacon, egg, shallots and seafood.

Okonomiyaki with prawns

Once you've made your selection, the chefs cook them on their central grill, a process that involves an element of patience and dexterity.

Okonomiyaki topped with bonito flakes

Lemon and lime chu hai 350yen

By the time we're halfway through our chu hai, an alcoholic drink that's sweet and carbonated, our okonomiyaki is ready for dispensing to our pre-warmed grill.

Okonomiyaki with mochi and bacon 960yen
Okonomiyaki with bacon and kimchee 940yen
Onokomiyaki with bacon, kimchee, egg and leeks 1100yen

Metal spatulas for cutting the okonomiyaki

A metal spatula is all each person needs to carve out their own wedge of okonomiyaki.


Condiments of sancho pepper, ground seaweed and bonito flakes are added as you please. Squiggles of okonomiyaki sauce, a sweet fruity sauce that's quite similar to Worcestershire, and mayonnaise complete your garnishes.

Okonomiyaki dressed and ready for eating

The surface is crisp, the cabbage is yielding, and the spices, filling and mayonnaise meld into one hot mouthful. I loved the squares of mochi in mine - chewy, starchy and glutinous - and whole rashers of bacon pair perfectly with the cabbage.

Dessert party

And in what will become an almost nightly tradition, we hold a "dessert party" back at the hotel room - a feast of random treats picked up at our local convenience store, most of them surprisingly good.

Chocolate eclair, hotcake sandwich and cheesecake

The chocolate eclair isn't as soggy as you'd think, the choux pastry still holding its form beneath the shell of chocolate. Cheesecake is fluffy and light, but it's the package of hotcakes that get the best reception. The hotcakes are soft and airy and a generous layer cream makes for happy bellies and sweet dreams.

> Read the next Japan 2010 post

< Go back to the first Japan 2010 post

Nakau outlets selling gyudon are found all over Japan

Domusu Okonomiyaki
Dotonbori, Osaka, Japan
(sorry no address details in English but you can try to get someone to translate the Japanese below - it's located in the basement down a set of stairs off the street)

お好み焼き ねぎ焼き [ どむす 道頓堀本店 ]
〒542-0071大阪府大阪市中央区道頓堀1-5-9 久幸ビルB1F

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Read about my trip to Japan in 2007Read about my trip to Japan in 2004
22 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/10/2010 03:20:00 am


  • At 3/10/2010 6:13 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    HELEN!! There are Mont Blancs in that first photo! Mont Blancs!! Please, did you ever eat one?

    I'm also deeply upset to have never had the chance to eat kimchee okonomiyaki, but feel calmed because that "dessert party" is exactly what I do whenever I travel - stockpile snacks and eat them in my hotel/hostel room at night :)

  • At 3/10/2010 7:55 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I lol at hannah's comment! Mont Blancs... I spotted the Mont Blancs too. You gotta try them in Japan. They make better Mont Blancs than in France. I adore Okonomiyaki. Wished I am able to sample it at Osaka. One day in the near future, I hope.

  • At 3/10/2010 8:45 am, Blogger K said…

    Yay to the dessert party. I did that almost every night when I was in Tokyo, with a convenience store underneath the hotel I was staying at. Candy, pastry, etc etc. YUM!

  • At 3/10/2010 8:47 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Okonomiyaki is so comforting in the winter time...I greedily ate mine whilst in Sapporo. The food culture in Japan is so unique...and I agree about the food in department stores and the convenience store desserts...they are amazing!

  • At 3/10/2010 9:31 am, Anonymous jess (fushmush) said…

    We need an Okonomiyaki restaurant in Sydney. Does anyone want to open one for me?

  • At 3/10/2010 9:36 am, Blogger Gastronomy Gal said…

    Oh gosh- I love okonomiyaki but had a bad experience recently.. These photos really make me want to eat it again soon. I really want to go ot Japan- when i get a chance to do some travel- Japan is definitely on my list.

  • At 3/10/2010 10:56 am, Anonymous krissy @ the food addicts said…

    oh that's so cool. i might take a trip to japan next spring in time for the cherry blossoms. your post makes me want to go even more! the culture is amazing in japan. and i guess it helps that sushi is my favorite food!

  • At 3/10/2010 11:04 am, Blogger rissa said…

    Okonomiyaki! I love it. There is an awesome little place in one of the food courts in Central Markets, Adelaide, that does a delicious okonomiyaki. Wish I knew somewhere in Wellington (NZ) where I can get some! (Should learn to cook it myself I guess!).

  • At 3/10/2010 11:34 am, Anonymous Miss Dissent said…

    Yum, the okonomiyaki look very tasty! I mentioned you in my column this week. ;-)

  • At 3/10/2010 11:54 am, Anonymous JT @ areyouhungary said…

    Oh man, I wish Japanese department store food halls could transport themselves to Australia. I could spend hours walking around in them. daily.

  • At 3/10/2010 1:54 pm, Anonymous Tresna said…

    I do love your Japan posts....full of great pictures and the strangeness that doesn't exist anywhere else on earth!

    I must go....

  • At 3/10/2010 2:00 pm, Anonymous Jo said…

    Everything looks so good! And wow on the rockmelon! O.O and driving gloves?! The Japanese have a solution for everything

  • At 3/10/2010 5:14 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    hotcake sandwich!?! im crying on the inside and not being able to try it.

  • At 3/10/2010 7:05 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Zunbu tabetaiiiii XD hee hee is that the glico man above the candy store?

  • At 3/10/2010 7:39 pm, Blogger missklicious said…

    Love all the Japan posts!

    I loved browsing every corner of the basement level of the department stores and all the wonderful food and pretty cakes. Can't wait to visit Japan again!

  • At 3/10/2010 9:01 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    Can't believe that I still have not tried okonomiyaki yet. At least I tried the takoyaki balls this time.

    The basement level of the department stores were wonderous. I could have explored them for hours. My jaw dropped when I saw the price of those rockmelons. Does anyone actually buy them? Man, that's like a shoe or something.

    Hmmmm....I don't recall those dessert items. Why was I noy invited?

  • At 3/10/2010 9:12 pm, Anonymous kay said…

    great japan post.. do u have more to come?? hehehe...

  • At 3/10/2010 9:28 pm, Anonymous Mark @ Cafe Campana said…

    The okonomiyaki looks great. I still haven't ever had one but when I see it on the menu I will give it a go.

  • At 3/11/2010 12:04 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    just noticed, i think we went to the same okonomiyaki place in osaka. hahaha...i still think Osaka is one of the best places in Japan for food.

  • At 3/11/2010 2:31 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hannah - lol. Of course I had a Mont Blanc. Or two :) Keep your eyes peeled.

    The kimchee okonomiyaki was interesting, and woohoo for dessert parties! It was our highlight every night!

    Hi Ellie - I did have a few Mont Blancs. lol. They were great. Will post pics soon. I do much prefer okonomiyaki in Japan to here - often it's too soggy but in Japan they cook it to perfection :)

    Hi K - Oh yay, so glad we're not the only ones to have dessert parties!

    Hi Peter G - The food culture in Japan is what I love so much about the place. And the depaato food halls are my idea of an amusement park. Endless fun!

    Hi Jess - That's a great idea. Hopefully someone will come through with one soon!

    Hi Gastronomy Gal - Hope you make it to Japan someday soon. The okonomiyaki and takoyaki are so much better over there :)

    Hi Krissy - I've yet to see cherry blossoms on Japan. Somehow I've never quite scheduled my trips to see them, but yes, sushi is one of my favourite foods too. Hope you get there next spring!

    Hi Rissa - Okonomiyaki in Adelaide? Love it. I have attempted it at home but it wasn't quite the same. Worth attempting though, and quite simple too.

    Hi Miss Dissent - The okonomiyaki was great, and lol, I'm humbled to be spoken about in such stellar company. You make me blush but thanks :)

    Hi JT - I agree. I could quite happily visit one every day!

    Hi Tresna - Glad you're enjoying the posts. Japan is one of the most mesmerising blends of old and new. You must go! :)

    Hi Jo - The driving gloves were hilarious and there was about 8 different styles as well!

    Hi chocolatesuze - lol. I won't tell you how tasty it was then. You must get to Japan. Honeymoon!

    Hi FFichiban - Did you read any of the words or you only looked at the pictures? lol. Yes that's the Glico man :)

    Hi missklicious - Great to hear you've ben enjoying the Japan posts. There are plenty more to come!

    Hi Veruca Salt - Methinks a little less gyudon, a little more okonomiyaki next visit. lol

    I believe an invitation was extended but your TV and promise of sleep called :)

    Hi Kay - Plenty more to come. Like this one.

    Hi Mark - You often find okonomiyaki for sale at food festivals. Hope you find some soon :)

    Hi Billy - Ha, that is a coincedence! Osaka is great for food. I love that it's known for being a food city and renowned for its bawdy humour too.

  • At 3/11/2010 9:08 am, Blogger Two fit and fun gals said…

    i really like okinomiyaki - been meaning to make my own at home but never get around to buying the ingreds (the flour and bonito flakes) - unless you can use plain flour??

    the food keyrings are so cute- i would've gotten the fried egg hehe

  • At 3/18/2010 6:18 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Betty - Last time I made it I used plain flour. There are plenty of recipes on the internet. You will need dashi stock/powder though.

    I wanted all the food keyrings but then I think they'd only make me even hungrier every time I grabbed my keys!


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