Daruma joins the ubiquitous theme of restaurants in Osaka with its visual and 3D signage. Easily recognizable, Daruma locations have a large statue of the founder looking either ominous or comical with his arched eyebrows. In each his hand is a stick of kushikatsu, deep fried skewered meat. Kushikatsu is another Osakan specialty, which Daruma does very, very well.

We walk into the location in Shinsaibashi and are ushered to the dining room on the second floor. The fluorescent lighting in the restaurant makes the place feel like a cafeteria except that it is a restaurant with a geeky Japanese twist. We are seated at one of the tables next to what looked like a cross between a mini train track and a conveyor belt. Each table is named after a subway station along the Mido-suji Line. The server shows us the touchscreen menu and demonstrates how we place our order ourselves via the screen. On each table is a metal container of tonkatsu sauce for dipping the kushikatsu. "No double dipping, please, the touchscreen show and server say. Each food item is sent out as when ready. Very soon, our sticks of skewered meat make their way from the kitchen, travel along the "train track" on a train, and stop automatically stops directly at our table. We take the food items, transfer them onto our table, and push a button to send the empty train back to the kitchen.

The menu offers sets of kushikatsu but we decide to go ala carte style with these deep fried skewered meats: classic kushikatsu (in Osaka, kushikatsu is made with beef), tonkatsu (pork), gyutan meatball (beef tongue), shishito (Japanese peppers), and chicken gizzard. The gizzard is deep fried without batter. The deep fried items are perfectly crisp at every bite without a hint of being soggy or soft. Despite it's cooking method in oil, they don't make us feel heavy. We dip each stick into the tonkatsu sauce. A bowl of unlimited raw cabbage is served and also meant to be dipped into the tonkatsu sauce.

Another specialty item is doteyaki which is beef, tripe, and konnyaku stewed in miso and mirin. We add a small of bowl doteyaki, chicken ramen, and beer to lunch. Our plates and bowls are polished clean. We don't know where else would we not be plagued by guilt from deep fried meats over lunch. We'd even do it again and again.

1-5-17 Shinsaibashisuji
Chuo-ku, Osaka

Daruma has several locations in Osaka. The older locations don't have the touchscreen ordering system.


Kinryu Ramen

Standing by the street with a bowl of steaming hot tonkotsu ramen on a cold wintry evening in Osaka is one of the reasons that make going out in the cold okay and yes, even enjoyable. At this standing-only and street-side location of Kinryu Ramen, we're in our coats and getting comfort from the steam wafting through the air and towards our faces while watching the young man methodically prepare bowls and bowls of ramen.

Kinryu is easily recognizable by its signature 3-D green dragon billboard. Buy your ramen ticket from the vending machine and choose between regular tonkotsu ramen or with extra chashu pork. Hand over your ticket to the man and wait.

Bowls of chives kimchi, cabbage kimchi, and raw garlic are on the counter for anyone who wishes to add spoonfuls of these condiments over the ramen. The tonkotsu broth is lighter than the usually rich cloudy color but still flavorful enough. Sure, Kinryu may not win the most mind blowing ramen award but it still makes good ramen. And, really, this is what we need: a reliable go-to spot to refuel with a Japanese staple.

Kinryu Ramen
1-7-13 Nanba
Chuo-ku, Osaka
Open 24 hours

Kinryu Ramen has several locations. This particular location is just outside Dotonbori. Another popular location is along Dotonbori itself and it has seating (outdoors only) on raised tatami mats.


Quintessentially Osaka: Dotonbori, Namba

Osakans live by the mantra "kuidaore" which translates to eat yourselves to financial ruins. We see that loud and clear especially along Dotonbori, a street that has become so quintessentially Osaka that people see it as the city's symbol. Osaka may not always be on a tourist's list of Japanese city to visit but to insiders and travelers who care about food, Osaka is too important of a city to miss. What Osaka lacks in terms of tourist attractions, it makes up for it in its food and entertainment. People go to Osaka to eat, and they should. And boy, did we have a tremendously good time in this down-to-earth city with people who really know how to live well.

Dotonbori is extremely visual and it is even more so in the evening when the colorful lights come on. Restaurant signs and billboards are very enjoyable to see. Colorful 3-D signs are the norm rather than the exception. Dotonbori is the perfect place to explore Osakan regional specialties. Yatai (street stalls) serve up fresh and steaming hot takoyaki (grilled octopus balls in batter). Restaurants specialize in okonomiyaki (grilled savory pancake) while others focus on fugu (pufferfish). Kushikatsu (deep fried skewers) is another favorite regional specialty. For those who crave kani (crab), the corner restaurant with its signature crab signboard is easily spotted. It's hard to tire of this energized street. You can return again and again yet never eat at the same establishment. Note: Among other regional specialties to look out for are yakiniku, kitsune udon, ikayaki, horumon, hakozushi.

Finish the night off with a walk along the south bank of the Dotonbori canal with more recognizable Osaka symbols such as the famous Glico Running Man. The neon lights from billboards reflect on the waters along the canal at night.

Mimiu Honten


Mimiu Honten's license to fame is that the Osakan regional specialty of udon-suki originated here at the restaurant. On top of that, its history as being one of Osaka's oldest restaurant that has been family-run for about 200 years makes Mimiu Honten a well loved establishment in the city. Tucked away on a quiet street and located in a traditional Japanese building, we slide the door open and walk in for our reservation. The hostess clad in traditional kimono leads us into an area and invites us to remove our shoes. She gestures for us to walk up the stairs to the second floor while saying she will keep away our shoes for us. Another lady in kimono is waiting for us when we get upstairs and brings us into a private tatami room.

Lunch at Mimiu Honten provides a selection of meal sets that are presumably a less elaborate affair than dinner but lunch here is no less delicate in preparation and every item is prepared beautifully and with care. We pick the Mimiu Bento lunch set and at ¥1,980 per person, it turns out to be more than affordable considering the amount of food served. Note: Mimiu Bento includes shrimp but we requested for no shrimp due to my allergy.

The sashimi includes slices of maguro (tuna) and hirame (fluke). In the mini weaved basket is an assortment of petite items which include grilled whitefish with vinegar, grilled salmon with sweet sauce, salmon "cake", mushrooms and mountain vegetables, tamago (Japanese omelet), and fruit strips tossed with peanut-tasting paste. The assortment sitting in the basket may very closely resemble a plastic food model from appearance but every item is cleverly and delicately prepared to be enjoyed through eating and not just admired. The bowl of rice topped with anchovies and oshinko (Japanese pickles) is just what we need to go with the assortment of food items. As requested, our tempura is not served with shrimp but instead it is substituted with whitefish. The surprise substitution turns out to be a good idea as rarely do we have fish tempura. The rest of the tempura items are eggplant, taro, and lotus roots. Our tempura items are not crispy but the ingredients make up for it. On a separate dish are other quintessential items of Japanese cuisine- braised daikon, pork slice, and mini mochi

The udon, their specialty, is smooth to slurp and firm to bite. Our favorite is also yuba (bean curd skin), tied in a knot and placed on top of the udon. As fragile yuba may be, the layers of soft sheets are perfectly cook to maintain a firm and wonderful bite texture.

Our lunch here is the epitome of what Japanese cuisine stands for. Each dish is delicate and there is a little bit of everything to create a fulfilling meal. Here, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

When making advance reservations, there is an option between a private tatami room or a table in the main dining room. If selecting a private room, the restaurant requires that you pre-select your menu option.

Mimiu Honten
4-6-18 Hiranomachi
Chuo-ku, Osaka


St Regis Osaka

Hotels are interestingly diversified places in what people see them as. Some people love them and see it as a getaway place to relax and rejuvenate. Others see it as only a place to go to sleep at night when traveling away from home. When traveling, guests may miss the familiarity of home whether he or she realizes it or not. When a hotel and its people successfully create a space that feels like home away from home, I think that's when the hotel has achieved success. My feelings on the day of check-out from St Regis Osaka probably reflects how much I really love this home away from home. I say to T, "Oh, I'm sad, why can't we stay here forever..." Alas, short fantasies like that are best kept as stints so we appreciate them more. At a St Regis hotel anywhere in the world, one expects wonderful, wonderful service. Add in the Japanese hospitality and the service becomes exceptional.


We arrive at the hotel and are greeted by the helpful bellhop. We take the elevator up to the lobby. The personal service begins here. Instead of standing at a counter for check-in, guests are assisted at the sit-down check-in desk. Thanks to T's SPG upgrade passes, we are upgraded to the Hagis suite. The lady who assists us informs us that our suite is not ready yet. She politely apologizes for our wait and invites us to the St Regis Bar for a complimentary drink.

After a drink at the St Regis Bar, we head up to our suite with Osaka skyline views. Within 10 minutes, our butler arrives, introduces himself, and very politely asks if he may take some time to explain the functions found in the living room and bedroom. He takes the moment to make sure we feel comfortably at home. Timothy, our butler, shows us the bedside controls for the lights, curtains, and door signs. He informs us that if the feather pillow is too soft for our liking, we can request for another type from their pillow menu that has 12 types of pillows.

We have a butler box located next to the main door of our suite. The butler box is accessible by us through a sliding door from inside our suite while the butler has access to it through a secured mini door from the outside. Newspapers are put in the box every morning. We send pieces of clothing to be pressed and leave them at the butler box. The butler comes to retrieve them and then leaves our pressed clothing in the butler box when ready. There is no hassle of him ringing our doorbell to return our clothing.
The mini bar has a Nespresso machine which means we are able to continue with our daily Nespresso drinks as if at home in Chicago. The walk-in closet is certainly a win for any woman's heart (it is for me!). The bathroom has the most pampering shower with 5 sprays and water shooting out from different angles. Every evening when we return, turndown service is already completed by housekeeping with lights dimmed, soft music playing from the TV, and yukata laid on the bed for us.

Timothy gives us printed information and directions to our dinner reservation which we had requested the hotel to assist in making, about a month prior to our visit. While speaking with us, he inquires about our earlier lunch reservation that day which the hotel also assisted in a month ago. He asks me if the restaurant remembered not to put shrimp in our meal due to my allergy. How thoughtful of him to remember and check in with us on this although the last time we informed them about my allergy for reservation purposes was a month ago. The people at St Regis Osaka care and they find ways to show that they care. They make it a home away from home for us, and very much a personal touch of experience.

St Regis Osaka is conveniently located just next to Honmachi Station. To access the hotel, use Exit 7 and then take the elevator or escalator up to street level. Turn right and walk around the corner to the hotel entrance.

St Regis
3-6-12 Honmachi
Chuo-ku, Osaka


The St Regis Bar, Osaka


Hotel bars almost always don't get enough of a recognition that they deserve because well, most of them are just hotel bars with passable drinks. Once in awhile you come across a bar at a hotel that earns a spot in your list of favorite places and then you think to yourself why can't other hotel bars be this special? The St Regis Bar in Osaka deserves every mentionable praise especially when combined with the hotel brand's of hospitality and Japanese graciousness.

We are early for check-in in the afternoon and head to the bar for a round of drinks. At this time, the only other guests inside is a group of suited businessmen seated at a table. The room is very inviting with the comfortable armchairs. We forgo this and head straight for bar seating. The very lovely female bartender becomes one of the friendliest bartender we meet. An absolutely sweet lady, we watch her prepare drinks in a manner that is so smooth and suave yet without any forced energy when it comes to shaking up cocktails or pouring liquor. She tells us about the St Regis Bar layout and that many pieces of art on the walls have a purpose, which is to represent and reflect traditional Japanese elements. The impressive piece of painting that acts as the backdrop for the bar is a visual representation of the city of Osaka with the St Regis hotel drawn in along with other popular Osakan landmarks. Another traditional Japanese pictorial element on the wall include a mask used in theatrical drama of kabuki; the other is an art piece on the mirrored wall that symbolizes Nippon or Nihon (Japan in Japanese) as the "Land of the rising sun."


This first afternoon we decide to save the signature St Regis Bloody Mary for the next night and so we peruse the sake selections. Indecisiveness takes over and the bartender suggests we try two matsu sake; one dry and the other sweet. Matsu is the traditional way of serving sake in a wooden box and the sake is sipped from one of the corners of the box. We enjoy the sake with conversations between us and the bartender. We talk about Japan, food, and drinks. Building a relationship with the bartender is always something we like to do to show appreciation of their craft.

When it comes to drinks, the essence of a drinking place, they shine in Bloody Mary. Known to loyal St Regis guests all over the world is the hotel's initiative in creating versions of the Bloody Mary drink with a twist that is unique to that city while incorporating localized elements into the libation. St Regis Osaka's very own version is the Shogun Mary made with wasabi, shoyu, fresh celery juice, tomato juice, yuzu and tabasco. Around the glass rim is powdered wasabi. Bloody Mary versions from other cities can also be and the bartender prepares for us a Red Snapper, the signature of the St Regis New York. This version is made with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, cayenne pepper, and black peppercorn. We compare the taste and flavor of Shogun Mary and Red Snapper and become impressed at how closely they are made to reflect each culture's taste. The Japanese is known for making incredible cuisine that focuses on very delicate and pure flavors. The Shogun Mary reflected just that- the cocktail is light and delicate. We take a sip of the Red Snapper and at once notice the difference in intensity of a bold taste.

The bartender asks us to name some favorites drinks of people in Chicago. She takes out a notepad from her pocket and is ready to take notes. She says that she wants to try and make them. That could be quite a tough one since people's tastes are so diverse. We tell her about the Pickleback. She absolutely must know about it! Well, it's really because we absolutely love it and in recent months it has become the favorite drink among bartenders. It started in NYC and now of course trendy bars in Chicago are offering it. Pickleback? She looks confused. Oh, it's easy, we tell her. You don't need a recipe for that. Just take a shot of Jameson whiskey (it has to be Irish whiskey, at least, as other types of whiskey won't work) and then followed by a shot of pickle juice/brine. The after taste is umami, we tell her.

The St Regis Bar
St Regis Hotel
3-6-12 Honmachi
Chuo-ku, Osaka