Japan’s Second City Aims for No. 1 in Food: Osaka Dine & Deal

Taiyoshi Hyakuban
Taiyoshi Hyakuban, a traditional Japanese restaurant, in Nishinari-ku, Osaka. Shabu-shabu dishes and a selection of fresh seafood are highlights. Photographer: Drew Gibson/Bloomberg

The exodus of business people from Tokyo on the 155-minute bullet-train journey to the relative calm of Osaka this year gave restaurants in Japan’s second-biggest city a chance to show their talents to some new diners.

The nuclear-disaster worry has faded, though some of the nation’s finest cuisine remains in Osaka -- it won more stars in the Michelin guide released in October. Osaka’s offerings include the finest traditional cuisine, including kushi katsu deep-fry and udon noodles, alongside European and Asian fare.

Here are our top choices for business dining in the city.

Osaka/Umeda Station Area

Mogami: 1-10-16 Sonezakishinchi, Kita-Ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6345-9085; http://www.kushi-mogami.co.jp/s-kitashinchi

What: Kushi-katsu.

Why: Plush surroundings to sample an Osaka favorite -- a range of vegetables, seafood and meat delicately fried in batter. If you’re feeling patriotic, the staff will put your national flag on display at the table.

Where: Kitashinchi, the main dining and entertainment district for business people near the revamped Osaka station.

When: Early dinner, leaving time to enjoy the surrounding entertainment district later.

Private Room: No (choice of counter or table seating).

Sound Level: Can get noisy at the counter at night.

La Baie: Ritz-Carlton 5th Floor, 2-5-25 Umeda, Kita-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6343-7020; http://www.ritz-carlton.co.jp

What: Fancy French.

Why: If you need to impress a client, the Ritz’s showcase restaurant may be a good bet, with its flawless service, gorgeous wood decor and unique culinary creations.

Where: In the stylish Ritz-Carlton hotel in Umeda.

When: A deal-making lunch or an extra-special dinner when the size of the check isn’t an issue.

Private Room: Yes.

Sound Level: Quiet -- the tables are far apart.

Matsumoto: 1-6-19 Sonezakishinchi, Kita-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6341-6802;http://www.kitashinchi-matsumoto.com

What: Traditional Japanese.

Why: Fine Japanese cuisine in an elegant atmosphere. It’s pricey at night. Lunch won’t break the bank.

Where: Kitashinchi.

When: Midday, for the kaiseki lunch course.

Private Room: Yes.

Sound level: Quiet.

Business District, Nishi-ku

Carbon: 4-4-12, Kitahama, Chuo-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6220-4848; http://www.ne.jp/asahi/spain/elponiente/carbonmap.html

What: Tapas.

Why: Iberico pork and other fine meat dishes. One of Osaka’s best selections of Spanish wines and attentive service.

Where: A block away from Midosuji, Osaka’s central boulevard that draws comparison to the Champs Elysees.

When: Atmosphere suited to romance as well as business, especially in the evening.

Private room: No.

Sound Level: Intimate seating -- you can easily overhear your neighbors’ conversations. Quieter outdoor tables an option.

Sultan: 2-3-13, Minamihonmachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6264-6585;http://r.gnavi.co.jp/kab7900/

What: Turkish.

Why: Kebab and Kofte set lunches that offer unbeatable value in a serene atmosphere suitable for talking deals.

Where: Incongruously, downstairs from a Seven-Eleven and next to the Hanshin Expressway.

When: Lunch (no credit cards) for value, dinner if you’ve worked up a particularly big appetite and (Friday, Saturday) for the inevitable belly dancing experience.

Private room: No.

Sound Level: Quiet at lunch. May get raucous when the belly dancers appear.

Mimiu: 4-6-18 Hirano-cho, Chuo-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6231-5770; http://www.mimiu.co.jp/mimiu/top.html

What: Udon-suki.

Why: The birthplace of Udon-suki, a hot pot of seafood, local vegetables and chewy noodles that has spread over much of Japan. It’s a dish that brings people together in a casual setting, making it easy to get know your clients better.

Where: Honmachi, Osaka’s central business district.

When: Dinner, especially when seeking a cozy retreat during the cooler months from November to April.

Private Room: Yes, for as many as 20 people for parties/office gatherings.

Sound Level: Aimed at group dinners so could be noisy if one of the area printing houses has planned a leaving party.

Santalucia: 1-9-17, Kyomachibori, Nishi-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6444-8881; http://www.santalucia-z.com/

What: Oven-baked pizza, Napoli style.

Why: Run by an Italian owner/chef, the pizza is hard to beat, even in a city with plenty of competition.

When: Evening.

Private Room: No.

Sound Level: Attracts couples so hushed tones are the norm.

Museo della Farina: 3-7-11 Shinmachi, Nishi-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6534-3443; http://www.museodellafarina.jp

What: Italian.

Why: Pasta, prosciutto, wine and good value.

Where: West of the Midosuji main thoroughfare, in a quieter quarter of central Osaka.

When: Dinner.

Private Room: No.

Sound Level: Quiet.


Harijyu: 1-9-17, Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6211-7777; http://www.harijyu.co.jp/

What: Sukiyaki, Shabu-shabu

Where: A traditional Japanese house nestled on a street just a block away from Osaka’s noisiest entertainment district. The top cuts of meat you cook at your table come from a butcher shop down Midosuji, close enough that the waitresses will offer to hop on a bicycle and get more if you’re still hungry.

When: Evening. Book a room overlooking the garden and feel like you’re a hundred miles from the city.

Private Room: Yes, a main attraction.

Sound Level: Very quiet.

Tora-chan: 1-7-13 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6213-5651; http://www.tora-chan.net

What: Yakiniku barbecue.

Why: A top choice for meat lovers. You get the finest cuts in an environment that’s more elegant than many of the restaurants that specialize in the cook-your-own fare.

Where: Hozenji-Yokocho, a cobblestone lane near Namba, Osaka’s southern entertainment district.

When: Evening.

Private Room: Yes, for small groups.

Sound Level: Medium. But in a popular entertainment district so you’re never sure who might drop by with their posse.

Down South

Taiyoshi Hyakuban: 3-5-25, Sanno, Nishinari-ku, Osaka. Information: +81-6-6632-0050; http://r.tabelog.com/osaka/A2702/A270203/27000549/

What: Taisho-era brothel converted into a traditional Japanese restaurant.

Why: A step back into a bygone era where you can enjoy reasonably priced shabu-shabu and a selection of fresh seafood. Your name displayed on the entrance when you reserve (and you must) and a location next to a fascinating (and still thriving) historical red-light district.

When: Evening, of course.

Private room: Absolutely.

Sound Level: Quiet enough to hear ghosts.


Daikiku: 1-115 Kitashirakawa Maruyama-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto. Information: +81-75-724-8159; http://www.daikiku.com

What: Traditional Japanese.

Why: The restaurant is renowned for its hamo, or pike eel. Prices are reasonable and the servings are large.

Where: Northeastern Kyoto, offering a charming atmosphere away from the city center.

When: From June to September, when the restaurant offers only hamo dishes.

Private Room: Yes, but for an additional charge.

Sound Level: Quiet.

Hyotei: 35 Nanzen-ji Kusakawa-cho Sakyo-ku, Kyoto. Information: +81-75-771-4116; http://hyotei.co.jp

What: Traditional Japanese.

Why: The Zen garden view alone makes this the perfect place to revive the tradition of the power breakfast. The traditional “okayu” porridge set is reasonably priced and healthy to boot. Dinner is said to be good but expensive. Rated 3 stars in the Michelin Guide.

Where: Next to the Nanzen-ji, a 700-year-old Zen temple.

When: Morning.

Private Room: Yes. Worth booking for its calming atmosphere.

Sound Level: Doesn’t get much more peaceful than this.


Kobe Motomachi Bekkan Botanen: 1-11-3 Motomachi-dori, Chuo- ku, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture Information: +81-78-331-5790; http://www.botanen.jp

What: Chinese.

Why: Reasonable prices, good quality Cantonese-style food.

Where: JR Motomachi station, near Kobe’s bustling Chinatown.

When: Early evening because of its 9 p.m. closing time.

Private Room: Yes.

Sound Level: Can get noisy.

(Masatsugu Horie and Drew Gibson are reporters for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own. This report is the 11th of the 2011 series of Bloomberg Dine & Deal. The articles survey top cities and offer informed tips on good restaurants for business and pleasure. For more Dine & Deal reviews, click here.)