[Japan Series] Day 13: Takama Soba たかま, Abeno Harukas あべのハルカス, Ichiran 一蘭, Osaka 大阪市

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The next day, we decided to stay in Osaka to hit up a few more attractions. On my list was to try Takama (たかま), an affordable one Michelin star soba restaurant.  They open at 11:30am and I’m not sure if they take reservations, but were told to arrive 30 minutes before they open to ensure we get in during the first seating. The restaurant is tucked away in the side streets near Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai, a shopping alley, but this restaurant is super low key looking so you would miss it if you were just walking by. There is no English outside, so just look for this wooden house with a sliding door.

 

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We arrived around 11am and a small line was already forming.

 

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The restaurant is extremely small, with one round table that fits around 10 diners, and then a small four seater tucked on the other side. We were the second last couple to get a seat, so we ended up having to share a table with another another couple on the side. The only downside is that you can’t see what’s going on on the other side. I’m not sure if you can see the chefs on the other side making the soba, but we were lucky enough to get a seat, so it didn’t matter.

 

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They have a small number of appetizers available, including the Dashimaki-Tamago. Of course it was pricier than the tamago we have been getting at the markets, but this was so light and fluffy! You can really see each layer of egg and it came paired with some grated radish and light soy sauce. Highly recommend getting this!

 

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S got the Ebiten-oroshi Soba Set for 2,000 yen and it came with prawn and vegetable tempura. As you can see, the tempura batter is extremely light. It came with a variety of vegetables that we were not familiar with, but overall, it was very good.

 

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At Takama, they serve two types of soba. The first style is called mori, a regular-style soba made from marunuki flour. The second is called inaka, a noodle made with hikigurumi, a whole buckwheat flour. Both flours are extremely high-quality and are from the Fukui prefecture.  S can choose either type for his set. He went with the mori style and had it cold (zaru-style). The noodles are served cold with a light sweet soy dipping sauce. I really enjoyed this as the soba noodles were super thin and had a nice chewiness. The cold soba turned out to be my favourite. With the cold soba, you will also have leftover dipping sauce, and at the end of your meal, the server will bring a pot of hot water which you pour into your leftover dipping sauce to dilute it as a drinking broth. Really tasty!

 

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For myself, I decided to try the warm duck broth and got it with the inaka style, 100% buckwheat flour. The inaka style has a more nutty flavour, but I personally like the lighter mori-style. The duck broth is flavourful with 2-3 pieces of duck inside. However, I am not personally used to have soba in a warm broth and found that the duck broth overpowered the noodles. Back in Vancouver, I think the only comparable soba restaurant would be Kinome, but I think I have to say this is the best I’ve had. At the end of the day, the meal for two probably cost around $50 in total, which is extremely good given it is a one Michelin star restaurant. There are English menus available and the servers can speak simple English. Keep in mind, they are open open for lunch from11:30 am – 2:30am.

 

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Since we were nearby, we decided to check out Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai (天神橋筋商店街). This is the longest shopping street in Japan which stretches 2,600 meters and has over 600 shops. On a weekday afternoon, it actually wasn’t too busy when compared to the famous Dotonbori. I found that many of the pharmacy shops here (if you look for the non-chain shops) were slightly cheaper so perfect if you are looking to stock up on Japanese drugstore cosmetics and snacks.

 

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After some shopping, we decided to train to JR Tennoji station. Here, we visited Abeno Harukas which sits on top of the Kintetsu Osaka-Abenobashi Station, which is across the JR Tennoji station.

 

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The Abeno Harukas (あべのハルカス) is the tallest skyscraper in Japan at 300 meters tall. The building includes a department store, an art museum, a hotel and an observation deck. The observation deck is called Harukas 300 and provides a 360 view of Osaka from the 60th floor. Admission costs 1,500 yen so since we already checked out Osaka from Umeda Sky Tower, we decided to skip this.

 

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Instead, you can go to the 16th floor for free and enjoy the garden terrace. I really enjoyed this modern clean space and it is a good option if you don’t want to pay the admission price. Of course, I’m sure the 60th floor would offer better views.

 

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This is what you can see from the 16th floor at the garden terrace. Not bad since it’s free!

 

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After walking around the department store, we decided to go check out Amerikamura. This is supposed to be a district near Shinsaibashi which offers more American style shopping. Funny enough, we searched Amerikamura in Google maps, and ended up at Universal Studios… Yes we have no idea how we ended up here, so always be careful with Google Maps in a foreign country. Turned out there were quite a lot of brightly lit souvenir shops before the entrance, so we did get to walk around a bit. As it was late, there was no point in entering Universal Studios at the time.

 

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After our excursion, we decided to head back to the Dotonbori area and walking by Ichiran (一蘭 道頓堀店別館), I suggested we enjoy a warm bowl of ramen. There are two outlets in the Dotonbori area. One is by the canal outside, whereas the other is under the shopping area along the strip. We went for the latter because we heard this location has 3 floors and way more seats. Of course, there was still the usual crazy line up, but this one is super organized for the tourists. You will still have to purchase the ticket at the vending machine, but you will also be asked whether you want to sit at the traditional individual booths, or if you want family seating arrangements. If you have never been to Ichiran, then I suggest trying the unique individual booths. However, since we have already tried it, and the line up for family seating was quicker, we went with family seating. Definitely not as interesting, but this is perfect for large families or families with kids.

 

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Be sure to check out the bathrooms! How many rolls of toilet paper do you need?

 

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We ended our night with a delicious bowl of Ichiran and it did not disappoint. Consistent with the other locations we tried and service was quick.

Takama Soba
Address: 7-12-14 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka

Ichiran 一蘭 道頓堀店別館
Address:

 

Kinome

K loves soba noodles, so for our family outing, we decided to check out Kinome which has been much talked about for their handmade buckwheat soba noodles. They are only open for dinner and are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Be sure to make reservations as it is usually full.

The decor inside is simple but gives an authentic Japanese feel. They have a fresh sheet that changes up.

The inside is very small. They have around 5 tables of four and the rest is bar seating. Bar seating would be perfect if you order their popular omakase menu. The only downside is there is no air conditioner here so it can get super hot.

Dashi Egg Omelette

We started off with their famous Dashi Egg Omelette. The egg was layered with seaweed and flavoured just enough while remaining a hint of sweetness. So fluffy and moist.

Today’s Sashimi

One order of Today’s Sashimi features whatever the chef believes is most fresh. You can let the server know if you don’t like a specific type of fish. Our order came with 5 types of sashimi. Our selection included Red Tuna (sustainable bluefin tuna), Sockeye Salmon, Tobi-uo (flying fish), Mizu-tako (water octopus) and Shiro-ika (white squid). Flying fish was something new for us and wasn’t too bad! It has a slimier texture but wasn’t too fishy in taste. However, this dish is quite expensive at $30 for very small cuts. Very fresh though!

Grilled Marinated Squid Legs

Next up were Grilled Marinated Squid Legs which came with a side of mayo. I liked how they had a bit of char on the ends and were very tender.

Prawn Tempura

The Prawn Tempura was battered so lightly and the shrimp itself was very fresh because it wasn’t mushy like the ones you get at all you can eat. It had that bounce! It also came with some asparagus.

Braised Berkshire Pork Belly with Grilled Leak & Miso Sauce

The Braised Berkshire Pork Belly was a delicious fatty goodness with the fat melting your mouth.

Chopped Kale & Prawn Kakiage Tempura

A favourite of mine was the Chopped Kale & Prawn Kakiage Tempura. Never though you could tempura kale! It was filled with bits of shrimp and scallop too which was delicious!

Asakusa Soba

Next up was what we came here for – their handmade buckwheat soba! They have three choices. First was the Asakusa Soba which features hand made buckwheat noodle with green onion, tempura bits, radish, seaweed, and sesame. This dish is served cold and you pour a cold broth on top and mix it together. They advise you eat it as quickly as possible so the texture remains. This one was great with a very fresh take on the traditional soba.

Zaru Soba

The Zaru Soba was what I was used to. With this one, you can truly taste how fresh the noodles are. The texture has just the right amount of firmness. I can see why people go crazy over the soba here!

Kamo Seiro Soba

My favourite was the Kamo Seiro Soba though. This was the same handmade buckwheat noodle but served with a warm duck dipping sauce. The sauce was just so flavourful without being too salty. This soba is pricey at $16 but it does come with three tender pieces of duck and is irresistible!

Cold Udon

Kinome’s dishes tend to be smaller in portion size so of course we were still hungry. We decided to try their udon which is new on the menu. There are two choices so we got both. First was the Cold Udon which I absolutely loved. I think I might even like this more than the soba. The udon here is handmade as well and very thin. The cold broth really makes the dish refreshing and keeps that firm texture.

Warm Udon

The Warm Udon featured the same thin noodles, but I felt that because it sat in the broth, the texture of the noodles became slightly soft. Still, I really enjoyed both version of the udon.

Overall, I was very impressed with Kinome’s dishes, especially their soba and udon. Prices are slightly on the higher side for the size of their dishes, but I think it’s well worth it. Plus, they are extremely environmentally friendly which is always a plus. Service was also very friendly.

Pros:
– Handmade buckwheat noodle and udon is a must order!
– Ingredients are extremely fresh

Cons:
– No air conditioning may be a problem in the summer
– Prices are slightly higher for the portions

Price Range: $20-30/person

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food:4.5 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 2.5 Parking: 3.5 Overall: 4

Kinome Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yoshisoba (Shibuya) – Tokyo

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There are tons of restaurants near the Shibuya station. For breakfast, we decided to head to the street where the Standing Sushi Bar is and look for some food. We came across Yoshisoba, which is a standing noodle bar. The prices definitely drew us in. For under 600 yen, you can get a don and soba set! What a steal. First, you must insert your money in the vending machine and choose your food. A ticket will print out and you hand it to the chef. He will ask you whether you want soba or udon.

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Squid Tempura Don

I went for the set, which first consisted of the Squid Tempura Don. I was utterly disappointed with this. The tempura is not fresh at all. You can see a bunch of tempura already premade on the shelf. All he does is heat it up a little and dip it in a tempura sauce. It is then served on rice. I could barely finish this because of how soggy and cold the tempura was. The squid itself was very tender, but the batter was gross. Do not order!

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Soba in Cold Soup

The set also came with the Soba in Cold Soup. Luckily this was more decent, but still not the best I’ve had. The soba is already put in the broth. Usually the broth or dipping sauce is separate, so that you dip your noodles in as you eat. It was just average and tasted like soba you can buy at the grocery store.

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Overall, we were all very disappointed with Yoshisoba. It is cheap and will fill you up, but none of us finished our food because of how bad it was… Stay away!

Address: 4-26-5 Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo