Osaka is the second largest city in Japan and is referred to by some as the "nation's kitchen". A major attraction for visitors and locals is Dōtonbori, a single street that features the regional cuisine of Osaka - takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and fugu - sold in outdoor stalls or small shops.
Kani Doraku - The famous moving mechanical crab
Grilled snow crab legs - you can smell the aroma a block before you reach the entrance.
Takoyaki - octopus balls
A cool food hall
At the Glico retail store where one can find really huge pocky boxes (photo courtesy of D)
(photo courtesy of D)
Okonomiyaki - a pancake made of flour, vegetables/seafood and topped with mayonnaise, otafuku sauce, bonito flakes, and green onions. Good comfort food.
It seems that David Chang can do no wrong. He's won over publication critics, bloggers, and pretty much every hipster in Manhattan (a formidable army of people that does not embrace its label). Who hasn't eaten at a Momofuku? It's the rite of passage on becoming a well-informed citizen with uber swagger. So, given I did not think much of his noodle bar and I was never quite in vogue with the pork obsession, I was unsure how much I would like Ssäm Bar. Even given those impediments, I was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be a great seafood meal.
Santa Barbara Uni - tapioca, whipped tofu, scallions
Cured hamachi - edamame, horseradish, pea leaves
Tello's Chawan Mushi - maple syrup, smoked trout roe
Satur Farms Fried Brussels Sprouts - chilies, mint, fish sauce
Amish Cheddar Shortcake - Empire apples, ham cream
As true mavericks, we skipped over the signature pig shoulder and most centerpiece pork dishes to order pretty much all the seafood items. What I found were some unexpected but refined combinations of ingredients in the our dishes, with appropriate accents of everyone's favorite animal. There is a lot of buzz around David Chang's restaurants for a variety of reasons: he's badass and his places allow us to embrace our inner carnivore in trendy environs. However, I would return because he is serving up some of the most innovative casual seafood plates in the city.
Everyone says to get to Tsukiji early to see the action, as the market opens around 5am. It's also convenient if you're jetlagged to get up early anyway for a breakfast of champions. We planned to get there around 6, but per usual, I took the lead to ensure our fashionably late arrival. It worked out well, since we got there around 10 and the crowds had already started to dissipate. Some scenes from my favorite market in the world:
Ambrosia from the gods, Tokyo edition. (Photo courtesy of D)
Behind the scenes (Photo courtesy of D)
Would love to mount this one on a wall. That is one brazen indicative-dead-fish-eyeball.
Taken from outside the auction area
大和 - Daiwa
One of the most well-known sushi restaurants in Tsukiji is Daiwa. Located in the small streets outside the market, it is pretty easy to spot from afar, given its menacing wraparound queue.
A tight squeeze!
We went with the omakase, which comes with 7 pieces and 1 roll. It soon becomes obvious that the main focus here is the fish - all very fresh and good; the rice is nothing to speak of. Though they score high in the flavor department, the pieces are rather roughly cut and sloppily assembled. My favorites were the uni and the soft, delicate anago.
I absolutely despise waiting for food, and we ended up waiting around an hour before we got our seats. Was the rigmarole worth it? Absolutely. If a restaurant had to embody the frenetic pace and rubber-necking of Tsukiji, this would be it.
大和 - Daiwa Sushi
Been pretty busy with travel, life, and whatnot; this post will be the last of Barcelona. Anyway - markets are all good, but what happens if you don't cook? Eat someone else's cooking (story of my life). Bar Pinotxo and El Quim are the most well-known of the tapas bars in La Boqueria. Juanito Bayen is the owner of Bar Pinotxo, which occupies some precious real estate near the main entrance of the market. This jolly man is in his 70s, but has more zest of life than most of my 20-something peers.
Signature vest and thumbs
It really is a feat how the man and his nephew deal with all the vague orders; customers just seem to point at ingredients and mutter things in broken Spanish. I guess the trick is that they don't really know what they're getting either. Regardless, anything Juanito serves up tends to be fresh and pretty tasty.
El Quim de la Boqueria
El Quim occupies some less lucrative real estate near the middle of the market, right near the entrance to the seafood section. Its specialty is runny fried eggs with baby squids in its ink: what I would deem a most genius breakfast dish.
Tortillas - omelettes
Chipiron a la plancha - Baby squid seared on a flatiron griddle w/ sherry vinaigrette. El Quim's signature dish actually comes with fried egg, but this alone was delicious in all its inky glory.
Champiñones - Sauteed mixed mushrooms with honey. What I immediately labeled the "burnt mushroom crème brulée." Would not order this one again.
Sardinas a la plancha - Brokeback mountain of sardines. Fresh sardines grilled to achieve a layer of delicate, crispy skin along with a dash of sea salt. Breakfast was a great success.
La Boqueria 466-467,
La Rambla 89
El Quim de la Boqueria
La Boqueria 586-606,
La Rambla 101
La Boqueria is one of the world's most iconic food markets - a huge, bustling public bazaar featuring a wide variety of very fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, meats, and dairy products. The selection is diverse enough to make even the most decisive of shoppers fall victim to paralysis of choice. Though it is located right on La Rambla, the market is still very much frequented by locals. The energy in this place is incredible; it really is quite something to pause and take in all the sights, sounds and smells around you. But, when and if you decide to gawk, beware the aggressive old ladies with stroller carts - a sure fixture in any notable food market around the world; what a strange phenomenon.
Butcherettes cutting meat with as much gusto as their male counterparts
The famous egg stall that everyone takes a picture of