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Posts Tagged ‘yatai’

Osaka (大阪) is sometimes referred to as the nation’s kitchen. A mercantile city, Osaka was once Japan’s official distribution centre for staple domestic goods such as rice. Nowadays, this moniker is tribute to the city’s reputation for fine quality foodstuffs, produce and restaurants at seriously good prices.

As a former Osaka resident, I can certainly attest to the sheer quality and value-for-money when eating out in comparison to my current hometown Tokyo. It’s always a pleasure to return to Osaka and know that I can eat so well, so cheaply.

One of my must-visit Osaka restaurants is Toyo. Strictly speaking, Toyo is not a restaurant, but a yatai. Says Wikipedia on yatai:

A yatai (屋台) is a small, mobile food stall in Japan typically selling ramen or other hot food.

The stall is set-up in the early evening on pedestrian walkways and removed late at night or in the early morning hours before commuters begin to fill the streets. Menus are usually limited; Japanese cuisine (often of Chinese origin) is of course most common, but Western cuisine yatai are not unknown. Beer, sake and shōchū are usually available. A salaryman might relax with colleagues over dinner and drinks at a yatai on his way home from work.

Indeed, this is the case at Toyo. The master, Toyo-san, has established his kitchen on the flatbed of a pickup truck. Drinks are self-serve, your tally tacked onto your bill, and perhaps also due to Toyo’s salubrious location, patrons eat standing up, tachinomiya (立ち飲みや) style. Seafood – and plenty of it – is what’s on offer here. To wit:

The maguro/ikura/uni sushi and sashimi combo is Toyo‘s signature dish. Slabs of maguro – yes, slabs! – compete with a lavalike eruption of ikura and uni on one’s plate. Singing with brine, these provide texture and contrast to the rice hidden underneath. Another dish of ponzu-dressed scallops and prawns sit beneath verdant green negi, the tart citrus dressing cleansing one’s palate for the courses ahead.

Depending the seasonality and availability of the day’s catch, other courses include tuna tataki, sushi rolls and seafood soups and hotpots.

Toyo norimaki

When I last visited Toyo during the depths of winter, people were tucking into steaming bowls of snapper or tai hotpots. Whole fish, noodles and vegetables were steeped in soup, the delicate stock fragrant with yuzu and other aromatics. Concerned whether we were coping in the near-freezing temperatures, Toyo-san was keen for my friends and I to partake in this winter offering. Due to the copious amount of food already eaten, we were hesitant. Toyo-san insisted on whipping up a similar dish – albeit smaller – especially for us that wasn’t on the menu . How could we refuse? We had no regrets when the following bowl was brought to our table half an hour later:

I lost count of the number of crab claws in this dish. Hidden amongst the crab, negi and yuzu were also chunks of tuna, glass noodles – mung bean noodles? – and daikon. We were in hotpot heaven!

Alas, I don’t know when I’ll next be in Osaka. But I do know when I visit, Toyo will be on the menu.

Toyo:

Tel. 06-6882-5768

Higashi Noda Machi 3-2-26

Toshima-ku, Osaka

大阪市都島区東野田町3-2-26

Closest station: JR/subway Kyobashi, 4mins.

Open Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat only (1630hrs – 2100hrs, 1530hrs~ Sat)

No reservations, seats 50. No cards. Budget around ¥3000 per head.

PS. If you do visit Toyo-san, tell him Jane from Australia sent you!

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