Savoring Osaka, Japan, in the company of Kuni-san is almost like a fairytale gustatory trip.
Osaka-born Kuniyoshi Okamoto works for the Tourism Information Office. There is no hiding his love of his hometown; he has been the preferred guide of many Filipino travelers, many of whom describe him as Pinoy at heart.
Having Kuni-san by your side is, without exaggeration, like having Google maps, the Zagat, a phone directory, a secretary, personal shopper, interpreter and your own private tour guide rolled into one. Without him, Osaka would have been, like I’ve always known it, wonderful—but in the touristic sense.
This time around, I saw it from a very different perspective. On this trip, I gladly dined without regret, like a local gourmand; every yen spent was spent wisely.
In Okamoto’s company, we sat at the best tables and met the restaurant owners; had the chefs perform a sampling of their broths, sauces, special pickles and teas; and had our fill of history and restaurant stories. He even produced a much-coveted golf club for a friend, who claimed that without Kuni, there was no way he would have acquired it.
He also showed us where to buy fruits of the same quality at half the price, compared to where we used to buy them. In many places, we arrived greeted like locals and left as newfound friends.
Osaka, he said, is “the kitchen of Japan… It is a city of delicious dishes. We do not necessarily go by trend, but rather insist on having good food at the right price.”
This is Kuni-san’s Osaka, experienced through our taste buds.
What we ordered at Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M was the Beef Yakiniku Premium Course: Assorted Appetizers; Marbled Beef and Lean Beef Sushi; Matsusaka Short Rib with Leek and Salt; House Salad; 4 Parts of Matsusaka Beef; Garlic Rice and Dessert.
The meats were expectedly melt-in-your-mouth delicious. When the meats were presented, the server explained each meat part and suggested the order in which they should be enjoyed. I liked the sirloin the most among the four cuts—marbled to melt in the mouth yet the least indulgent.
The garlic rice was excellent, bold and bursting with flavor. Laced with beef fat, it could pass for a meal on its own due to its tastiness. The Japanese rice gave it a character of its own—sticky, aromatic, which added to its bold and bursting flavor.
The sochu pudding was my preferred dessert. A delicate taho-like curd spiked with sochu, it took the richness of the meat away and cleansed my palate.
The brown sugar mochi was light and had a toasted finish to it. It was likewise very good. I think it might be my favorite mochi.
Tip: For a group of eight, Kuni-san suggested four sets. We had just arrived from Manila and were famished. We defied him and ordered one set each, to our regret!
At Gyunabe M, we enjoyed a Special Matsusaka Set—a combination of lean, tender and marbled sweet beef.
After our yakiniku experience, we thought we had had our fill of prized marbled beef, hence our combination choice. To our regret, the marbled meat was once more a dream-come-true dish for the palate.
Kuni-san personally cooked the sukiyaki for us. He started by extracting fat from a cube of beef suet. When the pot was oiled, he added brown rock sugar and lightly cooked the Matsusaka meat.
He then added the sauces, vegetables, tofu and mushrooms. From the meat down to the leek, every single ingredient was served at the perfect point of doneness. Excellent!
Sake from all over Japan goes for ¥300 a shot. At Sake Bar M 300, we ordered varieties with kalamansi, peach and orange flavors.
Not one sake variety was better than the other. The orange was like orange juice, sweet and pulpy. The peach was sweetly perfumed. The kalamansi was every bit true to the fruit.
We had all our meals with dry sake. While the drink remained neutral to the buds, it washed and refreshed the palate, allowing us to repeatedly relish every single bite.
At Tsuki no Odori, we tried Foie Gras on Toast, Duck Yakitori, Tomato Salad, and Fresh Tofu with Fresh Wasabi.
The Foie Gras on Toast was a bite of heaven. The bread was soft as clouds on the inside and crisp on the outside. The foie was thick and creamy, with a sweet finish.
The duck yakitori, seasoned to a “T,” was juicy, with notes of torched crisp duck skin. The karashi further enhanced the yakitori. The tomato salad was plump, sweet and full of juice.
The fresh tofu was silky as could be, the wasabi lending a nice gentle spike to its delicateness.
If you find yourself in Osaka, contact Kuniyoshi Okamoto: mobile number +818041421754;
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