The Japanese word 懐かしい (natsukashii) has been defined as a word that is untranslatable in English. During one of my classes, the adjective has been described as a word meaning ‘to long for, or to miss’. It can also be translated as nostalgia. Japanese food is probably one of those things that I’ll always have ‘natsukashii’ for (3 years of studying Japanese and I’m still not sure if I’m using that word correctly).
When Osaka Bar opened in Sydney, I was very interested in going because the restaurant specialised in cuisine for Osaka. Food from Osaka is said to be the ‘soul food’ of Japan, think okonomiyaki, dote-kushi (one of my favourites). Sydney has a very noticeable lack of places that specialise, or even serve Japanese soul food, with most Japanese restaurants focusing on the ubiquitous sushi, tempura, udon, and ramen.
I finally came here on a Saturday night back in late September. The restaurant is located close to Kings Cross station and is fairly easy to find. N and I had a reservation for around 7ish, but the restaurant wasn’t full when we came in, so walk ins, even on weekends, can probably be accommodated.
While looking over the menus, I heard people chattering away in Japanese. It’s usually a mark of the restaurant’s authenticity when you hear customers from the same country dining there. N and I ordered a bunch of kushikatsu (price starting from $1.50), deep fried skewers that are a local specialty of Osaka, dotekushi ($4.50 for 1), grilled duck confit ($17.50), pork okonomiyaki ($8.50), and potato gratin. We ordered a bottle of umeshu as well, which I don’t remember the name of.
The food didn’t come out very quickly, unlike other Asian restaurants that I usually frequent. The kushikatsu was the first dish that was served. From memory, I recall ordering the pork loin, camembert cheese, eringi mushroom, and squid. Kushikatsu is served with a murky coloured, thick sauce that does not look one bit appealing at all. Don’t be put off by the appearance though. The combination of deep fried skewers and sauce is one of the most simple and delicious combinations I can think of. The sauce is thick and sweet, and tastes like a much sweeter version of soy sauce. It’s considered polite to only dip the skewers into the sauce once before you begin eating. All of the kushikatsu skewers were deep fried well, without being oily. My favourite was the deep fried camembert- there’s never an instance where you can go wrong with deep fried cheese.
The grilled duck confit was the next dish to be served. We couldn’t go past this dish seeing as it listed as the chef’s signature dish on the menu. The duck breast was seared, left slightly rare in the middle, and served with a blueberry miso sauce. The sweet and salty elements of the blueberry miso sauce gave the tender meat a nice contrast in flavours. This was one of my favourite dishes of the night.
The pork okonomiyaki was pan fried, and garnished with finely chopped negi, okonomi sauce, and Japanese kewpie mayonnaise. Very moreish, and I lamented that the pancake wasn’t thicker.
The potato gratin was one of the fusion dishes on the menu that I didn’t find very appealing. It was pleasant and creamy, but as a child I’d eaten my fair share of potato bakes and could have gone without this.
The dote-kushi, which we ordered last, as an afterthought, was one of the best dishes of the night. It reminded me of a meat dish that I had eaten in Nagano in February, and had been looking for ever since. The beef tendon was succulent and fatty, cooked in a thick miso based sauce. They were so good I could eat them all day long.
The service at Osaka Bar was polite and efficient, as was the ambience. The decor here is relaxed and unformal, good for a casual night out.