Japanese cuisine has always impressed me. It’s not just about the quality of the food, but also the craftmanship and dedication that comes with it. The attention to every minute detail astounds me, with no stone left unturned by these culinary zealots, who strive to enhance your gastronomic experience. And these characteristics are fully appreciated by the Osakans in particular, who abide by the Kuidaore principle, which literally means “to become poor as a result of one’s extravagance in eating and drinking”. And being in Rome, one should do as the Romans do! With that, I begin my adventures in Kansai with a meal at Koryu, a three Michelin star restaurant helmed by the brilliant chef Shintaro Matsuo.
Upon entering the restaurant, the staff humbly bows at you, and we quickly return the favor. The restaurant itself is modern with Japanese undertones, and caters for 12 diners. The centerpiece is the prep area, and a very impressive looking charcoal grill station with the ambers at their peak condition. Three chefs prepare the food, whilst two servers cater to your drinks and clear the plates. The staff in general were wonderfully friendly and attentive, whom definitely did their best to translate the dishes to you with their trusty iPad.
We started off with a very smooth Suntory malt beer, which was quite a nice contrast to the typical Japanese lagers that one might expect. Quite a wonderful thirst quencher during the peak of Japanese summer, which was unusually humid according to the locals.
First was the abalone with local tomatoes, peaches, uni (sea urchin) and grapes. This was a very refreshing start, and the components actually melded well together.
Whilst we were having our initial drinks, the chef was already prepping the green peppers, which were slowly grilled whole on top of the red ambers. After we had our first course, the chef extracted the green peppers and sliced them, then topped it off with bonito flakes made from skipjack tuna, which was cured for 4 months. The green peppers were lusciously soft, with a nice smokiness to it. The bonito flakes were almost ethereal, and just melted on your tongue, imparting a rather subtle umami flavor. Simple components, but executed to perfection.
Next we had a sashimi platter consisting of snapper and razor clam sashimi, octoper with peanut sauce and dill, pomfret, and maguro with wasabi and salted egg yolk. The seafood was brilliant, and the chef truly highlighted the quality of the ingredients. The only slight hiccup for me was the dill, which I felt was a tad overpowering for me. But ultimately, a heavenly platter for sashimi aficianados.
The next dish was a very comforting one, which was Eel congee with egg tofu. The broth was really hearty, and the eel was well cooked. But the highlight of the dish was the egg tofu, which was the most meltingly delicious tofu I’ve ever had. Even for non-believers of tofu, this will change your life, I tells ya!
Next, was the pickled cucumbers with tofu sauce and sesame. This was a nice, refreshing intermezzo in between courses.
I love that the chef slowly grills his food, which is great for maintaining the moisture within the dish. The star of the next dish, sweetfish, was slowly grilled throughout the previous courses. I must admit it was particularly enticing just to watch the fish being slowly cooked to perfection, and brings about much anticipation to when the dish will finally arrive in front of you.
And when it finally did, it did not disappoint. The sweetfish was nicely complemented with a grilled fig and green soy beans. The sweetfish was recommended to be eaten whole, although I did remove most of the spine.
Next, we had Salmon roe infused with light soy sauce. Another lovely dish albeit perhaps a tad on the salty side.
Now, this dish will be forever etched in my memory, as the most luscious piece of beef that I’ve ever had. This strain of wagyu beef from Miyazaki was slowly grilled, and paired with shards of bamboo and a pea pod. This was an education for me, to learn of the many types of Wagyu beef that are available across Japan. Although Kobe beef is perceived to be the king of the hill, this Miyazaki beef was definitely up there with the rest of them.
And finally, we ended the savoury part of the meal with congee, pickles, and tea. I must say that the rice here is of an amazing quality.
Finally, we had a plum jelly with plum cream. A nice refreshing way to cap off the meal.
What a great way to start out my trip!
Koryu was definitely up there with my other favourite restaurant experiences, serving dishes of uncompromising quality and deliciousness, plus fantastic service to boot. The damage for the three of us was approx. 47,000 yen, or about RM500 per person. Compared to what’s available in Malaysia, I thought the price was quite a steal. Definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in Osaka, and keen to sample the best produce available in the region, cooked to perfection by a passionate chef.
Location: 1-5-1 Dojima, Kita-ku, Osaka. +81 6-6347-5660. Michelin Website.