My husband and I recently ate our way through Osaka, dining several times a day on Takoyaki (because, why not?)
Takoyaki is one of Osaka’s “iconic foods” – in English, we say it is fried octopus balls, but really it is chunks of octopus fried in a circular batter. It’s not actually octopus balls (do they have balls?) and is absolutely delicious. I love it.
And if you want to read about all the other food I love in Osaka, check out this post I wrote last time I visited, on the top 5 foods to eat in Osaka.
Osaka is one of the most famous places in Japan to eat Takoyaki, so of course we were stressed, trying to find the “perfect” takoyaki place. We went to expensive, city-wide famous restaurants, small mom-and-pop restaurants, and greasy stalls. All were good (in their own way), but my top 6 favorite had to be:
1. Lemon and Black Pepper Takoyaki in “American Town”
For those of you who are familiar with Takoyaki, you know that it almost always comes topped with mayonnaise, Takoyaki/Okonomiyaki sauce (a dark brown, savory sauce), fish flakes, and powdered seaweed.
My husband hates mayonnaise; I love it. We always have to ask for no mayonnaise on half our Takoyaki when we eat out…
This Takoyaki, on the other side, came topped with black pepper and squeezed lemon. And somehow, the flavors worked. I don’t know how.
I wasn’t expecting to like it – and I ended up loving it. Ryosuke too. We got this Takoyaki in “American Village,” near the square. The shop looked like this (not the “Uncle Sam” shop, I’m talking about the shop on the right)
I wanted to put a “regular Takoyaki” as Number 1… but I couldn’t. I really couldn’t. The Lemon and Black Pepper Takoyaki was just too good.
2. Gindaco “regular” Takoyaki
I love Gindaco. They are a chain restaurant and I frequent several of their chains in Tokyo. I know it’s super unoriginal to put down a chain as one of “Osaka’s best places to eat Takoyaki,” but seriously. Gindaco serves a superior product.
They don’t hold back on the oil – and the resulting balls are incredibly crispy on the outside, while still soft and gooey on the inside. I have never had a bad experience at Gindaco and, as much as I wanted to put a small, local Osaka stall above Gindaco, I couldn’t.
They have several different types of Takoyaki. My favorite, of course, is the regular stuff, with mayonnaise, Takoyaki sauce (like a sweet/savory BBQ sauce), seaweed powder, and fish flakes. I am also a fan of their Yuzu/Orange + green onion flavored dipping Takoyaki and their Ume (sour plum) flavored dipping Takoyaki.
You can eat in or take-out. We do both. Very often. Osaka was no exception.
Seriously, look at how crispy those Takoyaki are. They are perfect.
3. Greasy Takoyaki from any of the small stalls
Our cheapest Takoyaki came at only 200yen for 6 pieces. It was incredibly cheap – and surprisingly good.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t the best Takoyaki I’ve ever had. I mean, I’ve had a lot of Takoyaki.
But for 200yen? That is a pretty incredibly price, it’s served fresh, and the people making the Takoyaki are usually pretty friendly. We got this as a midday snack while walking towards Osaka Castle.
4. Dipping Takoyaki at Kukuru Takoyaki
We had high hopes for “Kukuru Takoyaki.” For one, it is along one of the most famous streets in Osaka – and has a giant octopus on the sign. It’s a restaurant that has made the front page of all the Osaka guidebooks because it is supposed to serve mouthwateringly delicious Takoyaki.
We felt a bit let down. Don’t get me wrong, the Takoyaki was still delicious. It wouldn’t have made this list if it wasn’t delicious.
It just wasn’t “Amazing!” (and was the most expensive Takoyaki on this list) I like my Takoyaki crispy and flavorful, with a unique “kick.” These were soft, gooey all the way through, and very plain. I’m sure they appeal to someone with a much more sophisticated palate, but that’s just not me.
Our favorite at Kukuru was the dipping Takoyaki.
I loved the dipping Takoyaki.
It came with a very simple broth (that reminded me suspiciously of Passover Matzo Ball Soup) and with a side of ginger and greens. The Takoyaki themselves were gooey all the way through (not my favorite) and broke apart easily. I guess that is good for dipping in the soup, though.
It was an interesting combination.
It was also probably the most “healthy” Takoyaki I’ve ever eaten :)
5. At a food court near Osaka Station
Similar to chain restaurants, food courts know what they’re doing. They serve a delicious, easy to eat, run-of-the-mill Takoyaki. I loved it.
6. Regular Takoyaki from a Mom and Pop restaurant (that doesn’t specialize in Takoyaki)
Just for fun, we tried ordering Takoyaki at a family-run restaurant in Osaka. Their specialty was Udon and Okonomiyaki, but they had Takoyaki on the menu, so we thought “why not?”
It was good. Not great, but still pretty good. Once again, the Takoyaki was a bit squishy (I love my oil, sorry) and it was a very average Takoyaki. But still, loads better than you can get at most festivals in Tokyo.