Notes from Osaka: Lunch at Kigawa

November 13, 2013

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Trying to find the little alley we get lost three times. 

It’s disorienting, this city of Osaka, the way streets turn into bustling covered arcades filled with discount stores, fast food and pachinko parlors, and then morph into tiny ancient little alleyways, too small to be called streets.  Confusing, when someone tells you to turn on the next street, only to stand wondering if this little pathway between buildings – barely 2 feet wide – could properly be called a street.  Finally a bustling little woman takes pity on us and walks us to the door of the restaurant. 

After that it’s easy. 

Chef Osamu Ueno serves the same meal to all of his 12 customers, standing in front of you with his 6 assistants, the entire kitchen visible. Kigawa is credited as the father of the kappo ryori places – a restaurant where you eat in the kitchen, watching the chef slice sashimi, roast fish, arrange plates, and then serve the food directly across the counter.  For those of us who don't speak Japanese, kappo is easy; there's no need to order, and this tiny, friendly restaurant is a great place to discover what it’s all about. 

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 The welcome. Bright green, bright flavor: spinach soup with a dashi base. (Notice the helpful translation.) 

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Salad: burdock, mibuna stems, spinach in a sesame dressing.

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Autumn on a plate: peanut chawan mushi, tofu with persimmon jelly, yama imo, duck, sawara, trout roe. In the front, the tiniest little potatoes, the size of a thumbnail.

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Sashimi, painstakingly translated: tuna, spanish mackerel, blackthroat seaperch, barracuda, squid, saba, red snapper.

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Soup: daikon, yuba, kinome in turnip broth.

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Fried eel, fried taro, crab, shisito pepper.

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Simmered daikon, shrimp, onions.

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Part of the show: fileting mackerel.

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Rosy pork, extraordinarily sweet, with grated taro enhanced with pork jus and a dab of mustard. 

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Rice, pickles, miso soup, tea.

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Final flavor: green tea, persimmon jellies. 

Kigawa (1-7-7 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku; tel: 06-6211-3030).

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