The Wife and I are huge crab fans and satisfy our cravings at various seafood restaurants in Singapore — chilli crab, black pepper crab, steamed crab, curry crab, crab beehoon, cold crab — you get the idea. When we found a restaurant in Osaka that served crab kaiseki, we had no choice but to go.
It was in October 2018 and our first time visiting the Kansai region in Japan. We planned a free-and-easy trip covering Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto over 11 days, with a focus on enjoying as many local dishes as possible.
We had landed in Kansai International Airport in Osaka the night before, and after a good night’s rest, we took the metro to Namba and walked over to Kani Doraku Dotombori Nakamise for our lunch reservation.
Kani Doraku is a famous chain in Japan and has many branches in Osaka, including a few in the Dotombori shopping district. Their main shop is located right smack in the heart of Dotombori, just a short stroll from the Glico Man. When you walk past, there is no way you can miss their giant king crab signboard.
Lunch slots for their main store were fully booked online, but we managed to reserve seats at a smaller branch just down the road. When we arrived, we showed them our reservation and were promptly seated on the second floor. We walked past tanks of live crab, including this poor soul who probably wouldn’t survive past the day.
We wanted to try as many varieties as possible, so we ordered two different lunch sets and shared everything. The Kagetsu set focused on a snow crab hotpot while the Sumire set provided a sampling of small dishes. We added a crab croquette from the ala carte menu, just case we didn’t have enough crab.
The first dish to arrive was the Raw Snow Crab. You know the scene in Jerry Maguire with Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger, where she said: “You had me at hello“? Well, that pretty much summed it up for us when this was presented.
We’ve had our fair share of seafood sashimi but this really stood out. I was expecting it to have a firm texture, but it was soft and sweet to the bite. Totally different from what you’d get after cooking. If you haven’t tried this before, I would highly recommend it.
Next came a steady procession of small dishes of Crab Everything; from simple boiled crab to crab chawanmushi to crab tempura to crab gratin and the crab croquette that we’d added. Unfortunately, the crab sashimi had set too high a bar and everything tasted, well, just good.
Luckily, the next highlight of the meal was laid out in front of us — Kani Suki, or snow crab hotpot. Basically raw crab, tofu and vegetables cooked in a light dashi broth, shabu-shabu style. Simple, fresh and delicious.
But that wasn’t all.
After we finished all the ingredients, our waitress came around and added rice to the leftover broth. She let it cook for a while, then turned off the fire, stirred eggs into the porridge, sprinkled spring onions and served us individual bowls topped with seaweed.
Tadah! Another dish, Zosui, or rice porridge. It was very nice.
The other lunch set came with Claypot Rice with Crab, which was also quite nice. But between the two carb dishes, the porridge was the clear winner.
By then, we were quite stuffed, so the light dessert of ice cream and some fruits were a nice end to the meal. Since it was our first time in Osaka, we spent a relaxing afternoon wandering around Dotombori and soaking in the lively atmosphere and attractive store-front displays.
It was a good start of our vacation, and we were glad that our first meal lived up to expectations.
Eleven days in Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto
The world has changed forever due to that-which-must-not-be-named and international travel is on an indefinite pause. There are many countries we want to visit again and Japan is definitely among the top choices.
In the meantime, as we remain grounded in Singapore, we can look back and remember the wonderful time we had in our eleven days in Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto during the autumn of 2018, two years and a lifetime ago.