Monday, October 8, 2012

Japan times - part 8: Yakiton in Namba, Osaka

Earlier this year I spent two-and-a-half weeks in Japan, eating and drinking my way through a destination I've wanted to visit for more than a decade. This is the eighth of several posts of foodbooze and sights in Japan.

Emon(?) Yakiton restaurant in back street of Namba, Osaka, Japan
You've probably heard of yakitori grilled chicken bits on a stick, but what about when it's exclusively pork? It's then called yakiton, translating to 'grilled pork'.

We discovered this one night in Namba, Osaka as we made a beeline for the busiest restaurant in the quaint back streets. Sitting at the restaurant's counter overlooking the narrow kitchen, we were told, "only pork".

Food menu
Perhaps we should have clued on to the whole manner of piggy items at the counter: toothpick holders, shichimi chilli powder shakers and the adorable, snout-branded wooden menu cover.

Drinks menu
Getting over our initial surprise as I'd not heard of yakiton previously, we loaded up on all manner of pork skewers and had a fabulous time at it, as everyone else seemed to be having too.

There was a slightly-difficult-to-read drinks menu rolled up in a makisu sushi mat, but I always feel that beer or a haibooru whiskey and soda are the best drinking partners for a session of grilled food.

Pickled cabbage
A bowl of lightly spicy, pickled cabbage came along first as if preparing us for an onslaught or porky goodness.

Grilled pork shoulder
We fumbled through the menu with some help from a chef who had a smidgen of English under his belt. We started with pork shoulder on the skewer; which was certainly some of the juiciest and tastiest pork I've ever had.

Grilled pork
I don't quite know what the next skewer was but the chef pointed to his own rib/ side/back area.

It apparently wasn't belly but had similar rows of alternating meat and fat in an insanely rich few mouthfuls that definitely needed booze to wash down.

Grilled shitake mushrooms
Vegetables were deemed necessary at this point although we never would have guessed that the most amazing shitake mushroom dish would be had here, in a yakiton pork temple.

Grilled for some serious colour, the mushrooms were basted in soy sauce and other secret ingredients as they cooked, resulting in amazing smoky, earthy and sweet flavours.

Grilled okra
While I'm increasingly liking okra, it had the unfortunate luck of following the amazing shitake mushrooms. Nonetheless, their seedy insides helped on the vegetable scale.

Grilled pork stomach
Back to the pork, I thought I had cleverly translated an item as pork belly - rather, I'd ordered two skewers of pork stomach which is common in Chinese cuisine.

Not overly thinking it, the stomach was fine with more of a soft crunch as a feature as opposed to any particular flavour.

Pork meatball with raw egg yolk
We'd encountered and loved tsukune chicken meatballs a few times already, so the pork version was an easy choice. Served traditionally with a raw egg yolk, it was an excellent rendition and not too unlike a chicken one.

Pork meatball with cheese
But amping it up was the cheese tsukune option. Served with a tomato sauce and melted cheese of sorts, the parmigiana style was a total winner - as you'd imagine pork on a stick with cheese would be.

Avocado on the grill
We kept an eye out on other diners' orders for inspiration and spotting the half avocado on the grill getting the baste treatment, it was another necessary notch on the vegetable count.

And not to mention the extreme curiosity around cooked avocado.

Grilled avocado with miso sauce
Caramelised at parts and served with a wedge of lemon and thick, miso-based sauce, the avocado was kind of what you'd think cooked avocado would be - warmed up avocado.

Finished skewers
Having amassed a fairly impressive collection of used skewers, the kitchen staff seemed very pleased that two Aussies were sitting, drinking beers and eating their yakiton. I'm not sure if there were dessert options on the menu, but we'd pigged out plenty enough for one night in Namba anyway.

Interior walls
More Japan posts to come. See more photos from my Japan trip on my Facebook page.


john@heneedsfood said...

Wow, wow WOW! I had no idea yakiton even existed. I swear your posts are getting me closer to visiting Japan. I have to experience this!

Christine @ Cooking Crusade said...

Oh Japan.. my fave country on earth! Those shiitake mushrooms look unbelievably good. I'm sooo gearing up for a trip there next cherry blossom season :D

Jacq said...

I've never heard of yakiton before, but if it's pork on a stick it must be good! Love all the cute pig-themed accessories on the table too

gaby @ lateraleating said...

All meat & veggies on a stick look yummy. Haven't tried grilled avocado, though.

cquek said...

My God! That looks really really good.

Not Quite Nigella said...

I love that range of yakitori! And we've had that rib one before too and it is divine.

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

I'm sure I've said this on every single Japan post of yours but I want to go to Japan!!!

Richard Elliot said...

Oh man I'm so jealous, I didn't anywhere nearly as good as you did on my business trip to Japan a few years ago.

I love your description of the pork stomach! ;-)

Tina said...

Hi John - I didn't know either, till I sat there eating it!

Hi Christine - Despite all the pork, I think those mishrooms were my favourite dish!

Hi Jacq - Yeah, it was a total revelation to us. We were glad there was some veggies on the menu too, I must say.

Hi gaby - I'm still undecided on whether I liked the grilled avocado...

Hi cquek - Definitely the best meal we had in Osaka :)

Hi Lorraine - Wish I could remember what they called that piece...

Hi Tina - Haha, I want to go back too!

Hi Richard - Aw well, I suppose we had more time to stumble around. Not sure I'd order the stomach again :/


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