Sushi might be Japan’s national dish, but few restaurants come close to doing anything like Saeki, widely regarded to be Osaka’s finest sushi establishment. Diners lucky enough to nab a seat at this Michelin-star restaurant will sit at a cypress wood bar opposite chefs handcrafting every morsel out of the freshest seasonal ingredients sourced from all over Japan. Here, the sushi is served edomae – without soy sauce – allowing the delicately seasoned rice, grown in nearby Nara, to shine.
Insider Tip: Make reservations at least two months in advance – the restaurant only seats 11.
Mori Building 1F, 1-5-7 Shinchi Sonesaki, Kita-ku, Tel: 81 66 345 7344
Step back in time with a visit to this venerable establishment where kimono-clad staff have been serving the city’s finest udon for almost 70 years. And while the thick wheat noodles have earned this establishment its reputation, diners can select from over 100 different dishes ranging from rice-based donburi to rustic soups known as nabe. And best of all, each hearty meal costs around ¥1,000.
Insider Tip: Imai lays claim to inventing kitsune udon – the popular variety that’s toped with slices of sweetened fried tofu – back in 1946. And to this day, nobody does it better.
1-7-11 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Tel: 81 66 211 0319
This Michelin-star izakaya takes the Japanese bar-with-food concept to another level. At an intimate, 20-seater counter, diners feast on spectacularly fresh seafood matched with a selection of Japan's finest sake. And while the quality of produce here is stellar, in true izakaya spirit, prices remain resolutely down-to-earth. A glass of sake costs between ¥600-800 and plates start from ¥500. For the full dining experience, the chef will also create a degustation meal for ¥10,000.
Insider Tip: This establishment is non-smoking, which is rare in Japan.
1-3-9 Uemachi, Chuo-ku, Tel: 81 66 768 0515
Eighty-five-year-old Daruma is still the best place in town to eat the deep fried breaded skewers known as kushikatsu. The legendary establishment – which is said to have invented the beloved Osakan snack – offers over 30 varieties of skewers, from tame items like bamboo shoot and quail eggs to the more unusual gizzards and cartilage.
Insider Tip: If you don’t read Japanese, Daruma looks just like the hundreds of other pocket-sized shops crammed into the bustling alley. Look out for the giant, white-shirted figurine in front – and the line of people queuing for a spot inside.
2-3-9 Ebisuhigashi Naniwa-ku, Tel: 81 66 645 7056
Having picked up a third Michelin star in 2012, this fourth-generation restaurant is now Osaka’s gold standard in European-style dining. Building on a culinary tradition started by his great-grandfather in 1935, Tetsuya Fujiwara combines the finest quality Japanese ingredients with techniques learnt in Italy and Spain to create something utterly unique. The 14-course degustation moves from delicately steamed tilefish to spaghetti with wild boar ragu to strawberries and meringue. Ask for a wine-pairing menu that costs just ¥3,000 more.
Insider Tip: Reservations are recommended two months in advance for Saturdays and one month in advance for weekdays – the restaurant has only 16 seats.