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4 Restaurants to Try in Dotonbori

The classic places to get you started on a culinary tour of Osaka.

If you come to Osaka, chances are you’re planning a visit to Dotonbori (also spelled Dotombori), arguably the center of the city’s nightlife. With its stacks of glaring neon lights and plethora of gaudy 3D signs, Dotonbori is quintessential urban Japan. But take a stroll down one of the many busy streets and you’ll see a more personal side of Osaka – one in which every restaurant and shop welcomes you, treats you with unmatched Japanese hospitality, and offers a taste of the eccentric culinary delights Osaka is known for.

For takoyaki: Otakoya

There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from, so you may want to set your sights on a few highlights. To try the Osaka speciality takoyaki (doughy balls with pieces of octopus), try Otakoya, which almost always has a long line out the front.

For ramen: Kinryu

If it’s ramen you’re after, try Kinryu (Golden Dragon) Ramen, of which there are no less than three locations throughout Dotonbori. These restaurants are easy to find: just look for the large three-dimensional dragon popping out from the wall, holding a bowl of ramen. Kinryu is known for its garlic and kimchi bar and the fact that it never closes.

For kaiseki: Kani Doraku

You may want to dine in one of Osaka (and Dotonbori’s) iconic restaurants, Kani Doraku, (literally crab pastime). This is actually a chain restaurant with locations in every major city of Japan, but it originated in Osaka in 1960, and its giant six and a half meter mechanical crab sign (all six arms and eye stalks move independently) is now one of the major symbols of Osaka, found on keychains and postcards throughout the city.

It’s open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and features 332 seats on several floors, some of which are non-smoking. You can eat à la carte or get a crab kaiseki (multi-course) menu for ¥4,800 to ¥8,500 depending on the size.

For fugu: Zuboraya

Famous for the large pufferfish lantern that hangs above its entrance, Zuboraya is one of the most famous fugu (pufferfish) restaurants in Dotonbori. Pufferfish, a delicacy in Japan, contain the toxin tetrodotoxin which is 1,200 times stronger than cyanide. The amount of tetrodotoxin in each fish is enough to kill 30 adults. With no known antidote, Japanese chefs need to have a special license and training to prepare it. At Zuboraya, you can try fugu a number of ways: as sashimi, in nabe (hot pot), and deep-fried, to name a few. They also serve other kinds of fish and meat for those not adventurous enough to risk their lives for the local delicacy.

Zuboraya is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.. With à la carte and set menu choices, the average cost per person for dinner is ¥5,000.