I have lost count the number of times I have helped foreign travellers who were having difficulty finding their Airbnb accomodation. Apparently not every apartment owner provide specific directions in their email correspondence and also some travellers did not pick up a 4G simcard from the airport.
Indeed this neighbourhood is a great place to stay. Daikokucho 大国町is a residential neighbourhood in Naniwa-ku 浪速区, which is conveniently located closed to Namba Parks, Den Den town, Shin sekai, and Tennoji, all of which will likely feature on any traveller in Osaka. This neighborhood is accessible by JR (Immaiya Station), subway (Daikokucho) and Nankai (Imamiyaebisu) If you happen to be taking up accomodation in this area, you might just chance upon me cycling or jogging in the neighbourhood.
Alright, I'd just share with you a a few places to visit and some yummy food.
1. Muttepou 無鉄砲
If asked to name a few common ramen chain restaurants, Ichiran and Tenkaippin first come to mind, while Hakata Ippudo is widely recognized for its taste both in Japan and overseas. While everyone's taste is different, (I am always bewildered by the number of fools eating at Kinryu Ramen in Dotonbori), Muttepo should give you a lasting impression even though it might not be your all time #1.
What sets this apart from other ramen restaurants is the pork broth, which is very thick to the point of not being soup anymore but rather gravy. The fact that it is so rich and flavourful, I don't think I'd ever have it for consecutive days. Muttepo is very much sought after in the neighbourhood, so do drop by around 11:30 am to avoid a lengthy queue.
The staff are patient to foreigners and soeak a little English while taking your order. (You need to purchase a ticket from the machine, but that is only to select the type of ramen you are having) You will be asked about your preference of the texture of the noodles, the thickness of the soup, and the amount of green onion toppings. The choices are easily visible on a few charts displayed around the shop, and also in fine print on your ticket.
Operating Hours: Lunch 11:00 am to 3:00 pm Dinner: 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm Closed on Mondays. This is the only branch in Osaka while Muttepou (headquartered in Kyoto) do have a few branches across Japan and overseas too.
Address: 1-5-21 Ebisuhonmachi, Naniwaku, Osaka
From the exterior of the store, one might dismiss it as just an average outlet, and if you are not acquainted with its opening hours, you might find it shuttered most of the time. This store is just a 2-man operation - the guy does the frying while the lady does cashier.
I usually try my luck in the late morning around 11:30 am. If it is closed, there will be a notice pasted on the shutters to indicate whether it is closed for the day or if it is opening at a later time. Some in queue are office ladies working in the area who might be placing a mass order for their colleagues.
Menchi katsu, or ground meat (pork) cutlet, is the most commonly ordered item (JPY130), while my favourite is gyu katsu, which is beef cutlet (JPY250, JPY500 for large) At this price, do not expect portions to be comparable to what is served in regular restaurants.
Address: 2-2-9 Shikitsunishi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka
3.Vitti Halal Cafe Osaka
One day while cycling back from school last year, I realized that I should not just stick to the same route for many reasons. The main reason is that one will tend to be lulled into a routine mode and be less alert to sudden hazards. Also, one may be familiar with the main streets and the typical routes, but there is yet so much to explore in the neighbourhood.
So imagine my surprise when I was cycling right into a random street, just 10 minutes away from home, when I saw a Malaysian flag adorning the exterior of a cafe. Then I noticed Roti Canai and Teh Tarik printed on the glass window. So while Malaysia is my country's northern neighbour, those words struck home as they are very much part of Malay cuisine in Singapore. I immediately stopped to have a look. It turned out to be a business running a cafe on the ground floor and a lodge on the upper floors.
Well if the name of the lodge struck you as something familiar, you are not mistaken. This is the one featured in the various news reports about 3 Malaysian students, their unruly behaviour towards a staff, and a uncivilized act which I shall not mention in this posting about food.
As I already had lunch, I dropped by again the next day. It looked just like one of the other dreary cafes in the neighbourhood that hardly have any walk-in customers other than their regular customers, but somehow manage to continue running. A Japanese lady called an Asian staff to attend to me, whom I later confirmed to be Malaysian. He led to another building and as I entered the cafe, while I was the first customer at noon, the interior looked much warmer and inviting.
While I was quite keen to know what their signature halal ramen tasted like, as any other non Muslim would wonder how ramen can still be tasty without tonkotsu broth (will update this posting when I visit again), I was craving for curry chicken. While I was a little disappointed at the serving size when the order came, as I am used to having generous portions of home-cooked curry, the aromatic combination of curry chicken and basmathi rice won me over. They did not settle for standard Japanese kome, but imported basmathi rice to make this a truly authentic meal. To top it off, I had teh tarik which also hit the sweet spot.
I am not sure if curry chicken is a permanent fixture on the menu, but it seems like Vitti Halal Cafe do come up regularly with different items, so do follow their facebook page for updates.
Address: Vitti Lodge & Family Apartment 10-7, 2-chome Motomachi, Naniwa-ku