5.146 Shime Saba Hako Sushi

-Cycle 5, Item 146-
31 (Sat) May 2014

Shime Saba Hako Sushi


at Takotake



Expert Consultation on "Intersectoral Action on Health" + Personal Deviation, Day 4 (see previously 5.145 Scallop Okonomiyaki).

My first duty travel!  I've been dispatched to the World Health Organization Centre for Health Development (aka "WHO Kobe Centre" aka "WKC") in Kobe, Japan. From 29 (Thu) to 30 (Fri) June, I attended the Expert Consultation on "Intersectoral Action on Health."  The work was cool.  But more important--that is, for purpose of the blog--the trip promises to provide many new food experiences.  To maximize the opportunity, I'll be staying in the country through 1 (Sun) July--a "personal deviation" in WHO parlance--for a total of 2.5 days in Kobe, 2.5 days in Osaka.

Venue 3: My Grill Deli (Daimaru Department Store)

Item 7 (2.0): Tonkatsu Curry Rice--another dish that I'd eaten my whole life until finally, for the first time here, trying it at the source (see also 5.144 Course Meal...); surprisingly, the sauce was smooth and free of solids, unlike the chunky concoctions that I'm inclined to make (see for example 5.070 Mom's Kimchi (+ Beef/Pork & Baby Corn Curry Rice); the flavor was also richer and spicier than I've come to expect from the curry roux blocks that I use; the tonkatsu was blah.

Daimaru a chain of luxury department stores.  Founded in 1717 as a dry goods store.  Currently 6 stores throughout the country.  At the flagship located in Osaka, on top of the Shinsaibashi metro station, the basement features a very impressive supermarket and wide array of quick dining options.

Kobe beef at JPY 3,240 per 100 g (about USD 145 per lb); the priciest option available, this would mean that the 160 g of meat from the other night (see generally ) was worth JPY at most.

Item 8: Negi Toro Maki (3.5)--if I lived here, I could eat this three meals a day (see also 5.143 Good Award Kobe Beef Steak Course).

Chuo-ku is a ward of Osaka.  1 of 23.  The city's shopping/dining center--"chuo = central."  In particular, the 1-km stretch between the metro stations of Shinsaibashi and Nanba is densely packed with stores and restaurants, mostly restaurants, mostly of a pubbish character.

The dizzying/dazzling array of the eat/drink establishments reminded me of the night markets in Taipei (see generally 5.111 Braised Ground Pork Rice), only most places here are indoors.

Venue 4

Item 9: Charcoal Grilled Crab (3.5): amazing charred flavor, sweet and juicy; but a total ripoff at JPY 700 per leg, maybe about 2 teaspoons of meat.

The signage in this part of Osaka is boldly literal: 3D representations of the house specialty.  Way cooler than neon.

Venue 5: Takotake

Takotake is a Japanese restaurant.  The house specialty is hako sushi.*  Located a couple subway stops east of the Chuo hubbub, in a relatively quiet residential/commercial neighborhood.  The restaurant itself is also very unassuming, no lit signage to indicate that it's even open for business.  Inside, with absolutely no care given to the decor or the organization of the open kitchen, the restaurant inspires very little confidence.   

I actually walked passed the place while looking for it.

Alone again, naturally; I'm surprised that they take reservations.

*Another term for oshizushi is "hako sushi," which refers to the wooden box/frame in which the rice and toppings are pressed/molded together.  On menus around Osaka, the latter would seem to be the preferred term.  

 The actual hako.

Given all the eating options in Chuo, I would've been perfectly content just to wander and nibble on random bits and pieces for dinner.  However, I did want to try hako sushi at its best, and Takotake was recommended on Mina's brochure, so I took a break from Chuo and went out of my way to check it out. 

Though the meal started with a fizzle, it ended with a big bang.  For the assorted hako sushi, the toppings were rather dry; in fact, the ingredients were laid out and sitting on the counter, as if to dry them further.  Even worse, the chef refused me soy sauce, shaking his head vehemently and saying what I assumed to be some admonishment against the use of condiments for the dish.  So, I ordered miso-shiru, just to wash things down, but what I got was perhaps the best representation of the soup that I've ever had: intensely flavored miso, large chunks of succulent fish; with a bowl of rice, it could've constituted its own meal.  Finally, the shime saba was perfection: the fish had been delicately cured to enhance the natural brininess of the mackerel, not at all salty, not at all fishy, maybe even a bit sweet, gorgeously succulent.  And, for whatever reason, soy sauce was permitted.  

Item 10: Assorted Hako Sushi (1.5).

Item 11: Miso Soup (3.5).

Item 12: Shime Saba Hako Sushi (4.0).

Official dinner done, I returned to Chuo for a few postprandial snacks and digestifs.

Venue 6: Tako Nari

Most of the establishments in this neighborhood seemed to be set up something like this: a bar and a couple tables, maximum capacity around 12.

Takoyaki (octopus cakes/balls) is another Osaka signature item.

As far as I'm aware, Japan's only traditional street food.

Item 13: Takoyaki (1.0).

As with the okonomiyaki, the insides were gooey, much to my dislike.

Venue 7: Bodeguita

One of the very few non-Japanese establishments in the area, I stopped by this Spanish bar out of curiosity...

...and decided to stay for awhile to sample the iberico jamon...

...and then a bit longer to bask in the glory of being flirted upon by this Taiwanese flight attendant, who was impressed by my recent photos of Taipei.

Item 14: Iberica Jamon with Capers (3.5)--excellent.

Item 15: Assorted Marinated Olives (3.5)--excellent.

The Hakushu Single Malt Whisky

The Yamazaki 12-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky

Venue 8: Muu

Item 16: Grilled Tenderloin with 3 Dipping Sauces (2.5)--okay.

Venue 9

Nearly empty by the time that I left, maybe around 3, can't remember.

The one on the far left is for "sushi," the far right for "sashimi"--sorry, but they tasted exactly the same to me. 

Aside from the amazing food, I stuck around to take advantage of these absurdly generous servings of whisky--this was a single.

Item 17: Chu Toro Sashimi (3.5)

Item 18: Uni Sushi (3.25) + Item 19: Crab Guts Sushi (3.25)

Item 20: Chawanmushi (2.5)

Item 21: Salmon Belly Sushi (3.75)

If I could find it again, this is the only restaurant in Osaka that I'd ever go back to.  


  1. Which one was the flight attendant? the hot chick in red or the older one in grey? ;)

    As always, awesome pictures, nicely written post.

    I'm already planning a Japan trip, should make sure to visit Osaka. (There will be a big big nuclear conference near Tokyo next year and I will try my best to at least get my employer to pay the conference fee + hotel + etc when I'm there.. Ideally I would be paid to go to Japan as well :) )

    Also the concept of the interior, exterior, decor etc of a restaurant having no correlation with the quality of the food is a pretty Asian concept, I think... If I enter a restaurant in Sweden, and the place looks shitty, you can be damn sure the food will be shitty as well...

  2. the one in red. wouldn't call her "hot" but kinda cute. actually, her older japanese friend was more my type.

    i think the japanese pioneered the concept of shabby chic. they're the ones who went out of their way to find old denim-making machines (whatever they're called) from the early 20th century because they leave imperfections in the fabric.

    in korea, i've found that the fancier a place looks, the crappier the food's gonna be.

  3. Japanese, together with Koreans of course, are probably the most fashionable and well-dressed people in this world... When it comes to Europe, I would say Swedes and Italians dress the best (but differently of course...)

    Yeah, that might be the case.. But is that the case even for foreign food? E.g. for a Italian place? Or just for places that serve "local food"?

  4. when it comes to men, I'd say that japanese are very much "hipster," but i've never thought of them generally as well-dressed. koreans are NOT well-dressed. Swedes are well-dressed? Is that a global secret, because I've never heard that from anyone. Italians, I don't know, maybe, but it can be a bit gigolo. in my experience, i'd say that the english are best dressed.

    in all cases. my theory is that most "restaurateurs" in korea don't really know much about food per se, so they spend all their money on interior design and other superficialities but skimp when it comes to hiring a chef or buying quality ingredients.

  5. Maybe we have different definitions of "well-dressed". By "well-dressed", I mean:
    Being trendy
    Paying a lot of attention to your exterior (skin, hair etc)
    Following and buying all the latest fashion
    Spending a lot of money on clothes, shoes, other fashion

    If that doesn't apply to Koreans (and Japanese), then we must have lived in different Koreas. Actually, the fastest way I can detect that an asian tourist in Europe is Korean is by the way he or she dresses. The "slobbier" dressed tend to be Chinese... The same way you can see a German tourist probably is not Scandinavian is because of his total lack of style (that sounds elistist but is kinda true....)

    That might be very true. I guess there's a lot of fast money to be made by opening a new "hip" restaurant in Korea...

  6. yes, koreans do spend much time money energy on their appearance, but i don't think that, for the most part, it does much good.

    men for example, they're constantly going thru silly fads/trends in business attire, like fake gemstones on neckties or colored stitching on dress shirts, but the fundamentals, like fabric, cut, etc., are ignored, so they end up looking cheap and gimmicky.

    I just conferred with a German colleague, who is personally very well-dressed, but he does confirm that Germans are considered at the bottom of the fashionable chart, with Italians and French at the top, maybe Spanish, English, and Scandinavians in the middle.

  7. Hmmm... You might have a point. Maybe, per the Korean "psyche", it is mostly about following the herd and buying the newest stuff? Not so much about find a style that fits you and that you like?

    Although I might seem like I hating on the Germans, on the opposite, they are so damn effective in everything they do... They always go all the way. If it's about conquering Europe, building a communist one-party state (in the East...), or building an export-driven industrial powerhouse that keeps Europe from going bankrupt, you can trust them to do their job.... I guess they must have decided to go for function rather than style when it comes to clothes :)

  8. EXACTLY (about not finding a style that fits the individual). I'm reminded of that age around 15 or so, when most kids are just starting to think about fashion, and they experiment with various styles, usually looking kinda awkward, until they eventually settle on something that they like, feel comfortable in, look good in. Koreans are perpetually at age 15, always looking kinda awkward because the fashions keep changing. Right now, for example, guys are all wearing tight bright-colored knee-length shorts, looks ridiculous.

    I agree, Germans are not to be trifled with.

    I'm surprised that they're not culturally more stylish, because when i think about certain brand landmarks, Porsche or BMW, or Hugo Boss (and yes, Nazi uniforms) or Jil Sander or even Adidas, they have a very minimalistic/functional coolness. So i would imagine that they'd dress in very simple yet clean cut and high quality clothing.

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