Now here is a very interesting restaurant — it’s Osaka Ohsho, which for Filipino eaters unfortunately is only located at SM Mega Mall. Because I rarely go up north, I just had to try one of the Mega Mall-exclusive restaurants that I never get to eat at.
Osaka Ohsho specializes in fried dumplings. It’s what they’re known for, it’s what foodies eat when they go there, and it’s what draws people in droves. So I would be remiss not to order a few and see if it’s really the best Gyouza you can have here in Manila.
The interiors were beautiful, and reminded me of the Magnum Cafe design for some reason.
Well after I’d taken fair shots of the surroundings, it was time to order. Before ordering though you should ask for the free house tea, which is a very well-blended houjicha. Be sure to ask for it, they don’t give it out automatically. This is something novel with Osaka Ohsho, as most Japanese restaurants I have gone to serve genmaicha as their house tea, but here we have a very good kind of houjicha.
We opted to grab two sets of gyouza — the original flavor and the nori-infused gyouza. I was looking forward to trying to exotic flavors like peanut butter gyouza and bacon and cheese, but unfortunately they were not available. I was sad.
So I made myself feel better by ordering my usual “testing” dish — a bowl of katsudon. I like to order katsudon in every Japanese restaurant I go to (that serves it) because I use it as a measuring stick to judge the skills of the chef and the purity of the ingredients. It lets you test rice — which is the heart of Japanese cuisine — along with their ability to fry (katsu) and the quality of their dashi (which is used in the sauce) and how well they can flavor the dish with it. And of course you get to see if the meat is any good.
In addition, we ordered some asparagus wrapped in bacon, which is always a favorite dish of mine in other restaurants and it looked good on the menu here. A bowl of koshihikari rice, which is pretty much the gold standard for Japanese rice, rounds out the set.
So how is the taste testing verdict?
On the Gyouza
Well, what can I say. They really do specialize in Gyouza! The Gyouza is pretty good, a cut above most of the Gyouza I see elsewhere. The bottom is pan-fried to a delicious crisp, while the rest is somewhat gooey. However the entire texture of the wrapper was not perfect, and not most impressive I’ve tried. However, the contents made up for it. You could really taste the pork inside the Gyouza, and it was pretty thick and you won’t miss it at all. It also has a very nice porky flavor to it. I would give it a thumbs up.
The Nori Gyouza is much the same, but with a more savoury, umami taste thanks to the bits of nori rolled into it with the pork. I much prefer this actually, it’s the same goodness as the original gyouza but with delicious seaweed. I definitely recommend this over the original unless you dislike the taste of seaweed.
I wish I had gotten to taste the cheese version, but I had already ordered too much and enough was enough.
The added bonus is that they have three different sauces you can use to mix and match and create a good tasting dip for your gyouza. The sauces were chili, soy and miso. The chili adds a lot of spice, so use carefully. The soy is what you would expect from other gyouza dips in other restaurants, while the miso is a thicker, richer kind of soy as you’d expect, with a much more complex flavor. I loved trying them all.
That said, I have to say that this does not beat out Yushoken’s Gyouza. I don’t know why a ramen shop’s gyouza is better than a Gyouza Specialist’s, but here’s my take on it: Yushoken’s Gyouza is nice and plump, and soft and gooey, and not fried that much. But the moment you take a bite, it bursts with a juicy goodness that is absent from Osaka Ohsho’s version. Why is this? I am not sure, but I suspect that Yushoken injects its famous tonkotsu broth into the gyouza sometime during the cooking process, probably after frying. As a result, the strength of their tonkotsu — which is the reason why Yushoken is so good — is transferred to their gyouza.
Ohsaka Ohsho, while having a delicious gyouza, is lacking that bursting juicy goodness that Yushoken’s Gyouza has, even though they have more pork meat in their dumpling (Yushoken’s gyouza is more vegetable than pork — but because of the juiciness it tastes even porkier than Osaka Ohsho’s).
This was, to be honest, a huge disappointment. The best point about it was the koshihikari rice — and that is great because donburi is all about the rice. Unfortunately, if the body of katusdon is the rice, the soul is in the dashi. And that is where this dish failed in epic proportions — it was so bland and tasteless. Which was so infuriating because the rice and the ingredients were sooo good, and yet it was lacking taste, and I felt like I was continuously grasping for that essence of taste but could never get it. It’s a shame because the frying, the meat, the rice, it was all top class. Except for the taste.
What I did to remedy it was to pour some of the free miso soup (which you get by posting an image about Ohsaka Osho on Instagram) into the bowl, which helped but this was just an emergency fix for a lost cause, sort of like putting a band aid on a bullet wound. It’s a shame, but this Katusdon is to be avoided at all costs.
The Asparagus Bacon
Well, the asparagus bacon tasted just like I would expect it. Tastes a lot like how it is prepared at Tempura, but I haven’t seen many variations in how this dish has been prepared so far. It has a rich juicy bacon slab wrapped around tender and not so crunchy asparagus, with some nice sweet sauce drizzled all over. The green onions popped on top added a nice refreshing zing to what is otherwise a very meaty dish. It’s good, but not something to go here for.
All in all, I enjoyed the experience because the gyouza was great, and the asparagus was good. The katsudon was big let down though, surprising because the miso soup actually was very tasty. How come the katsudon was not? This bowl actually saved the day, it was some of the best miso I have had, and that’s kind of crazy because it was just free.
All in all, I was a bit disappointed in my dining experience but it wasn’t all bad. Just avoid their katsudon and stick to their gyouza. I will have to try their other dishes when I get back to see if the other parts of the menu are good as well.