With just one bite this seemingly simple cuisine delights the palate with unpredictably deep and savory flavor. Uosada is a seafood specialist starting with exquisite produce, developing flavor further with pioneering aging skills, and completing the preparation with Japanese seasonings (barring bonito flakes). Intrigued? You should be.
Found in the Fukushima district of Osaka, Uosada first opened in April 1981 as a tiny izakaya with just eight counter seats. By about the tenth year, the chef’s use of premium seafood ingredients began to attract serious gourmands. Now referred to as a pioneer of aged fish, chef owner Sada’s discerning eye allows him to serve guests the very best fish in the best condition every time. Familiar Japanese ingredients like pike conger and blackthroated seaperch are tastier than you have ever known, and the menu includes one superb tilefish variety that you will possibly only ever eat here.
From the outset, seafood catches brought into a Wakayama port supplied through the chef’s family fishmonger business formed the foundation of dishes like sashimi, grilled and simmered dishes, and tempura, all served a la carte. The Uosada name inherited from the family business remained even after the space was transformed from a casual izakaya into specialty fish restaurant in 1990, expanded to create ten sunken floor tatami seats in addition to a seven-seat counter. With new a textured exterior wall reminiscent of fish scales, the telltale red lanterns of an izakaya were removed to make way for a noren draped curtain with a new restaurant logo mark. Little by little Uosada has morphed into its current style, creative touches the work of a trusted graphic designer.
The chef’s wife joined him in the business and the tableware they had been collecting as a hobby became the canvas for the many creations in his newly styled cuisine. Hand-painted antique Imari ware ceramics are designed to accentuate the seafood gracing them. Typically known for bright designs, the couple’s chosen pieces of Kakiemon ware in indigo show their keen aesthetic sense. From antique bowls to Meiji Period wooden trays made with Sanuki-bori carving techniques, the selections are made through attention to the smallest of details. Diners should note the charming design of the cutlery rests, which bring a smile to your face each time you return your chopsticks to their resting place. Together, husband and wife make a strong, heartwarming team dedicated to serving seafood dishes that are simultaneously simple and out-of-this-world.
There are no compromises when it comes to ingredients – this is highly confident Japanese seafood cuisine. The omakase course includes a starter, three or four sashimi varieties, grilled items, an aromatic lidded bowl dish, hairy crab, a simmered dish, a duo of oysters, rice, and refreshing fruit. The chef operates on a motto of “ideal aging” – something he had been working on for many years before it became a trend. And it happened completely by chance. In his earlier days when customers were few and far between, three kilograms of fugu puffer fish sat unsold for a week.
With no choice but to take it home, Sada was shocked by how good it has tasted, and he has been experimenting ever since.
Uosada’s cuisine is governed by two rules: no bonito flakes and no frying. With utmost priority placed on showcasing the true flavor of each ingredient, any method that masks that flavor or adds to much aroma of its own is off limits. Hence the above two rules and the additional exclusion of charcoal grilling.
Uosada’s sashimi is served one variety at a time on small plates. His hamo pike conger from Korea has such elegant flesh that he serves it simply with wasabi-infused soy sauce, surprising even diners who don’t usually seek out the fish. The flesh is rested until the fat reaches prime condition, and then it is skewered and fired with a burner before being served on an Edo Kiriko cut glass dish from the Meiji Period. The slow-simmered fish dish may feature nodoguro blackthroated seaperch filled with umami-rich roe. Simply simmered in soy sauce, sake and mirin, without any dashi, the fish is presented on a 200-year-old antique Imari ware dish and accented with peppery, zesty sansho buds.
Two oysters from Senposhi, Hokkaido, are served side by side on a refined Minpei ware dish from Awaji – a style of ceramics no longer in production. One oyster is served raw and the other has been steamed in white wine before smoking over cherry wood. Grilled dishes such as tilefish and unagi eel follow. The quality is outstanding and the simple presentation involves a dab of wasabi and Niigata-grown chamame soybeans on one of the couple’s favorite dishes – an indigo Kakiemon masterpiece. Hamo and matsutake mushrooms served in a simple dashi of Rausu kombu and broth drawn from the fish bones is a dish surprisingly full of flavor despite the light preparation.
The focus on premium ingredients flows right through to the closing rice dish. The plump grains of rice have been steamed in a traditional iron pot called hagama and seasonal toppings may include lightly grilled buttery nodoguro or a generous helping of sea urchin. The rice may even emerge as an onigiri rice ball filled with homemade marinated dried baby sardines or topped with the irresistibly creamy texture of a fresh raw egg.
As you savor the luscious flavor and texture of fruit, no doubt you will already be reflecting on the authentic meal that is coming to a close and thinking of when you can make another visit. You may be interested to hear that there is an even more exclusive outpost called Uosada Sanso atop Mt. Rokko overlooking Kobe.
When asked about themselves and their success, this humble and understated couple respond in a reserved manner, but as soon as the conversation turns to the ingredients, they become decidedly loquacious. It is a definite source of pride for them. The restaurant’s husband and wife team make their way to local markets and multiple other locations each day, but rather than finishing their shopping before heading back, they make a point of dropping each precious package back at the restaurant before heading out in search of the next one. They won’t even take courier deliveries at the restaurant door – they visit the local center to collect their items, showing their very sincere approach to the stars of their cuisine.
The rice, selected for flavor and texture, is all grown in the Kansai region or further west, including the rich natural landscape of Shimanto in Kochi, or Okayama, Shimane or Saga prefectures. The restaurant only serves mazuma wasabi from Gotemba, Shizuoka, a very hard-to-find ingredient especially in Kansai, but essential to Uosada with its absolute focus on fish flavor.
The fruits served are equally exquisite and carefully matured before service. They include Jinnai mangoes from Miyazaki, plums from Shioyama, Yamanashi, Ruby Roman premium table grapes from Ishikawa Prefecture, winter watermelon and other varieties that will wow you with their flavors.
Alcoholic beverages have been selected for their affinity with fish and include Shimeharitsuru and Esshu sake varieties from Niigata breweries: light, clean, bone-dry types all served at guest’s preferred drinking temperatures. Burgundy wines feature prominently on the wine list, but beautiful California wines can also be enjoyed here.
Sada says that seafood selection requires a discerning eye, and if nothing looks good enough for him, he will walk away empty-handed. It’s a skill he has honed through years of study and handling fish. One of Uosada’s signature dishes involves shiro-amadai, a species of tilefish from Yawatahama in Ehime Prefecture. A more than ten-year relationship has earned the Sada the privilege to secure the precious ingredient. After arriving at the restaurant, the fish with delicious fatty flesh, all three kilograms and above, are aged on the bone.
For this chef, the line-caught nodoguro blackthroated seaperch from Noto in Ishikawa Prefecture must be at least 1.5 kilograms in weight, and the flesh is slow-aged in blocks. Carefully selected large sea eels from Kumamoto’s Yachiyo Bay are served salt-grilled with no added seasonings. Pike conger, or hamo, supplied to Uosada from Korea, is a fish that requires a special cutting preparation known as honegiri so that the bones can be ingested. The chef’s wife talks about how you can tell how good the fish is just by listening to the knife as it slices through the bones.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000