Before I left for my 30-day Japan trip, I had promised myself that I’d eat a traditional crab course meal. I had always known that I was going to end up at Kani Doraku. To be honest, Kani Doraku is a pretty basic choice; it’s a restaurant chain that specializes in crab (kani = crab). They welcome tourists with their English-speaking staff, and multi-language menus. If I’m going to eat a course meal, I want to know what I’m eating, so having service in English was important to me.
This da kind of place with 6 menus, and hollowed-out ground for yo legs. You get a whole room, even if you come alone. The female staff are decked out in kimonos and the male staff wear suits and bowties. Hollah.
Course menu and drink menu. I loved their expansive drink menu; so many ways to choose your poison.
I asked the waitress, “What do you recommend for drinks?” and she was like, “Uh, Cola, ginger ale…”. I was like, “Nah, shorty, you serious? I’ll have shochu with hot water, please”. She laughed out loud at my bold choice (I think it’s because I look like I’m still a student). She helped me choose the type of shochu, with difficulty because she could not speak English. The waitresses did not speak English as well as the people at the front, so don’t expect an English explanation of what you’re about to eat when they bring out the food.
Course menu (lunch)
Their spring-special course menu. Available only for a limited time.
They had 5 set meal options for lunch, starting at 3,800 yen and ending at 7,600 yen. I’d say all the options are extremely great value, for the quality and amount you receive. I ordered a mid-range one that showcased the most variety of ways that crab can be cooked.
Dinner course meals are more expensive, of course, because it’s prime time, and they do throw in a bit more food than the lunch course.
They have a huge a-la-carte menu as well, so you don’t have to do the set thing, if you are a crab connoisseur and you really know what you’re doing.
The initial set-up. Check out the adorable crab chopstick perch. The metal fork to fish out the crab meat. The upside-down bowl and spoon for the crab hotpot. A hot towel, and an urn for your crab shells.
I got my first course (pickled veg and interesting vinegar jelly) and shochu with hot water (super strong. Wow, it was so much alcohol). The card on the top tells you the different courses of your meal, but it was entirely in Japanese so it was useless for me. I had to figure out what I’m eating as I tasted it, as the waitresses couldn’t explain in English, but that was a fun experience on its own. I guess some things will remain a mystery.
Boiled crab meat with a wedge of yuzu and light vinegar-based sauce to dip in.
Raw crab meat, placed on top of seaweed hairs and shiso leaf. Ball of fresh wasabi and a type of sprout that was potently spicy! Wish I knew the name of it. I did not even need that sauce on the side; the crab meat was so flavorful on its own.
*Heavy breathing* Look at the full-bodied piece of crab meat.
Savory steamed egg pudding. Clear and flavorful broth on top, with pieces of crab meat and watercress stems, and a thin slice of lemon peel.
So light and smooth. You can tell they passed the mixture down a sieve many, many times to get it this smooth. Burn-your-tongue-hot, so be careful.
Creamed gratin with tomato sauce. Not very heavy and a nice western addition to a traditional course.
Such beautiful pottery.
Crab hotpot and box of sushi. The sushi was excellent!
Close-up of crab hotpot. Check out the crab-cut slice of carrot in the pot! So much attention to detail. On the right are raw pieces of crab and the yellow rectangle is a multi-layer roll of super-thin tofu curd sheet.
Aerial-view for closer look at the pot. Left to right, counter-clockwise: Roasted white piece of large spring onion, 2 pieces of tofu, enoki mushrooms, green stems of some veg, a shiitake mushroom. The crab-carrot is lying on some napa cabbage. The cabbage was so, so sweet and fresh. It tasted like it had been lying in a bowl of sugar water, that’s how sweet it was.
The crab meat was so tender and flaky after being cooked in the hotpot.
They serve you a whole pot of complimentary green tea at the end.
A slice of lemon to neutralize the odor of crab from your fingers, and a hot towel. Rub the slice of lemon on your fingertips and nails, and wipe off with the towel.
Look at this little basket of toothpicks.
Ah, dessert. Black sesame ice cream, slice of kiwi and orange on top of whipped cream, and a small piece of matcha mousse/bean cake at the back.
I was extremely full by the end of this meal. I was also tipsy, because that was a lot of shochu and the hot water elevates the effect of alcohol. Overall, such a satisfying meal. I was constantly impressed at the quality of the ingredients, attention to small details, and the subtlety of flavors that were good on their own, but also helped the crab meat stand out.
There are many Kani Doraku locations in Osaka, and I saw locations in Tokyo as well. I have found that the menu can differ slightly depending on the location, and I chose to eat at Kani Doraku Ami Moto Bekkan because apparently, this location is a bit better than the other locations.
Making a reservation is recommended. I had made an in-person reservation the day before, but you could ask your hotel or hostel to help you call and make a reservation.