Friday, April 10, 2009

Networking & Taps @ Casa de Oimatsu

As a foreigner in my husband’s homeland, building female friendships in Japan has felt crucial. As a writer, meeting other women whose professions figure prominently in their self-image has felt equally important—especially in a country where many wives forego their careers, and after I had, in some senses, given up my own home for my husband’s. So I knew the foreign professional women’s organization FEW Kansai would be perfect for me, providing job advice as well as professional networking—and, most exciting to me, a monthly Gourmet Club, where members try a new restaurant, trading career insight (as well as fashion tips, gossip, and giggles) over dinner and drinks.

Being an eager FEW participant, and more importantly, perpetually hungry, I recently offered to organize a FEW gourmet event. I told my friend J (another American hyper-focused on her career, and even more hyper-focused on her next meal—making her a soul mate) I needed a great place to go. In the true spirit of sisterhood, she offered the perfect advice: Casa de Oimatsu, a little Spanish restaurant with food, basically, to die for.

At Casa de Oimatsu, nine women found a cozy handful of tables, walls decked with modernistic Spanish posters and wine bottles, a Japanese chef who trained for five years in Spain, and a unique selection of some transcendent dishes. We ordered sangria (¥800/glass), a white one infused with peach, and a red, spicy like mulled wine. We surveyed the menu and the tapas encased in the glass that ran along the bar. Then we ordered food. A lot of it.

Garlic toast with tomato: buttery, salty, garlicky, heavenly (¥300). Broccoli sautéed with bacon, served with a paste of crushed tomato and peanuts (¥300). Creamy scalloped potatoes with sheaves of salsiccia (¥300). Fried lotus root slices sandwiching generously spiced chorizo (¥400). Minced lamb with cumin, garlic, and eggplant (¥350). Grilled red cabbage, mushroom, yellow pepper, red diakon, and eggplant, accompanied by coarse salt for sprinkling and pesto for dipping (¥1260). Three kinds of homemade sausage, all disparately seasoned, with a side of hot mustard (¥1260). Intensely tasty sizzling mushrooms, bacon, and garlic in oil, served with hot, homemade bread (¥840).

Then three kinds of paella: a grilled vegetable version for the vegetarians among us (¥2520 for 2 people); a hearty homemade sausage and white bean variation for those, like me, who eat everything (¥2520 for 2 people); and Casa de Oimatsu’s interpretation of traditional paella, with seafood, red pepper, beans in their pod, and sliced lemon (¥3360). By now, we were too full to order individual desserts, so, with lady-like moderation, we split six or seven: a dessert special of freshly made, moist banana bread slices with chocolate ice cream (¥630); molten chocolate mini-cakes with rich liquid centers(¥630); and a couple of crème brulee, their burnt-sugar shells set off against vanilla ice cream (¥630).

By the end, I had some crucial take-aways for the evening: neither sisterhood nor professional networking has ever been more fulfilling.

Casa de Oimatsu
Shouei Building Kita-kan 1F
Nishi-Tenma 4-2-7, Kita-ku
Osaka 530-0047

Lunch 11:30 - 16:00, L.O. 15:00
Dinner 17:30 - 23:30
Food L.O. 22:30
Drink and Tapas last order 23:00
Menu in Spanish & Japanese; staff speaks excellent English