Aji WOW: Gomachu sesame restaurant
Aji WOW is my series of unusual Japanese food/drink reviews. 'Aji' (味) means 'flavour', and the name's also a pun on 'ajiwau' (味わう) - 'to enjoy the taste of'.
This time: Gomachu sesame speciality restaurant.
In fact, Gomachu - full name Gomayachuubee, wow I hope I spelled that right - is a chain of restaurants that base their menu on black, white, and gold sesame ('goma') flavours.
There are 5 Gomachus in the Osaka area. Including the one I visited, on the 8th floor of the Takashimaya department store in Namba. It's in a popular area, but feels like an undiscovered little corner. I booked a table in advance, but got there to find it probably wasn't such a big deal.
What's the betting I say that, and this place suddenly gets crazy popular? But if more people get to experience Gomachu, and the sheer volume of sesame on offer, that's great.
When I say basically everything on Gomachu's menu involves sesame, I'm not kidding. The group I went with needed me to translate the whole menu (they don't have an English version, Japanese only), so I can tell you that for sure.
Every starter, every main dish, every side plate, and every dessert. Yeah, I said dessert. Ever tried black seame ice cream? You should, while you're here.
Sesame even gets onto the drinks list, in the form of black sesame and gold sesame shochu. You can order it on the rocks, mixed with hot or cold water, or mixed with oolong tea. There are other fun drinks to try too, like the tomato highball or the 'beauty and energy' cocktails.
And if that still isn't enough sesame for you, use the bottles of sesame seeds on the table. Gomachu leaves black and gold sesame there, along with a mortar and pestle and a serving spoon. Pour from the bottles, use the pestle to crush the seeds up, then sprinkle that sesame dust onto your plate.
The 'goma' theme links all the dishes together, but underneath that there's enough variety in the food to please everyone. Tofu (hell, there's a lot of tofu), pork, chicken, beef, seafood, vegetarian dishes, and salads. Assuming you're not allergic to sesame, you'll find something you like.
A highlight for me was the '3 types of sesame cheese-filled spring rolls' plate.
(It helps that dishes are made for sharing - the kitchen staff cut these up, so we could each have a piece! Such a thoughtful thing to do. We were all pumped up to fight over those rolls...)
Also good (but not pictured): the garlic sesame mini pizza, the fried chicken, the crab and lettuce hotpot, and the prawn mayonnaise. Aim for 2-3 dishes per person, and you'll eat well.
Prices are reasonable, giving you the chance to sample a hell of a lot on a budget. It's easy to get your fill for roughly 2-3,000 yen (after tax) per person. And for a restaurant inside a high-end department store like Takashimaya, that's no mean feat.
I can see there being negatives to such a strong sesame menu. If you want any other flavour to cleanse your palate with, your choices are limited. One option's the tuna avocado with tartar sauce, another's the fried fish with herbs. But those are outliers on the menu, rather than the norm. You'd be better off choosing one of the most distinctive drinks.
But even with 9-10 dishes on the table in front of you, the constant presence of sesame doesn't feel overwhelming. Sometimes it's subtle, like a dressing or dip. Until you go the whole hog, and pour that bowl of crushed sesame seeds over the top. Hey, if it's there you should use it.
Verdict: 9/10. It's the place to go if you like sesame, so says me.