Seiji goes big as he goes home.

There’s no food more strongly associated with Osaka than takoyaki (spherical octopus dumplings). So when our Japanese-language reporter and Osaka native Seiji Nakazawa heads back to his hometown to visit his family, he always makes sure to visit a few takoyaki joints too.

On his most recent trip, he came away less than impressed with one takoyaki shop that’s been getting a lot of online buzz from foreign visitors to Osaka. So for his next takoyaki fix, he hit up one of his personal favorites, takoyaki chain Kukuru.

To get the maximum Osaka feeling, Seiji headed to Kukuru’s main branch in Dotonbori, the bustling entertainment district right smack dab in the middle of downtown Osaka. With takoyaki being Osaka’s most popular street food, Kukuru actually has three branches in the Dotonbori neighborhood, but the one across the street from the Osaka Shochikuza Theater is officially designated as the “main branch.”

▼ Kukuru Dotonbori Main Branch

This Kukuru branch is a popular place, so you can expect a line pretty much no matter what day or time you go. But while takoyaki is primarily thought of as a grab-and-go kind of food, the Kukuru Dotonbori Main Branch offers eat-in dining too, and there’s usually a fair number of people waiting to get in. That’s because there are a number of special takoyaki offerings that are exclusive to this branch, and only available as eat-in orders.

It was one of those that caught Seiji’s eye: the Bikkuri Takoyaki, or “Surprising Takoyaki.”

The surprise here is two-fold, but we’ll start with the one that’s wholly intentional on Kukuru’s part: the Bikkuri Takoyaki has a lot more octopus per dumpling than normal takoyaki does. For example, here are some of Kukuru’s regular takoyaki, which are pretty indicative of what they look like at most other chains too. Inside each of those is a bite-size bit of octopus, completely contained within the orb of batter.

But the Bikkuri Takoyaki? They look like this.

“The octopus is so big that it sticks out,” promises the sign’s English text, so yes, this really s a surprising amount of seafood per dumpling.

The other surprise? Well, normal takyaki are usually about 100 yen (US$0.70). Maybe a little more, maybe a little less, but roughly 100 yen is a pretty normal price to pay. The Bikkuri Takoyaki, though? A plate of eight, after sales tax, is 1,980 yen (US$13.75), making them more than double the price of their non-surprising brethren.

Interest piqued, Seiji decided to splurge on these premium-priced takoyaki. Unfortunately, the Bikkuri Takoyaki are only offered in limited quantities each day, and with it already being around 3 in the afternoon, they were sold out. So Seiji came back earlier the next day, arriving at 2 p.m., and when he did the staff told him that he was again too late, and that the day’s stock was all gone.

The third time was the charm, though, as Seiji made sure to get to Kukuru shortly before their opening time of 11 a.m., and this time he finally got to put in his order for a plate of Bikkuri Takoyaki.

When you get them as street food, takoyaki are usually served in a little boat-shaped paper container. The Bikkuri Takoyaki, though, come in their own little iron plate with dome-shaped indentions in which the takoyaki have been cooked.

Taking a bite, Seiji’s taste buds were met with the same delicious flavor that makes Kukuru one of his all-time favorite takoyaki shops. The octopus is delicious, the sauce is flavorful without getting in the way of the seafood star of the show, and the dumpling batter is invitingly tender, with an almost creamy texture at the center.

However, that texture can make the Bikkuri Takoyaki a little tricky to eat. Since the octopus chunk is so big, they’re not so easy to quickly pop into your mouth, and so some of the dumpling batter might drip away as you pick one up with your chopsticks. Thankfully, eating inside the restaurant means you’ve got a little dish you can use to catch ant drippings, so that you won’t miss a single bit of the Bikkuri Takoyaki experience.

Because of their size and cost, Seiji doesn’t seem himself eating the Bikkuri Takoyaki every day when he’s in Osaka. As a special treat, though, they’re hard to beat in terms of taste and impact.

Restaurant information
Kukuru (Dotonbori Main Branch) / くくる(道頓堀本店)
Address: Osaka-shi,, Chuo-ku, Dotonbori 1-10-5
Open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (weekdays), 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (weekends, holidays)

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