This super cheap find is open to everyone, so join us as we show you how to eat there.
Since so much has been written about Japanese restaurants, we recently decided to go a different route by exploring a relatively unexplored aspect of the local food scene — staff canteens.
These cheap, no-frills coffee shops are great to come by real taste of japan, as they depict home-cooked food while giving an insight into a local employee’s working day. Our latest employee canteen discovery is located in Osaka, at the Osaka Prefectural Government Officewhere they serve a mysterious dish called “Rice of the Prefectural Office“.
▼ All we knew about this meal was that it was new (“新”) and served with salad and miso soup for 650 yen ($4.66).
Our reporter K. Masami was nearby to check it out, walking towards Osaka Castle from the ticket booth at Temmabashi Station to the prefectural building, which was undergoing renovation at the time of her visit.
While the staff canteen is ultimately designed to serve staff, it is also open to the public, so if you wish to visit it, simply enter through the entrance where your temperature will be taken – a COVID-19 measure required for each guest – and you will receive an entry pass.
Masami asked the guard where the canteen was – just use the word “shokudo“, which means “cafeteria– and I was told it was on the first level of the basement.
▼ So she went down the stairs to the floor below.
One tip when visiting work canteens like this one is to go a bit past the peak lunch hour between 12:00 and 1:00 pm to avoid the inevitable worker crowd. Masami visited just after 1pm but it was still full of customers so had high expectations for the food here.
Despite its popularity, there was still plenty of food available – a selection of ready meals (“定食”), rice bowls (“丼物”) and noodles (“麺”) were advertised on a board outside along with a 700 yen katsu curry and this mysterious rice from the prefectural office.
▼ If something is on the board, it is still available as the staff take away the signs for meals when they sell out.
Masami went inside and placed her order for a mystery dish, choosing white rice when the staff gave her a choice between white rice and five-grain rice. Heart pounding with excitement at the thought of what the meal might contain, Masami received this beautiful plate of food, with salad and miso on the side.
It seemed so omuraisu (rice covered with omelette) but with a big portion tonkatsu (fried pork chop) on the side. It was a whole lot of food for 650 yen, and Masami couldn’t wait to taste it.
From the first bite, she was completely won over by the canteen’s modesty, and even felt slightly envious of the staff who could eat here cheaply every day.
The tonkatsu was drenched in a delicious wine-based sauce, but still retained a slight crunch to the fried surface. Both the sauce and the cutlet were the perfect complement to the rice and omelette, creating a hearty, flavorful, delicious meal.
But Masami couldn’t help but wonder – why was this combination of ingredients given the excellent name “Prefectural Office Rice”? Was it supposed to look like a prefectural office or something?
After asking the staff, Masami expected a deep and meaningful answer as to the meaning of the dish. However, the canteen staff just laughed and responded in the local dialect by saying:
“We do not know! Isn’t it because you eat it at the prefectural office?
Their blunt but friendly response was typical Osaka conversation, and being a resident of the region, Masami appreciated their polite honesty. The friendly banter with the locals is one of the many reasons why she loves Osaka so much, and now that she’s discovered one of the city’s best-kept secrets, she has another reason to love it.
Masami will certainly visit the prefectural office again for lunch and would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a cheap yet delicious meal in the area. And if you are passing through the nearby Namba station, there is there’s a secret staff canteen you should try too.
Information about coffee shops
Osaka Fuchou Shokudo / 大阪府庁食堂
Address: Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Otemae 2-1, Osaka Prefectural Government Main Building B1F
Hours: 11:00-15:00 (last order at 13:45)
Closed: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays