Kobe Ninniku-ya in Osaka, Japan
I'd been to a Ninniku-ya in Tokyo about six years ago, but I'm not sure if this is from the same group, seeing how most of these guys' locations seem to be in the Kansai region instead. (Is that one in Honolulu related to these guys?) Anyway, the restaurant's name literally translates into "The Garlic Shop," so as you can imagine, this is in many ways Japan's answer to The Stinking Rose in San Francisco, featuring garlic in nearly everything.
Witness the sauteed garlic clove starter above, which is similar to the Stinking Rose's bagna calda, but the key difference being that there is no bread to spread it on. Instead, you simply dip into the salt and/or oil and then deposit the whole thing right into your mouth, cleansing off your palate with the shiso leaf, should you so choose. Other items tended to be even more Japanese, such as the karaage, gyutan, or chahan, all of which were of course seasoned with a healthy dose of garlic.
One item that they seemed particularly proud of was the crab spaghetti. This was of course done in a very localized Japanese fashion, with very firm noodles and a slightly sweet (yet pleasantly rich) sauce. There wasn't really much meat in these tiny flower crabs to extract, but perhaps that's where the sauce got its sweetness from?
Yes, there definitely is a bit of a novelty and excitement to be had at a place that specializes in garlic. And while I like Ninniku-ya better than The Stinking Rose, I probably still won't make a huge effort to come back here next time I'm in town. Don't get me wrong; I'm really glad that we came here tonight, and it is an interesting place to check out if you're in the area (we went to the one on the second floor of the Hotel New Hankyu Annex). But there are just so many darned places to eat in this city that I want to try too, particularly those cool-looking standing bars. So many delicacies, so little time.