Dotombori 2-1-7, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Hours: 5PM-3AM (Fridays,Saturdays,holidays, 5PM-5AM)
I’d been told that I was going to a sushi shop, but I was misinformed. This place is not like all those other wood-and-wasabi sushiyasans that we’ve all come to know (and love, I hasten to add) in Osaka. First of all you negotiate a set of cellar steps and pull the door-handle (which is in fact a shovel: very Marcel Duchamp!), to be met by a tankful of …what? A couple of long, pugnacious, silvery fish, who don’t look like they’d put up with anybody serving them in slices on little beds of rice. Welcome to Magnitude 2000.
“Arawana,” explained Joe, a regular patron seated to my left at the bar.I didn’t know the word: I thought I was being offered something illicit. “Related to the piranha,” he explained further. Aha: the fish! The only aggressive presence in the room! From my corner barstool, I looked around the laid-back space. A Long, narrow line of tables (the shop seats 40), a wide, comfortable bar counter, ambient light, non-intrusive music. A TV channel, sound off, projected onto one back wall. Other cool stuff on the walls (for example,a line of vintage neckties, all of which I wanted, but all of which were also nailed to the wall).On the shelf behind me, a good selection of sake bottles and in front of me a well-stocked bar. To my right, two very small women happily ate a large selection of food. I settled in.
It was just after 9 on a weeknight, and the staff were busy. When he had a moment, I spoke with the manager, Kazuhisa Shimizu. He’s managed Magnitude 2000 for two years (he’s also a floor-tiler: admire his handiwork as you come down the stairs!). He told me that Manabu (who owns two other shops and was elsewhere that night) worked in restaurants in New York for some time and, when he returned seven years ago, wanted to re-create the casual feel of a local Manhattan bar. At the same time, he wanted to serve his own innovations on Japanese food. In this reviewer’s opinion, he’s succeeded on both counts.
Although not exclusively a sushi shop, Magnitude is well-known for its sushi rolls. Shimizu-san poured us a beer and made us a Dragon Roll. A long tube of raw tuna was rolled in rice, dusted with sesame seeds and topped off with avocado. Light, filling (generous portions) and delicious, it’s a great alternative to your usual greasy bar food. Also available are salmon avocado roll, spicy tuna roll (just the right amount of zing in the dipping sauce), and fried shrimp roll. The presentation of these dishes alone – six portions arranged on a Japanese yakimono plate – is worth the price.
You’ll notice on the menu a list for yakitori, those little bits of chicken on skewers, but you won’t see any being fried. Just place your order, and the yakitori shop down the road (part of Manabu’s empire) will do it up for you and bring it round. Prices for these range between ¥120 and ¥200 (¥100 apiece for grilled, skewered vegetables, which you vegetarians out there can enjoy with the ¥500 Italian Tofu). I especially liked the ones marinated in a Tabasco sauce – ask about them.
Beer, whisky and cocktails are reasonably priced here too.The beer selection ranges from ¥550 for Asahi on tap, to ¥700 for Corona and Zima. Magnitude stocks a good selection of American whiskeys and bourbons, all between ¥650 and ¥900. All non-alcoholic drinks are ¥300.
There is always a list of daily specials, and they often feature seafood: whatever is fresh and interesting that day (the day I went, shirako was on the menu: ask a Japanese friend about that one!). Prices for specials on the night we were there ranged from ¥480-¥730.
Judging by the conversations at the bar, and the relaxed atmosphere, a lot of people in the Dotombori neighbourhood have made Magnitude 2000 their local bar. Judging by the friendly service and the good, reasonable food and drink to be found here, I might be tempted to do the same.