Summer time is beer garden time. Yay!
Kansai is not short of rooftop venues offering a variety of experiences from mock jungles to flocks of pigeons. In all our years of rooftop hopping KS seems to have missed this one: the Ramada Hotel Nakatsu, a short stroll from Umeda. And our oversight is our loss.
This being the Ramada, the beer garden is a bit more than a beer garden. I don’t know if a roof can ever be described as cosy, but this one gets close to it. It’s a very human scale, and has a comfortable, tasteful air.
The centerpiece is the buffet, arranged, as is the way of centerpieces, right in the middle of the space with the restaurant-style tables and chairs either side. At the far end of the roof are wooden booths containing comfy sofas. The area is lit with tastefully discreet lamps, which let the lights of the city do their thing.
Not only the city lights do their thing: the whole city around you adds romance to the location: in one direction you see the night-lit waters of the Yodogawa, and in the other you have the floodlit towers of Umeda.
So much for the view, what about the food?
The effect of the long buffet tables is of a banquet, as is the food on them: Thai curry with naan, fried chicken, steak with rocket and balsamic dressing, smoked salmon with capers, tuna salad, cheese, mozzarella salad, grilled fish, cold meats and salami, pizza and a lot of other things that found their way onto my plate without finding their way into my notebook.
There is a good variety of drinks. Obviously, beer on tap and in a pleasing variation on a theme, the black beer that seems to have become de rigueur this summer. There are the mixed drinks and soft drinks you would expect, sparkling red and white wine, and of course, regular wine. The red was chilled but it didn’t ruin the evening.
The Ramada has introduced its own innovation to the rooftop dining experience: live entertainment. On most nights of the week, your food will be garnished with song and dance. The night we visited, the song and dance meant a troupe of drag queens (their terminology, not mine) and a mini carnival of samba dancers.
Normally, diners are treated to only one act, but this was a special occasion. The drag queens did what drag queens do, miming to disco hits and enforcing audience participation with techniques such as planting knickers on the heads of innocent bystanders. The performance drew some curious office workers in adjacent buildings to their windows.
The samba dancers produced an emphatic audience reaction without planting any knickers on any heads. The ladies had barely jiggled through the first number when they were joined by a very uninhibited male diner who wanted to jiggle with them. The precedent set, a larger number of men got on their feet too, and then women, until the dancers and diners had formed a big, exuberant, dancing chain right round the buffet. This had the unfortunate effect of keeping the non-jiggling diners temporarily away from the nosh.
Depending which night of the week you go, you might be able to see belly dancing or salsa as alternatives to samba and drag shows.
[box]RAMADA OSAKA, BEER GARDEN
• 3-16-19 Toyosaki Kita-Ku, Osaka, 531-0072
• Access: subway Midosuji / Hankyu Nakatsu stn
• Open: until October 5th; Mon–Sat, 6pm–10:30pm; Sun and hol, 5pm–11pm
• Price: all you can drink, two hours, adult, ¥2,000 in advance, ¥2,500 on the door; all you can eat and drink, two hours, ¥5,000; special prices for children; see website for other specials
• Tel: 06-6372-8181 • Email: email@example.com
• www.ramada-osaka.com [/box]