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Ue-Machi Laguna Restaurant 上町ラグナ
So I was out with my friend Matt a few days ago attempting to find a cafe that I had gone to previously. However, I had gotten lost (easily done in Osaka) and couldn't find the place.
After a few hours of walking and exploring town, we both had gotten quite hungry. We had just passed by a small restaurant and Matt decided we should try that place out. So we did, not expecting anything special.
I was never happier to be wrong before.
What is Ue-Machi Laguna?
Ue-Machi Laguna (上町ラグナ）is a small Italian eatery. This place was off the main by a couple blocks, and there was almost no foot traffic when we had stumbled upon it. Still, it had an informative sign outside that told everyone what they served (in Japanese) and also included several copies of a map of how to get to the restaurant, in case you want to come back in the future.
Believe me, you will definitely want to return.
Let's talk about the drinks and food first, then I will go on to the style of the restaurant.
First off, let's talk drinks.
They had a number of choices, from coffees, colas, and...yes, you guessed it, beer.
This was the first surprise (a continuous recurrence this day): the selection of beers. The majority of beers they served were bottled, and came from numerous sources. Some were from Japanese breweries, but they also had several imported beers, such as American Bud and Coronas, to Guinness, and several others.
They also have a local brew on tap, although I cannot, for the life of me, remember what that one is. It is something I will need to try next time I go there (and soon!) because I really want to try it.
It is here that I will also mention the bad: they do not give you a cold glass with your bottled beer. Now, this is a personal preference, I know. However, I do believe that if you are going to serve your customers a bottled beer with a glass, that glass should come cold.
First, the meals!
The menu comes with several choices, including al-a-carte. But the meat is in the set meals. These cost 1000 yen, and 1400 yen (10 to 14 dollars).
Set A and B are 1000 yen each. For that day, Set A came with a pasta with two choices of sauce. Set B was the main course. Set C is a choice of either the pasta or the main course, as well as a drink and dessert.
My friend chose set A and I took B.
Both sets came with a salad, which was very good. Beyond the greens, it came with tomatoes, a couple large chunks of goat cheese, and prosciutto slices with grated parmesan and pepper. It was very delicious. Very fresh, and beautifully presented.
Salad with prosciutto
Bread is something that I don't usually rate a restaurant by, but I think it deserves a mention here.
After the salad came out, the server gave us a pair of saucers with olive oil. A few minutes later, fresh, warm sourdough bread came to us.
In Japan, bread is hit or miss. Most places here don't serve bread, and when they do, it's usually a cheap bread served at room temperature.
This place served fresh sourdough that they kept warm, which was very nice. It was only a single slice, which was good and to be expected. It paired very well with the provided olive oil.
And now, the meal. I did try a bite of my friend's pasta, although I first made sure to get his opinions on the food he had ordered.
Specifically, the pasta came with an olive oil bacon sauce. Keep in mind that in Japan, bacon is served in chunks, similar to Canadian bacon. His pasta also came with cabbage, and topped with ground pepper.
The pasta was very well made. It was cooked just under al-dente, so it was perfect when it was served. The mix of pepper, cabbage, and oil blended almost perfectly with each other. However, I must say that the cabbage flavor was a little heavy, but it did not overpower the sharpness of the pepper or the flavor of the oil and bacon. Somehow, the cook was able to use just the right amount of cabbage in his creation so that it would not create an overpowering flavor.
A very good meal. Highly recommended, although next time my friend said he wanted to try the other sauce they offered.
Pasta with Olive oil and bacon.
Main course (Lamb)
OK so, this was my third surprise. Actually, let's just say I was surprised all the time and leave it at that.
So my meal came out about 5 minutes after my friend's. I didn't know what the meat was at first; I expected pork or beef, two of the more common meats cooked here in Japan.
Yeah, imagine my great surprise when I found that I was tasting lamb.
And I was tasting very good lamb.
Lamb is a rarity here in Japan. It's a bit expensive to buy, and the fact that the whole set meal was only 1000 yen, and I was getting lamb with it was quite surprising. I also got a good amount of lamb meat, in nice, healthy chunks.
The lamb had greens and a few slices of carrot in it, and had a balsamic vinegar based sauce. The sauce was sweet, almost a little too sweet, but still good, and overall the lamb had a very good blend of pepper, sauce, and herbs.
It wasn't over-cooked, and still had a bit of pink in the middle, but not too much pink. Very, very juicy, very tender, and very good.
I'm not exaggerating here. People might think I am, but it was that good. I had not had an excellent meal in a very long time, and this was both excellent and, in my opinion, cheap. I seriously think they are undercharging.
My rating of the lamb? 5 out of 5. I could not find a single thing wrong with the taste, the blend of tastes, or even the warmth of the lamb when it was served. I tried.
Very well done, chef.
Ok, huge props to this restaurant for style. Major style points.
The interior of the restaurant was very clean and modern with a hint of Italian flair. The tables were a very clean wood, as well as the chairs. Behind the bar was the chef and server, where you can easily watch them cooking and prepping the meals.
As we were eating, I noticed what other customers were being served with. The restaurant has styled some of its plates after Japanese imagery. A good example was one of the plates that the nearby customers had their meal served in. It was in the shape of a crescent moon. I had never seen that before in a restaurant before, and it left quite an impression on me. The same customers also received their salads in an L-shaped plate.
So, chalk a point up for style.
Water. Yes, water.
OK, so here is something I never thought I would include in a review of any restaurant.
We all know the water comes from the tap. Most restaurants serve you water from a plain container, sometimes in a glass vase or something similar.
Yet again, this restaurant steps up the game. The water is served from a green bottle. It's not much, but it adds a bit of cheap luxury to an otherwise plain part of the restaurant experience. But it doesn't end there.
The water is stored in a glass bowl filled with ice, kept in plain view on top of the bar.
I know it's not much, but it's a great presentation of water. It actually makes me want to drink it just so the server can return to refill your cup.
Finally, the service was very good. The server went on to describe each meal as he brought it out, from the bread to the main course.
Yes, it was all in Japanese. If you are unable to speak Japanese, I still think the server would describe the meal to you; you just wouldn't be able to understand.
Still, in most restaurants, except for higher end restaurants, the server will merely tell you what the meal is. Here, the server goes the extra mile to describe what the meal is and what is included in it. Very nice.
Prices and ordering
As with most restaurants, almost everything has a number or a Set name. (Set A, B, etc).
Prices were very good. Sets A and B were 1000 yen each, while Set C was 1400 yen. This is because Set C included a drink and dessert.
Beer is extra. The beer was the usual 500 to 600 yen per bottle. That is average for a restaurant in Osaka.
Check out the review below!
I also went ahead and make a video review of the restaurant. I go over much of what I wrote here, but there is also a clip of me eating the lamb dish, with first impressions.
Video review of lamb dish
Rating: 4 out of 5
I really tried hard to find something wrong with this place. Again, it comes down to the beer. It was served with a warm glass, not a cold one. I know, I know; I could easily give this restaurant a five-star rating, and I know I am nit-picking. But, it is something that could easily be fixed.
Overall: 4 out of 5. Go now! You would want to come back.