Tucked away in Phra khanong along Soi 71 lies a hidden gem of a restaurant named Orange Passion or Oyatakaya. It’s a great restaurant and an even better story. The restaurant is run by a large build of a man with a friendly face, Ozakisan. The first thing you’ll notice upon meeting him is that he’s a wee bit bigger than the average Japanese build. Ozakisan was a former Sumo wrestler in Japan. He studied sumo in Kyoto in his younger years and even shared the same room with the legendary sumo wrestler, Akebono. I don’t know if you know much about sumo, but Akebono is huge!! Born in Hawaii, he shot through the ranks of sumo achieving the level of Yokozuna, the highest rank of sumo in Japan. He became the first non Japanese to ever reach this height and is much loved in Japan. Now that I’ve said that, back to Ozakisan and journey to Bangkok. After finishing his career in sumo Ozakisan began honing his culinary skills by cooking for the wrestlers and as it turned out, he was pretty good at it!!
When I asked him what led him to Thailand of all places? He told me a tale of chance and timing. He was in between jobs when a friend who remembered his cooking skills propositioned him with coming to Bangkok and opening a restaurant together. He handled the menu and teaching of his cooking styles to his Thai staff and his friend managed the business end, not so well as it turned out. They ended up having to close down from their first venture in Thonglor and Ozakisan saw the opportunity to do something on his own. He opened up Orange Passion / Oyatakaya along Soi 71 in Phra khanong just over two years ago.
Oyatakaya is a quaint little place with red bricked walls, bright and clean. The picture of Akebono and Ozakisan both in their younger days hangs at the front of the restaurant. I’ve eaten there numerous times for lunch. My wife’s office is around the corner and she sniffed this place out. We quickly became fans after our first few bites. I felt like I was back in Japan. I’m not Japanese but lived there in the Osaka / Kobe area for almost four years and my wife is Japanese, so I have a fair amount of experience with Japanese food. Everything I tried was through the roof, from the Buta Kimchi (my personal favorite) and the Karaage to the katsudon and the Giant Saba.
The Giant Saba is a real treat because it’s just that, Giant!! I normally don’t go for grilled fish at Japanese restaurants because it’s always so small and hard to pick out the meat from all the little bones, NOT THE CASE HERE! It’s nice and big with large easy to pull apart pieces of fish and cooked perfectly, moist and juicy. It was fantastic!! The Tempura Tendon and Ebi (shrimp) are also big hits here. The shrimp were almost the size of my hand served up Tokyo style with a sauce Ozakisan has created that amazing, and that’s just lunch.
Oyatakaya’s real specialty lie in his Chanko Nabe. This is the soup that sumo wrestlers eat everyday for lunch and dinner. It’s an everything but kitchen sink soup packed with mushrooms, cabbage, and other vegetables, chicken, tsukune (chicken meatball) and more. It’s a true piece of Japanese culture.
If you don’t know Japanese Nabe, let me give you the rundown real quick. It’s this huge pot of soup filled with a little bit of everything, in the case of Chanko Nabe. You eat the soup, then with the leftover broth you add rice or udon noodles afterwards and attempt to finish it off.
Ozakisan informed me that he still uses the exact same pots that they used back at his sumo house when he was younger. It’s a great experience and one that’s without question, true to Japan.
Where to begin with his Nabe, there are so many great things to say. First off, I just want to say that his Tsukune is incredible. Easily the best Tsukune I’ve ever eaten. They are almost creamy, melt in your mouth balls of pleasure, hehehe. He serves four different kinds of broth, but the one that really caught my attention was his curry broth. In my opinion it’s out of this world! Best curry flavor I’ve ever had, truly unique in flavor. I had to ask about it. He smiled and kinda laughed, yes its his own creation. He said he came here with his original Japanese recipe, but then was like, wow, look at all these spices and flavors here in Thailand that can be used and that’s just what the good man did! When you taste it, you’ll understand.
Another little twist he has put on it is that, with his curry Nabe, after you finish round one of vegetables and meat, then he adds the rice and he puts cheese into the mix. It turns it into this wicked curry cheesy risotto dish that is mind blowing! I’ve never had anything like it before and love, love, loved it!
To wrap things up, Orange Passion / Oyatakaya is a home run in my book. This place is hiyaku percento (100%) Japanese!! It’s a great story, a great experience, and most importantly great food. Highly recommend paying this dude a visit, you won’t regret it. Ozakisan, thank you for doin it up right. I wish you all the best and will see you again soon!
Ozakiiiii Miterude!!!! Oyatakaya