Overall I’d say that Dorinku is something of a mixed bag…”

photo: dorinku osaka

Review and photos by Caelan Scott

Back in 2016, Edmonton got a taste of Japanese food straight from the izakaya restaurants when Dorinku opened on Whyte Avenue. The owner, Takeshi Kawabe, wanted to bring the aesthetic and food often found in the back alley restaurants found in Tokyo into Edmonton.

He utilized many aesthetics found in the izakaya, which are casual bars that offer Japanese salarymen a reprieve after a long day at the office, offering food and drinks alike. Inside, one finds a plethora of carefully selected decor such as a vending machine that only takes Japanese yen, fake food that looks incredibly realistic, and traditional Japanese art with some modern twists.

But today, I’m not focusing on the Dorinku on Whyte Ave. Instead, we’ll be hopping across the North Saskatchewan River to Jasper Ave, where Dorinku’s sister restaurant, Dorinku Osaka, is situated. Dorinku Osaka instead is inspired by Osaka, a Japanese city located 500km west of Tokyo, with its unique nightlife scene and street food.

My mom had had her eye on this restaurant for a while now and was eager to try it, so I brought her along as well. She then invited my dad and sister to join us on our restaurant outing, so I had the privilege of enjoying the restaurant with a party of four people. We were by no means a large party, and it is worth noting that the restaurant is reservation only. I also wanted to take my girlfriend, but I noticed that there are no accommodations for those with celiac disease, so if you’re on a gluten-free diet Dorinku Osaka is not the place for you. The restaurant is situated downtown, and we managed to find parking at a nearby parkade that was a merciful distance from the restaurant itself.

The interior of the restaurant itself is very similar to its Dorinku Tokyo counterpart. Japanese rap music played on the speakers, loud enough that it masked the conversation of the other tables around us, but quiet enough that my family and I could still talk to each other without raising our voices. The waitress led us to our seats, a massive, uncomfortable bench that spanned the length of the restaurant.

The restaurant itself is a mix of classical Japanese art with a modern twist. It is a blend of the new and the old as traditional Japanese woodblock prints accompany neon lights. It gives the customer a lot of things to look at and admire: I found my gaze often wandering around the restaurant, taking in the decor. The lighting was dim, which made getting photographs difficult, but the photos I did take made my meal come off as more unappetizing than it actually was.

The waiters came around to take our order for food and drinks. They were friendly enough, but I will say that it took way too long for them to get our drinks to us. I’d reckon we’d had been waiting about fifteen to twenty minutes for our drinks to come to us. But when they did come, I’d say the wait was almost worth, it as the cocktails my mom and I ordered were sublime.

I tried the master ball, a sweet, fruity drink with a hint of earl grey that I swear I inhaled. My mother, however, ordered the moku moku old-fashioned, which was served to her in a glass container filled with smoke that spilled out onto the table when it was opened. I got to try a bit, and oh my god, was it good. It had the smokiness of a nice, peaty scotch, but at the same time, it was smooth and easy to drink.

Our appetizers, or snakku, arrived about 20 minutes after our drinks. I will say now that they were the best part of the whole meal, especially since I later felt that the main course missed the mark for most of us at the table, including myself. I was especially in love with the shaka shaka fries, which were covered in a nice, savoury seasoning. I also enjoyed the Osaka calamari, specifically the flower texture of the deep-fried outer layer.

Soon after, the main meal came, and this is where Dorinku Osaka began to flounder in terms of quality. I ordered the pork katsu sando, which I would describe as a piece of pork cutlet between two slices of bread with tonkatsu sauce. It tasted like I was eating a pork sandwich. Though I did enjoy the taste of pork katsu, the meal was delivered in thick chunks that were hard to get in one’s mouth. They also neglected to give us knives, so I was forced to cut up these thick chunks of pork with a fork and chopsticks, making me work for my meal. The pork cutlets were served with a side of shaka shaka fries and coleslaw. I found the coleslaw to be disgusting as it was just a soggy mess, though I will admit that I have never liked coleslaw.


As for my family, my father ordered the yakisoba which came in a piping hot bowl filled with noodles. He enjoyed his meal but had little else to say about what he ate.

My mother, on the other hand, whom I consider to be a killer home cook, did not enjoy her meal. She ordered the cajun shrimp fried rice which she didn’t finish, because by the time she had got through the paltry top layer of delicious shrimp tempura, all that was left underneath was plain old fried rice.

My mom said afterward that she was disappointed because she felt she could have made this meal at home, and that the reason why she goes out to restaurants in the first place is to have food she normally couldn’t make herself.

Lastly, my sister was the lucky one of us who got to enjoy her main meal, which was the TNT rolls. I did get to try a small sample of it and I will say it was so good that I was looking at that sushi pretty enviously for the rest of the evening.

My family and I weren’t interested in staying for dessert – both because we weren’t impressed with the options, and also because the hard wooden bench had made my ass so sore that I couldn’t bear another second sitting down.

Overall I’d say that Dorinku is something of a mixed bag for me. I would go again, but only to enjoy the appetizers and the excellent cocktails, and hopefully find a better place to sit next time. As for the mains, I can’t imagine myself ever ordering them again.

The primary issue with Dorinku Osaka is that there is little that makes the food Osaka. Try googling Osaka street food and look at what comes up. You’ll find that scarcely any of the meals appear on the Dorinku Osaka’s menu, not even the iconic okonomiyaki, also known as Japanese savoury pancakes.

Dorinku Osaka has the aesthetic, it has the atmosphere, but it doesn’t have the right menu.

Dorinku Osaka Japanese Restaurant
10328 Jasper Ave