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Sumo Cha-ya Terao: Spirit of sumo in every bowl

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Chankonabe is wedded to sumo in the same way as whiskey is to the Wild West and cowboys; they’re both fuel for fightin’. Terao Tsunefumi, the man behind this eponymous restaurant, is a well-respected sumo wrestler who had a career in the ring spanning 20 years, long by any measure in sports. For his second act he opened a pair of nabe (hot pot) restaurants, one each in Tokyo and Osaka.

Despite the owner’s sumo career, memorabilia is kept to a minimum. There is an eye-catching photo of Terao in sumo regalia watching over his customers. The restaurant is divided over two floors; smokers go upstairs.

I came for the chankonabe teishoku (fixed-lunch set). Be warned, this is a big lunch (at a reasonable price), and postprandium I’m not sure how much work you’ll feel like doing, never mind wrestling. The main dish comes in a well-worn iron nabe pot, full to the brim with cuts of pork, tsukune (balls of minced chicken) carrot, konyaku (devil’s tongue), noodles, hakusai cabbage, scallions, atsuage (thick fried tofu), and shiitake and inoki mushrooms, accompanied by rice, tsukemono (pickles) and tamago-yaki (sweet omelet).

This is a lunch that should see you through until 10 in the evening. Just be sure to take the afternoon off for a bit of a nap.

2-4-6 Umeda, Kita-ku, Osaka; 050-5868-2955; www.sumouchaya-terao.com; open daily for lunch and dinner; nearest stations Umeda, Nishi Umeda, Kita Shinchi; smoking OK upstairs; lunch ¥1,000 per head (plus drinks), dinner around ¥4,000 per head (plus drinks); Japanese menu; no English spoken.