Chef Katsutoshi Uezoma first discovered New Orleans while on a trip to New York.
He took a diversion from the Big Apple to the Big Easy to go sightseeing. That one small trip led to a second, then several more. In 2012, he brought a sliver of Cajun Country to Minami Morimachi in Osaka, and called it Southern Peas. Amen to that.
Southern Peas — the name remains enigmatic — was expanded and renovated in 2015. It’s still a small and narrow restaurant-cum-bar, but it’s a gorgeous, stylish space. At the door you take a sharp right, up and down one step, passing under a large slow-moving ceiling fan. Inside it’s just the right shade of dark. And from the speakers there’s a mix that swings back and forth between Cajun and jazz.
For seating there are a few booths, upholstered in leather, and a short counter that leads to the kitchen. The shelves behind the bar, as well as the bar counter itself, are full with bottles of whiskey, rye, bourbon, gin, vodka, tequila and sundry.
It’s worth putting Southern Peas on your to-go list for the cocktails alone. Yasue Uezoma, the other half of the Southern Peas team, makes dynamite concoctions. Do try either the Creole Bloody Mary (with horseradish and hot sauce) or the Green Bloody Mary (with jalapeno pepper). Actually, try both, and savor the Green Bloody Mary’s okra that’s been soaking up the irresistible mix.
As it’s just the two Uezomas working the bar and restaurant, dishes can take a while, but that gives you time to experiment with more cocktails. We started with a plate of fried okra that was perfectly crunchy in batter. It was tempered by a dip of creme fraiche, sour cream and an array of spices that included cumin and tarragon.
Of course, you’re going to want to try their cajun lineup, and you won’t be disappointed. For the gumbo you can choose between seafood, chicken and smoked sausage. We went for the chicken, and even with the larger serving you’ll end up scrapping over it. The gumbo comes served over a bed of rice. In texture it’s somewhere between a gravy and a curry, but in taste it’s out there on its own. There’s a nexus of spices woven through every bite, as well as beans, celery and leeks.
For carnivores I suspect that the gumbo is top of the list, but don’t neglect the barbecue spare ribs, which come slathered in a rich red wine sauce. Get this order in first, as it takes time to make, but the reward is in pulling the succulent meat off the rib.
We didn’t have room on this visit for other classics in the Cajun canon such as the boudin sausage and the jambalaya. But one thing is sure — not a few people are hooked on this little nook of New Orleans in Osaka.
Dishes from ¥600; ¥540 seat charge at night; smoking OK; Japanese menu; some English spoken