Beignet, a French restaurant in central Osaka, is aptly named. In English a “beignet” is a “fritter,” and given Beignet’s chosen fare — a marriage of French cuisine and kushiage (fried vegetables and meat on a skewer) — the name is a no-brainer.
I had Beignet down on my list of new additions in the Umeda district to check out. The restaurant opened at the beginning of 2017, but it wasn’t until our meal ended and I was chatting with the sommelier that I learned that Beignet happens to be a first cousin of Liaison (both are operated by the “The Dining” company), another excellent French restaurant located in nearby Fukushima Ward.
They’re equally sleek outfits and the emphasis is on earnest and creative food. Common to both is exceptional, but understated service.
Beignet is located on the lee side of Grand Front Osaka, a huge commercial and business center abutting Osaka Station. Once inside, the interminable bustle of Umeda disappears. It’s a pared-back and bright setting with room for nearly a dozen at the long, low counter, and a few tables at the far end of the restaurant for groups.
The lunch time omakase (chef’s selection) starts at ¥3,500; dinner is from ¥5,000. As you would expect from a kushiage meal there’s a lot of bite-size dining, but not every serving comes skewered. The team at Beignet like to throw the odd curveball, as with the penultimate dish of udon noodles served with a Thai curry in the tsukemen style (noodles and curry served separately). I enjoyed the Asian stamp on this dish but my partner found it overwhelming, coming as it did immediately before dessert.
One thing you are nearly always guaranteed with French dining is a mismatch between the size of the food and the platter it arrives on.
So it was with the delightful salmon dish that opened lunch, which was placed on the corner of a giant black slate. Little cubes of salmon sashimi were served over a bed of mashed edamame while a sprig of mint wriggled its way through this summertime concoction.
The dish was followed by kinmedai (splendid alfonsino), this time on a dashi-infused pea mousse with a zesty vinegar undertone. The team at Beignet have a talent for turning out dishes that take inspiration from the season, while also complementing it.
The first undeniably kushiage-looking dish was of ebi-shinjo (shrimp dumplings) daubed in crab meat. Kushiage is unlikely to ever win food beauty contests, but in our Instagram-obsessed age that’s a relief. What you get instead is an array of delights hidden beneath a thin, crisp layer of batter gently waved through the dryer just moments before being served.
Between kushiage servings came an assortment of non-skewered dishes: The cream of sweetcorn soup, served cold with burned kernels studded through was absolutely gorgeous.
Lightness gave way to gluttony with the chateaubriand steak sandwich, which came with a foie gras filling. While it was of Lego-sized proportions it was fit for a gourmand.
Whatever is served at Beignet, you’re in for a treat.
Open daily lunch 12 p.m.-3 p.m. (L.O. 1 p.m.) dinner 5 p.m.-11p.m. (L.O. 9 p.m.); lunch from ¥3,500, dinner ¥5,000; Japanese and English menu