Saturday, 1 February 2014

Okonomi-yaki: the Japanese 'as-you-like-it pancake'

Dining at an okonomi-yaki restaurant is a real culinary delight. And that't exactly what I got when I visited Abeno between Holborn and Tottenham Court Road, London.

The moment you sit at your table, you know it's not going to be an ordinary meal. For a start, there's a big teppan hot plate in the middle of the table and you're politely warned by the waitress not to touch it. Then you look around you at the other tables and see that the waitresses and waiters are a lot more than that; they are also the chefs.

What is okonomi-yaki? They're Japanese 'pancakes' with a batter and cabbage base, plus various other vegetable and meat toppings. It's not fully straightforward to explain, so thankfully the Abeno website has a picture guide:

Source: Abeno

My table ordered three okonomi-yaki with various toppings:

  • London mix - bacon, cheese, pork, salmon
  • Spicy naniwa - kimchi, belly pork
  • Inaka mix - konnyaku, belly pork, sweetcorn

The menu is quite extensive, so go with whatever you like. For me, whatever went in it, it still tasted great. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. The only downside was that each okonomi-yaki isn't quite filling enough for one adult, so I recommend getting the larger 'super deluxe', rather than the 'deluxe' that I got.

After the okonomi-yaki is cooked, the chef garnishes it with sauces and fish flakes. The heat causes the flakes to move, just like in my video. Cool right?

Abeno also serves non okonomi-yaki dishes, such as omusoba (noodles in an omelette). Great presentation, though it largely tastes like normal stir-fry egg noodles.

Here's the chicken teppan-yaki, again cooked on the centre hot plate. While it looks relatively ordinary, the chicken was cooked well, remained juicy and well seasoned.

It was a great evening, watching the waitress/chef expertly flip the pancakes and cook the food in front of you. But then as I left, I realised I had a strong smell of smoke all over me. So if you make a visit, don't wear the suit you just dry cleaned...

Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road and Holborn
Address: 47 Museum Street, London, WC1A 1LY

Square Meal Abeno on Urbanspoon