One of my many to-do’s in Japan was to eat DIY table-top okonomiyaki. Why? Because it’s delicious!!! Although, none of them ended up being DIY; I don’t think that’s even an option anywhere in Japan. Still good.
Okonomiyaki is a widely known savory, layered pancake, towered with the ingredients of the diner’s desire. Okono means “the way you like it”, and yaki means “grilled”. I salivate as I write this.
I had it for my first night in Osaka, a famed city for okonomiyaki. I had walked around the Dotonbori area quite a bit, looking at the menus of all the okonomiyaki places I came across.
After much deliberation, I settled on Chibo. It looked inviting and it had a translated menu. This is a chain that can be found in Tokyo and Kyoto.
I was immediately shown a seat at the bar since I was alone, and provided a warm wet towel and a glass of cold water, as is the standard package. There are also the usual tables with built-in steel hot plates, so the okonomiyaki stays hot as you eat it.
The stage. Infront of me is a rail of steel hot plate, where the chef places the already-cooked food so it stays hot.
International menu that tells you the top 5 most popular okonomiyaki variations at Chibo. Almost all the tourists in Osaka were Asians, so the English translation only tells you the name of the dish, and doesn’t explain the ingredients, as it does in Chinese and Korean. I ordered the No. 1, Okonomiyaki Dotonbori. Although, I should have just gone with my gut feeling and ordered the No. 5, Okonomiyaki Chibo…Oh, well.
It was all young guys working there. Felt like I was at a McDonald’s for okonomiyaki or something.
I have lots of videos, but WordPress makes me pay to post those, so never mind.
Yakisoba in the making. Two Korean dudes sitting beside me kept expressing delight, as they ate it. I wanted to order it, but I knew I didn’t have the stomach space for it. When you travel alone, you can’t order as many dishes as you would like because you have no one to share with, sigh.
Gots to have my nama biru (draft beer), just gots to. I get a mini flipper/cutter.
Finally presented infront of me on the steel hot plate. The razor-thin fish flakes dance (sway back and forth) because of the heat.
The cutting ceremony.
Itadakimasu…Holding a piece of squid with chopsticks.
Holding a small shrimp
It was a fun dining experience overall, but the okonomiyaki itself was so disappointing…I had thought the ingredients would be added in layers, but they were chopped into small pieces and were all spread throughout the batter, even the cabbage. There’s supposed to a whole layer of cabbage, man! Why so little cabbage?! Also, seasoning was bland. More importantly, the chef cooked it for too long, and it was way too dry when it was presented to me. To make it worse, it keeps cooking on the hot rail steel plate as you eat, so it got drier and drier.
When I got to Kyoto, I had to rewrite my okonomiyaki history. It was once again my dinner on the night of arrival to a new city.
I was at The Dining at Yodobashi building across from Kyoto station during my wandering-around on the first night. There was an okonomiyaki place that wafted smells of grilled heaven, so I just had to eat there. There are so many places to eat at The Dining; I took a whole hour to look at all the menus and decide!
Ermahgerd, looks so good. The prices for okonomiyaki in Kyoto are a bit cheaper than Osaka; maybe because it’s not a touristy food item for Kyoto? It’s probably all marketing, since okonomiyaki is a celebrated dish in the Kansai region (which includes Osaka).
“Do not you work hard with us?”. Gotta love Jenglish. Minimum wage in Kyoto is 773 yen (approx. $10 CAD, $8 USD), so their rate is 127 yen above the minimum. And you get 25% more after 10pm…Hey, that’s not too bad, right? But then again, CAD is shit right now, so it seems a lot better when converted to Canadian.
The place is called Fugetsu, and it’s also a chain. I liked it a lot better than Chibo! There was a bit of a line-up at 6:30pm, so I wrote down my name and waited for 10 minutes to get in.
Yeeees. Got a whole table to myself.
I ordered a shrimp and pork modanyaki, which is a type of okonomiyaki that has a layer of cooked noodles in the middle.
Unlike Chibo, Fugetsu has their employees come around and cook your okonomiyaki from scratch in front of you. Some of the other dishes, like the yakisoba, comes pre-cooked from the kitchen.
You need to be careful of that built-in plate. It is super hot, and I came across a lot of menus that had melted plastic edges, because people had placed it on the hot plate. Must have been tough to clean the plastic off the hot plate. I wouldn’t take young children here. Yeah, just don’t.
Every time the employees came around to cook my okonomiyaki, they kept smiling and saying, “Please, no touch” or “Please waitto (adorable Japanese pronunciation of “wait”)”. It’s stated everywhere that you shouldn’t touch the okonomiyaki; yes, it’s a safety precaution, but also, okonomiyaki can fall apart easily if you are inexperienced and playing around with it. I didn’t touch it even once, but they kept repeating it! I guess they often get uber-curious tourists that touch it and fuck it up.
Yeeessssss….Dance, fish flakes, dance!
Yo, why did you burn my pancake?! But then I took a look at another table’s, with Japanese locals sitting at it, and theirs was burnt even more than mine. I guess it adds flavor lol
Lots of additional seasonings…I didn’t end up using any of them. Oh yea, I did sprinkle on some extra seaweed powder later. That wooden thing with a white nipple is the service button that will call over an employee.
Bring on the sauce! Japanese mayo and okonomiyaki brown sauce
Seaweed powder to top off
This made me forget Chibo. The seasoning was just right. There was a whole layer of cabbage at the bottom and so it was a lot more moist and sweet.
While I was eating, I saw people open the booth chairs. I was like, whaaa? There’s a place for bags inside the chair, like they do with piano chairs! Such an efficient use of space.
You can’t smoke here until 2pm.
After my satisfying modanyaki and mug of cold draft beer, I was was full and happy. On my way back to the hostel, I saw the lit Kyoto tower. This tower is the tallest structure in Kyoto, because there is a law that says you cannot build any building higher than the Tower.
Kyoto tower. Shit’s lit.
Reflected on the glass building
And that is my complete okonomiyaki experience in Japan.