|Dancing Hanakatsuo Flakes|
It is always risky introducing yourself with such confidence. And having read on their website that Abeno Too is one of “Europe’s only specialist Okonomi-yaki restaurants”, my expectations were naturally sky high.
Although centrally located, the venue was small and resembled a school canteen more than a specialist restaurant. The furniture was also very standard and guests were sat on benches which opened up to provide storage for belongings (primary school style). And to worsen anyone's claustrophobia, a teppanyaki grill was also built onto each table, leaving minimal space and causing a considerable amount of heat.
However, the staff were friendly and attentive from the moment I walked in. They also showed plenty of enthusiasm especially whilst I was ordering, explaining in detail which ingredients each dish consisted of.
The raw ingredients for each Okonomiyaki arrived at the table in steel bowls. Whilst stirring and pouring the mixture onto the grill, the waitress babbled on excitedly about how the dish promoted healthiness. She also stressed (to my bemusement) just how much cabbage was going into each pancake.
But I soon became mesmerised, watching her expertly shaping and flipping the pancakes. The whole experience was so warm and homely, almost like watching an auntie cook up an extravagant meal in preparation for your visit. And as she was finishing off the fancy demonstration, loading each pancake with colourful swirls and dancing fish (hanakatsuo), I felt like clapping.
Whilst the Osaka Mix (pork, prawn and kimchi) was flavoursome and filling - more like a hearty pizza than a pancake; the Tofu Mix was light and deliciously velvety. Being the egg lover that I am, I do personally think that using just one egg per Okonomiyaki is stingey. But otherwise, the taste cannot be faulted.
It was also the first time I had tried Om-Soba. Egg and noodles are often paired up together in Asian dishes, but having fried noodles wrapped up in a prettily decorated omelette was different, and delightfully tasty.
At £50.40 for four pancakes / wraps (excluding drinks), the price certainly does not reflect the “street food” that Okonomiyaki is famous for being in Japan. However, the novelty of watching your food being cooked before your eyes is probably worth the price, and to be fair, the dishes are surprisingly filling.
Abeno Too also offers an extensive menu, including katsu curries and authentic side dishes etc; if pancakes are not for you, rest assured as you will still be spoilt for choice. And as promised on the website, choosing to eat here definitely “means choosing to sample a delicious and healthy example of one of Japan’s best-kept culinary secrets”.
More information can be found on http://www.abeno.co.uk/.