As a sushi lover, I find it very hard to order anything but at a Japanese restaurant. Okay, maybe a platter of sashimi. Or two. But Japanese cuisine has so much more to offer and I resolve to push myself to new frontiers. Step one: Okonomiyaki.
I choose this because I’ve heard it referred to as Japanese pizza. I like pizza. It’s familiar. The Jap name for it is not. I practice saying “Oko-no-mi-ya-ki” in front of the mirror for several days before I go, lest I end up ordering something entirely different – or worse, insulting the chef.
Okonomiyaki comes from the word “okonomi”, meaning “as you like”, and “yaki”, meaning “grilled”. Today, it is street food, available all over Japan, but may have originated much earlier, boasting a rich culinary history.
So. Having ordered my “pizza,” I discover that it is no such thing. For one thing, there’s no bread. Of any kind. For another, no tomato, and for a third, no cheese. Instead, I am confronted by a large, sizzling, stuffed, pancake-like creation, topped with some kind of BBQ sauce crisscrossed attractively with squiggles of mayonnaise (or perhaps that is cream cheese). Okay, if you squint – hard – it looks like a bit like a pizza, I suppose.
I later learn that there are two distinct styles of preparation for this dish, depending on whether you are in Osaka or Hiroshima. Harima, where I choose to begin my first Beyond Sushi experiment, seems to favor the Osaka style.
I dig into the massive pancake-disguised-as-omelette and find that it is a melange of textures and flavors. The bottom of the pancake has a slightly charred flavor, and then I find succulent morsels of squid and prawn in a thick bed of mushy cabbage – yes, cabbage – and crunchy beansprouts, topped by a thin crust of grilled pork, and then pancake topped with tangy barbeque sauce. It is hot, wholesome, and delicious.
Unfortunately, it is not sushi, so I succumb to temptation and order lots of that as well. Round one of Beyond Sushi goes to sushi. Amen.
#131, Devatha Plaza (Opposite Bishop Cotton Boys School)