Last weekend, I met a friend for dinner and while I had free reign to choose a restaurant, I took it as a challenge to find someplace interesting. What could be more interesting than okonomiyaki? My dining companion has had Japanese food in the past but not this interesting variant.
I had been to the original Abeno near the British Museum a couple of years ago and it was at that first visit when I was first introduced to okonomiyaki. A batter of flour, egg, and yam is mixed together with chopped cabbage and “what you like” (the okonomi) and then fried (the yaki) into pancakes. Like regular pancakes, they are deceptively filling.
And so we chose a Tokyo Mix okonomiyaki, with squid, pork and prawns (£8.50). The pancake is fried on the hotplate in front of us and then topped with Japanese mayo, a sweet and fruity okonomiyaki sauce, seaweed flakes and bonito shavings, that blow and sway due to the heat. The price of the okonomiyaki was a little on the high side though…especially in comparison to its size.
We also had an om-soba with chicken (£10.75).
It took me a while to recognise this twist on omurice, the omelette wrapped fried rice (as seen on Lunch Queen!). Fried noodles with chicken are wrapped in a very thin omelette and then drizzled on top are Japanese mayo, ketchup, and okonomiyaki sauce. Quite a combination! The food is tasty and extremely comforting and it’s somewhat fun to watch your okonomiyakis being cooked in front of you. Of course, you can give it go yourself if you like. One problem I noticed with the tables was that there wasn’t much space to place side dishes that you’re planning to share, like our sunomono, a cold seaweed and cucumber salad (£4.50), which, by the way, was definitely overpriced.
A word of warning: there is no air conditioning at Abeno Too. When you have a restaurant based on hot plates built into the tables, one would think this should be the norm but not here. There were a couple of fans around in a pitiful effort to disperse with some of the heat inside. I was boiling; on the other hand, my Valencian friend was very comfortable!
Update (03/08/07): My friend liked it so much, he returned there within the week! He learned that there is air-conditioning but it’s ineffective against all that heat from the hotplates. I bet the place is great in the winter!
17-18 Great Newport Street
London WC2H 7JE