Searching for Okonomiyaki

| July 16, 2012 | 10 Comments
  • 10 Comments

Ramen Taro Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki from Ramen Taro with Beef and Cabbage

Okonomiyaki is a dish that’s described many different ways: a savory pancake, Japanese pizza, or an Asian frittata. Whatever you call it, it can be hard to find around these parts. With the exception of San Francisco and San Jose, all places in between can be an okonomiyaki-free zone.

Okonomiyaki is a classic comfort food dish in Japan. It’s a round, flat, savory dish that’s made from flour, eggs, cabbage, and seafood or meat. It’s got a drier exterior and a soft, moist interior. A good dose of sweet Japanese mayonnaise and sweet, smoky Okonomi brown sauce is drizzled on top, and then the dish is finished with some dried fish flakes (bonito) and dried seaweed. A good version of the dish shouldn’t be to dry or too wet.

Literally translated, okonomiyaki means “grilled as you like,” which explains why you’ll see slightly different versions of the dish everywhere in Japan. Here in the Bay Area, I’d be happy to see it even half as often as I do sushi and chicken teriyaki.

I remember the first time I tried the dish at a restaurant in Japantown. I had ordered it out of sheer curiosity since the photo on the menu made it look, indeed, like a Japanese pizza. The flavors were like nothing I’d ever had before. There was sweetness from the white sauce, smokiness from the brown sauce, and seafood flavor from the bonito flakes on top. Crunch came from the cabbage inside. It was thoroughly satisfying and I couldn’t wait to have it again.

So my recent craving sent me on a search for the dish. I was determined not to look to San Francisco or San Jose, where you can find it more readily since both cities have Japantowns.

There may be tons of Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area, but I realized that most of them don’t serve okonomiyaki. So I was thankful to find these two restaurants that serve good renditions of the dish.

Ramen Taro Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki from Ramen Taro with Beef and Cabbage

Ramen Taro — Foster City
This newer Japanese spot may focus on ramen, but its their other dishes on the menu that are both tastier and more interesting. Their okonomiyaki is bold and chock full of ingredients. It’s drenched in more brown sauce and mayo than I’d like, but it has a load of flavor and texture with its abundance of cabbage, pickled ginger, and bonito flakes on top. And it’s not too doughy either, which is a good thing. It’s served pre-sliced so it feels like you’re eating a very exotic pizza.

Bushido Okonomiyaki
Bushido Okonomiyaki with Seafood

Bushido — Mountain View
This trendy Japanese restaurant has some very unusual dishes like a Tuna Poke Burrito and Kimchi Goyza. But surprisingly, their version of okonomiyaki is fairly straightforward, but well-balanced and had a less overwhelming mix of flavors. Their version had shrimp and veggies, giving a nice contrast of textures and tastes. My only complaint was that it was a smaller portion than others I’ve had, which would make it a good shared appetizer for the table.

I know I’m just scratching the surface on my quest to find some good okonomiyaki around these parts. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. My search continues…

Ramen Taro
Address: Map
1495 Beach Park Blvd
Foster City, CA 94404
Phone: (650) 212-2883
Hours: Mon-Sun 11am – 9:30pm

Bushido Izakaya
Address: Map
156 Castro St
Mountain View, CA 94041
Phone: (650) 386-6821
Hours:
Tue-Fri 11:30am – 2pm
Tue-Sat 5pm – 10pm
Sun 4:30pm – 9pm
Facebook: Bushido Restaurant

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Category: asian food and drink, bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink

About the Author ()

Elaine spent over 11 years working in television and radio as a producer, writer and correspondent for MTV Asia, KPIX/CBS 5, and radio stations like KSAN and KTCT in San Francisco. After leaving broadcasting, she began working for financial software giant, Intuit, where she managed their customer word-of-mouth programs and then spearheaded their internal social media communication strategies. She’s also managed external communications for BlogHer, the largest community of women bloggers online, and is currently the director of corporate communications at Rocket Fuel, a digital advertising technology startup in Silicon Valley. Her personal blog, VirgoBlue , was started in 2007 as a way to express her love of food as she explores the culinary delights of the Bay Area and beyond.
  • http://twitter.com/mschung Melissa Chung

    i think the namu ferry building stand does okonomiyaki

  • Lisa Rogovin

    we visit Mifune Don for delicious okonomiyaki on my Jtown food tour. Come along. http://www.edibleexcursions.net

  • http://flavorboulevard.com/ Mai Truong

    My first time with okonomiyaki was also in Japantown, at Izumiya. Without a car to roam the area, I’ve pretty much given up on looking for the dish at restaurants, so now I just make my own. What’s the fluffy white thing on the Bushido okonomiyaki?

  • Elaine

    It’s a mound of fine bonito/fish flakes.

  • Elaine

    They do, indeed. But alas, trying to find versions of the dish outside of SF or SJ.

  • Jessica

    Izakaya Restaurant on 1st Street in San Jose also offer okonomiyaki! Theirs comes with mochi.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sucheng Susan Cheng

    I’ve had it at Yume-ya in Sunnyvale, but it may not be on the regular menu (nightly special?)

  • @okonomi_yakity

    Here’s a list of all the Bay Area restaurants that serve Okonomiyaki – http://okonomiyakiworld.com

  • jackmcneal

    Namu Gaji at 18th and Dolores has an excellent version.

  • http://flavorboulevard.com/ Mai Truong

    Actually, now that I look closely again, I believe it’s shredded cabbage, bonito flakes (katsuobushi) is on the Ramen Taro okonomiyaki.