Wednesday, February 24, 2016


This awful, incoherent mess slathered in too much sauce is from a Japanese restaurant in the basement of my apartment building. I had eaten there only once before: teriyaki chicken, which ended up being rather so-so: I could have done a better job of cooking it. I decided to give the place another try tonight, mainly because I'd been irrationally jonesing for some okonomiyaki, and I'd seen that dish on this restaurant's menu.

My first okonomiyaki experience was in Osaka. I was between flights and had a long layover; I met my Jamerican friend Justin Yoshida, and he took me to a local restaurant where we sat down and ordered Osaka's version of soul food. It was great: fresh vegetables and meat thrown together in a loose sort of pancake that was nicely crunchy on the outside. I thought the squirted brown and white sauces were a bit tacky, but the overall visual and gustatory impressions I had were overwhelmingly positive.

Tonight's okonomiyaki was edible, but a far cry from what I'd eaten in Osaka. The pancake wasn't even a pancake: it was a pile of mush that barely held itself together. It tasted good enough for me to wade my way through the entire dish (it was meant for two, which is why it was so expensive), but the soggy texture was hugely disappointing. I can see why so many Japanese come to Korea and feel let down when they try to order Koreanized versions of Japanese food. It's often the same for me when it comes to Western food.

Verdict: I doubt I'll be going back to that restaurant.



Charles said...

There is no way anything in Korea is going to come close to Osaka-style okonomiyaki (where in Osaka did you have it, by the way? If it wasn't Chibo, you need to go back). That's not just a diss of Korean okonomiyaki (although it is also that), it's also a comment on the style in general. Every example of okonomiyaki I've had in Korea has been Hiroshima-style rather than Osaka-style. I suspect that this might be because Hiroshima is a lot closer to Korea, and that version arrived first.

Now, there are good and bad versions of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki in Korea, and it does sound like yours might have been on the bad side, but if you're looking for Osaka-style okonomiyaki in Korea, I suspect you are going to be disappointed with even the best of offerings.

(Unless someone out there knows where you can get good Osaka-style okonomiyaki in Korea, in which case I'm all ears.)

Kevin Kim said...

"Unless someone out there knows where you can get good Osaka-style okonomiyaki in Korea, in which case I'm all ears."

Any comments from my four other readers?

John from Daejeon said...

I've been burned too many times in South Korean restaurants, especially when it comes to my favorite southern Chinese and northeastern Mexican dishes.

Your best bet is to make it yourself, or find a friend who can make it.

Kevin, now, that you have one of those golden visas, have you thought about branching out like Joe McPherson? You could do various dishes small scale on the weekends until you decide which works best for your culinary skills and will also sell well to the local palates while growing your bank account. Just a thought.

Kevin Kim said...


I have no head for business and absolutely zero idea how I'd run even a small-scale restaurant. I like to cook, but I think I'd have to go through cooking school to really learn how to be efficient not only with cooking individual dishes, but also with pacing several courses, serving small or large crowds, etc.

One of my colleagues at Dongguk was running a little business-on-the-side. She had set up a website offering various healthy-yet-tasty dishes that she knew how to cook. I never bought any of her stuff, but from what I saw, she was doing a brisk business right there in the office. I assume she had non-Dongguk customers as well. Perhaps I could do something like that, but I work in a small office with only two other people. I'd need to learn how to grow my market. Anyway, it may be something to think about.

Charles said...

Yeah, I would never want to run a restaurant. That is some crazy hard work there. People have suggested that I do a little bakery thing on the side, but that just isn't going to happen. I bake now because it's fun; I think if it became work it wouldn't be nearly as fun.

All respect to Joe, and I hope things work out for him.

Elisson said...

I've had okonomiyaki in Hiroshima and here in Atlanta. I've also made it myself.

Sounds like what you had was ok-oh, no!-miyaki.

Kevin Kim said...


Sadly, yes.