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16 September 2006

Review: Okonomi House

Last week I learned that Japanese food is not all sushi, sashimi, and mayo on pizza when I finally had the opportunity to try Okonimi House (23 Charles St), a Japanese restaurant that specializes in okonomiyaki. Our friend Scott was in town for TIFF, and Okonomi House's close proximity to the Varsity theatre made it an ideal place for Dave, Scott, and I to grab a bite.

The Okonomi House has been around since 1978, and its decor is best decribed as 70's Japanese truck-stop, with squishy booths, wood paneling, and bright orange paper lanterns surrounding the dining area. Enhancing the diner feel was the smooth sounds of the 70's and 80's that came at us from the speakers (as Scott put it, "now with 30% more Rod Stewart").

The menu is short, with a focus on teriyaki and okonomiyaki -- something like a Japanese omelet or pancake, made with eggs and four and your choice of filling ("Okonomi" translates roughly to "as you like" in English). The three of us opted for the okonomiyaki, with Scott and I ordering shrimp and Dave choosing the seafood deluxe. We ordered some steamed rice and stir-fried veggies to go with our mains, and we started our meal with some edamame and a sunomomo salad to share.

The edamame and sunomomo were brought to our table very quickly. The edamame were pretty standard (freshly boiled and salted nicely), and the sunomomo was an unusual combination of bean thread noodles, crab stick, seaweed, carrot shreds, sesame seeds, and cucumber floating in what tasted like a combination of rice vinegar and mirin -- quite refreshing.

Soon thereafter, our okonomiyaki were brought to us on individual cast iron and wood platters, resembling fat pancakes coated in brown sauce with a dollop of mayo on top. We dug in and found that the okonomiyaki were crispy on the outside and completely stuffed with shrimp and, in Dave's case, scallops, crab stick, and squid on the inside. The brown sauce was salty sweet, combining perfectly with the savoury fillings, and the mayo added a nice layer of creaminess, although it was a little rich. I think "yum!" about sums it up.

The okonomiyaki were surprisingly filling, so we had a hard time finishing the stir-fried veggies and rice that we had ordered on the side. The veggies were cooked to tender-crisp and were topped with the brown okonomiyaki sauce, and the rice was nice and sticky. The only complaint we had was that the veggies consisted primarily of bean sprouts.

Filled to capacity, we paid our extremely reasonable bill and headed out into the night. I'm thrilled to have discovered the Okonomi House, and I think that its longevity speaks volumes. This is unique and delicious fast food at a great value, and we'll definitely be back for a pre-movie dinner in the near future.

8 Japanese cowboys out of 10

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13 Comments:

Blogger hockeygirl said...

I've had okonomiyaki in Osaka and Hiroshima so it was nice to try it at Okonomi House here. In Japan, they actually cook it at your table on the hot griddle that's in the middle. I also love love love sunomono salad. I've found that Sanko (Queen and Niagara maybe) has a super lunch deal of 2 onigiri (rice and seaweed triangles with a variety of fillings) and a bottle of green tea for $5. I saw an okonomiyaki mix in the store that I might have to try in my frying pan.

Arigato gozimas for the great review.

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I've had okonomiyaki in Osaka and Hiroshima so it was nice to try it at Okonomi House here. In Japan, they actually cook it at your table on the hot griddle that's in the middle.
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