During my recent business trip to Tokyo, one of our co-workers lead us to several lunches as a group, so we could experience real Japanese cuisine, rather than just the fancy Michelin stared meals that I lined up. The first lunch was mediocre ramen, at BeeHive. Next, he took us to President Chibo, a restaurant specializing in okonomiyaki. Chibo is part of a larger chain throughout Japan, although nothing about it really struck me as "chain-like". I'm not all that into okonomiyaki, but I was more excited for this than the ramen, since I hadn't ever had it before in Japan.
Since we were a large group, we were seated in a semi-private area in the back of the restaurant, with our own chef, who cooked all of our dishes simultaneously. Part of the fun with okonomiyaki is either getting to cook it yourself (the servers just bring you raw ingredients and you are seated at a tepan), or at least watching the chef prepare it in front of you. It was actually really impressive watching him prepare so many different dishes at once. Watching the cooking was fascinating, but unfortunately, 3 of us wound up with food poisoning after this adventure, and I didn't think the food was great anyway, so I obviously wouldn't recommend it, and would not return.
|Starting the seafood and okonomiyaki.|
The chef started with cooking the seafood and the okonomiyaki bases, separately. Each order of okonomiyaki came with its own big bowl of batter, and the chef never mixed from one to another. We were all pretty mesmerized, guessing which one belonged to each person.
|Adding seafood to the okonomiyaki.|
|Flipped over okonomiyaki.|
Again, we had fun watching, but there wasn't any interaction with the chef, probably due to the language barrier. I wish it could have been a bit more interactive, but it was still fun to watch.
|Noodle based versions.|
I got to try a few bites of one of these, and I liked it more than my regular okonomiyaki, as the noodles added a more interesting texture. Next time, I'd probably get a noodle one ...
|The finishing process begins.|
|More finishing ...|
|Inside a slice.|
I eagerly dug in.
I was a bit confused when I tasted it, as it tasted a lot like bacon. I ordered the seafood version, which should have included squid, scallops, and shrimp. Not bacon. Hmm. But I figured it must just be the flavoring somehow.
So I continued. I found a few bites of seafood, squid. It was pretty flavorless and rubbery, and not very good. Besides that, I couldn't find any seafood. This was very surprising, since I had seen him cook it, and into each seafood one went a rather insane amount of seafood. Huge prawns and several scallops should have been in there too. I kept trying more bites, thinking the distribution was just wrong. Still only the rubbery squid, and seriously, it tasted like bacon.
I asked if anyone had received the wrong one, specifically asking the people who ordered the lunch special of squid and pork belly. They said they had the right ones. I know that two seafood were made, and two lunch specials, so it wasn't like they made the wrong ones. I was confused.
I looked over at Emil, sitting next to me, who also ordered the seafood version. His very clearly had scallops. And shrimp. What? Where was mine?
At this point I looked very closely at the one that another co-worker was eating, who claimed several times that he had the correct one, and saw shrimp and scallops in his. Doh. I had his lunch special, and he had mine.
I really didn't like it. First, I like pork belly and bacon, so it wasn't just the filling choice. The squid was not well prepared. But the biggest issue is that it was all just really, really dry and overcooked. I think we suffered from the fact that we ordered so many different things, and the okonomoiyaki were left cooking for along time while the other dishes were finished.
Emil realized there was no way he was going to finish his entire dish, so offered me up several slices. I dug into that one, the seafood one, and liked it more. Most of the seafood was still overcooked for my liking, but the shrimp wasn't too rubbery, and the scallop was actually pretty good. The squid in the seafood one contained more assorted pieces than in the lunch special version, but was still way overcooked. The pancake wasn't quite as dried out, but it was still pretty dry.
So, still not a winner. But, the best part of okonomiyaki is always the toppings. They didn't disappoint: the sauce was sweet, the mayo creamy, the bonito very flavorful. I ate more of the okonomiyaki than I really wanted, just to have more of the sauces.
Overall, I think okonomiyaki is just not a dish I like that much, but this was a particularly poor execution. Very soon after eating, I got a major stomach ache. At first I thought it was just from overeating, but it was pretty extreme, and soon after, two others (who both had the seafood version), were also complaining about not feeling well. One of them turned so green that I really thought he was going to throw up on our elevator full of men in suits.
The price for the seafood version was ¥1,680, which was reasonable, giving how much seafood went into it. I think two people could easily split one of these with no problem.