This 2014, we had a Kansai Christmas just like 2013. But this time, we stayed a few nights in Osaka instead of going straight to Kyoto. A bit of busy, bustling Osaka before cool and calm Kyoto would be just the thing to make this Christmas different from the last one.
What could best capture Osaka's unique fun and casual character than one of my favourite places in this city -- Dotonbori. Acclaimed by chefs, bloggers and foodies everywhere, Dotonbori is food heaven in a class by itself.
For our stay in Osaka, we wanted to sample the "soul foods" that the city is famous for -- okonomiyaki, kushi katsu and takoyaki. If we didn't have enough time, two out of three would not be bad at all. So when we saw the sign for Warai Okonomiyaki, we knew this would be our dinner destination for tonight.
Okonomiyaki is a type of savoury Japanese pancake -- made with vegetables, eggs, meat, seafood -- actually anything that you can throw together that will taste good. It's cooked on a grill so at Warai, each table was outfitted with a huge hot grill so that you can finish cooking the okonomiyaki yourself.
By the side of each table are jars and bottles of all the condiments your food could possibly need -- chili flakes, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, soy sauce, pickled pink ginger and yes -- even a bottle of msg!
Here is the obligatory cold beer shot -- that seems to accompany all my posts about food in Japan!
We started with yakisoba with meat and seafood. The waitress slid the serving on the grill and we added the pickled ginger on top for that extra tart kick. Warai's yakisoba was just excellent.
The gyoza came in a small cast iron skillet and was perfectly pan fried! They were great little nibbles and did not have that strong garlicky aftertaste that most gyoza usually have.
We all agreed that Warai's gyoza were the best dumplings we had ever had.
I saw this on the menu and thought it looked deliciously different -- it certainly was. This vegetarian okonomiyaki has generous serving of sprouts and micro greens and a drizzle of a very light mayonnaise. It was so delicious -- and quite different from the usual okonomiyaki that I've tried.
This is the more traditional okonomiyaki with all the bonito flakes you could possibly want. This had a nice glaze and by letting it sit a bit more on the hot griddle, we got a slight crunch and char on the bottom which made it taste even better.
And this is the waraiyaki or Warai's star recipe. Strings of mayonnaise covered the top and blended well with the sauce that was a bit salty, a bit sweet with just a hint of heat.
It was soft but still delightfully chewy and didn't fall apart when sliced.
I think it was the best of all the three that we ordered.
Warai Okonomiyaki was a delicious start in our quest to eat and enjoy Osaka's Soul Foods!