Another day, another food adventure – this time at Pavilion KL’s Tokyo Street!
Much like J’s Gate Dining at Lot 10 Shopping Centre next door, Tokyo Street houses a slew of Japanese eateries, serving everything from shabu-shabu (hotpot) and sushi, to authentic matcha desserts. We had our sights set on Okonomi, a casual spot specializing in – what else – okonomiyaki.
For the uninitiated, okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake, comprising shredded cabbage mixed with batter and items such as pork, shrimp, beef, or even cheese. It is flattened and cooked on a teppan (hotplate) before topping with okonomiyaki sauce, dried seaweed flakes, and katsuoboshi (bonito flakes).
The word is a portmanteau of okonomi (meaning ‘as you like’, or kinda like the ‘chef’s special’) and yaki (fried) – a fitting name, seeing as how the dish is basically a mix of different ingredients. Different regions in Japan have their own unique versions, but the one that is most common is Osaka-style, where it was popularised. Trivia: okonomiyaki is also nicknamed “Osaka soul food” !
The shop is cozy, with wooden furniture and a warm, earthen colour scheme. A large section of the restaurant is dominated by the kitchen, which features a teppan (grill). The cooking area is separated from the dining area by glass.
The appeal of such a setup is that guests will be able to sit at the counter and experience the food with all the senses. It almost feels like a performance, as resident chef Takeshi Wada whips up dishes right before your eyes; you smell the aroma of food cooking on the grill, and hear the satisfying sizzle of more ingredients being added to the hotplate.
For best value, order the set meals, which come with rice, side dishes, miso soup, and dessert. While okonomiyaki is the main attraction, there’s a good selection of other grilled items as well, such as yakiniku (beef), pork belly, and salmon.
If you’re feeling fancy, opt for premium orders such as the wagyu sirloin and Iberico pork chop.
Our first order of the day was one of their signatures: Spicy yakisoba (RM20). This was da bomb. The wheat flour noodles were cooked perfectly and had a chewy, al dente texture, each strand coated in a sweet and savoury sauce.
We couldn’t place the unique flavour while we were dining, but I googled it later and apparently the ‘base’ is a Worchestershire sauce, which explains the rich, full-bodied flavour. In terms of freshness, you can’t get any fresher than noodles curling around on the plate like they were wriggling lol, because the heat was making the strands contract. To top it off, shavings of katsuoboshi and dried seaweed flakes.
Unfortunately, after the star performance of the yakisoba, the okonomiyaki (shrimp and pork – they ran out of squid, so they gave us extra shrimp) felt a little underwhelming. It was still tasty, but the sauces and toppings were very similar in taste to the noodles, but did not pair as well. I also felt that the shredded cabbage had a bitter aftertaste, which sort of ruined the enjoyment for me.
Last but not least came the fried omelette with pork belly (RM10). The omelette was fluffy and stuffed with tender slices of pork and onions.
Here’s an extremely thoughtful gesture: I ordered one dish, but was surprised to see that two portions came. At first I thought that the server mistakenly keyed in two orders, but it turns out Chef Wada made them so that the Hubs and I would each get an individual portion. Which I think is awesome; that he pays mind to these details. It reminds me of omotenashi, or the Japanese concept of hospitality which centres around going above and beyond to make sure guests are well taken care of.
That being said, there’s one thing to remember when dining at Okonomi: be patient. During our visit, the shop was at full capacity (about 20 pax). Since Chef Wada was the only one preparing the food, and they are all made to order, our dishes took a long time to get to our table. But hey, good things are worth the wait!
If you want a taste of authentic Osaka-style okonomiyaki, Okonomi checks all the boxes. I do think they make good okonomiyaki – it’s just that I’m not a big fan of the dish itself; it has nothing to do with the chef’s skills.
As for the Hubs and I, we’ve already made plans to return for the phenomenal yakisoba.
OKONOMI BY TOKYO DON
Lot 6 . 24 . 1C, Level 6, Tokyo Street, Pavilion KL, 168, Jln Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 11AM – 9PM (daily)