It was really the call of buying DVD in Makati Cinema Square and getting to eat some fresh Jap food that made me go all the way to Pasong Tamo. I knew just the perfect lunch mate to bring along --- someone who loves films, food, and is available almost all of the time ("foodie kaladkarin" comes to mind). Prior to meeting up with Migmig, I already informed him that I wanted to try out the specialized restos in Little Tokyo so he better decide if he wants sushi or noodles or some other Jap dish, but it had to be specific.
Walking to Little Tokyo, Migmig tells me that he wants noodles or curry. I try to discourage him nicely by saying that curry is usually made from paste and not made fresh. I unintentionally distract him as we exchanged asking and explaining what paste was. This banter went on as we trudged along under the sun and were led to a small place that said "Okonomi-yaki Restaurant". Migmig asks what it was and I tell him that I think it's some kind of omelette. Migmig says "Game! As long as there's meat!". Yay! No noodles or curry!
As we enter, we see Japanese-style tables on our right and a sushi bar format (No sushi here!) to our left. Migmig says, "I'm not taking off my shoes." Before I even get to ask what he's hiding in his shoes, the waitresses swiftly seat us and give us our menus.
Opening the front menu already corrected my omelette explanation. Seeing the cooks in action made me doubt if I was reading the English definition correctly (Yes, I stereotype a bit, but it's only because of my past experiences with Japanese-English translations. Migmig says, "Ang dami namang cabbage niyan. Cabbage and cabbage," then he quickly follows up with "Uy okay yan. Tara. Order na tayo!" I am distracted with reading the menu because Migmig keeps saying "Okay 'to!" "Wow! Chicken skin!" "O, what will we order na?" alternately. I decide to hold back my laughter and concentrate. I choose the okonomi-yaki with pork, squid, shrimp, and egg. Migmig goes for the Soute Scallops. "Miss, ano ang ibig sabihin ng soute?" I ask. She says, "Soute? Yung sino-saute." Wow. Deep.
Okonomiyaki (My research shows this word spelled without a dash, but the resto had a dash. It's really how you like it, I guess. : ) ) has been called Japanese pizza, but I think it really is only because of how it looks like and not how it tastes like (Can you imagine eating pizza with steamed rice?). Okonomi means "whatever you like" and yaki means to "grill".
While waiting for our orders, I try to make a joke out of the word okonomiyaki. I shouldn't have told Migmig my plan because he told me, "It took you so long, Pam. You just lost the moment." Oh well. I look around and find so many cute curios. I know I am in Japanese territory when the interiors are peppered with cute character stuff and am watching a cute Japanese kid blinking and blinking her eyes to some Japanese music. None of which have a theme, save for all of them being Japanese.
Here comes performance time.
I get hungry as I watch the cooks pour batter on the teppanyaki grill, then fill it up with cabbage, bacon, shrimp, squid, and egg. The grill smokes up and smelling the creamy fishy aroma, I knew we ordered the right thing.
The cook proceeds to cover the okonomi-yaki with a kaldero (cauldron) top, reminding me of a game show. She goes through the same procedure as she creates another okonomi-yaki, this time with yakisoba. I wish we ordered that, too, but I promised myself not to overeat. Besides, we had another order (Soute Scallops), which, when being cooked, looked pathetically miniscule beside the large okonomi-yakis. I couldn't resist ribbing Migmig. "Parang ang konti ng order mo. Hahaha!!!"
The cook proceeds to uncover the okonomi-yaki and puts it on a pan that resembles the pans used for pan pizzas.
Ah here comes the verdict.
The first one served was the Soute Scallop (Php258, 3 bigger than the usual scallop pieces) that did not taste pathetic at all! They were grilled and salted to tastiness. These scallops were heavy duty and oh so delicious! Chewing each morsel had to be followed with the good quality rice (Thank God, the steaming white Japanese rice was perfect!) so as not to waste the overflowing tastiness of this dish. "Mmmmmmmmm," loudly declares Miguel in the small place where just a whisper can be heard. He offers to share the third piece, but I could see the joy in his eyes when I told him that he could have it all to himself.
Next comes the okonomi-yaki. I forget the name given to our okonomi-yaki, but as previously mentioned, we ordered the one with pork, shrimp, squid, and egg (Php385) plus a generous topping of bonito shaving (+Php35). It looks huge, but the moment I put a piece in my mouth, I knew we would finish it. It reminds me of the takoyaki of Samurai balls that I loved so much, but this one had a less fishy taste and had more bite into it. Each ingredient's taste was highlighted by a sauce that tasted like A1, but was less acidic. What A1 does to steak, this sauce does to everything else in it.
While I wonder if my tummy can hold more food, in comes Sharma.
I guess Migmig was thinking of the same thing because we both told her to order and we can all share. Yay! More to order. Being her gracious self, Sharma asks us what she should order instead of pushing for what she wants. Migmig encourages her to order the okonomi-yaki with yakisoba. He tries to push for the one with chicken skin, but Sharma chooses the Modern Mix which is okonomi-yaki with soba, pork, and egg (Php248). The guy who looks like the owner asks Sharma something in Japanese, but backs off and translates in English "With mayonnaise?". "Yes." Guy who looks like the owner must've thought Sharma was Japanese. Can't blame him. Sharma had the most wonderful creamy skin and a pool of light brown eyes.
While Sharma tells us a story which gets us all heated up ("Gusto ba niya basagin ko itong baso sa noo niya," exclaims Migmig in his jolly voice. If Migmig weren't a big guy, I'd think he was just kidding.), the Modern Mix is served. I am not a multi-tasker and I thought that I would have to finish hearing Sharma's story first before I could eat the next order. Call it a miracle, but I was able to eat the Modern Mix while still being very involved in the discussion. Yup, it was good and it didn't taste like the other order in spite of the similar ingredients, which in my books, was a good thing. I mean, how many can you order in one sitting if they all taste the same? One order may be good for the Japanese, but I'm PinoyChi in the company of friends (one of whom has an appetite that competes with mine). I must order variety. : )
The food was so satisfying that, for the first time, I did not mind being served fruit after a Japanese meal. It was a perfect ending to a very tasty and satisfying lunch and the refreshing chilled bottled black oolong tea (Php50).
We left the place with me thinking of when I should go there with Dex. Would tonight be too soon?
Kagura The Okonomi-yaki Restaurant is inside Little Tokyo in Pasong Tamo, beside Makati Cinema Square (MCS). Parkin MCS, go out to the Pasong Tamo side (where the BPI ATM is), cross the road beside it, go towards the Seryna restaurant and go inside the path after it. When you get to the compound, it's almost across Niko Niko restaurant. Enjoy!
P.S. The nice pictures are from Migmig, this really talented photographer. The ordinary ones are mine. : )