Minutes from the British Museum is a little Japanese restaurant called Abeno, which specializes in okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake/omelette made with egg and flour, and can be mixed with a variety of ingredients including grated yam, cabbage, meat, seafood and dashi.
This is a really small, and busy restaurant. I arrived early and was able to beg my way in for a quick dinner, but reservations are highly recommended – many people were turned away while I ate my meal.
Each table has a built-in gas flat top grill on which the server cooks your okonomiyaki. My order would soon be busily cooking under that lid. The large spatulas were for cooking, and the mini one was for me to use to cut and serve my food.
I ordered a small Inaka Mix, which includes pork, konnyaku (a.k.a. konjac) and corn. My server mixed everything in a bowl at table-side. He added a dollop of oil onto the grill, then plopped the mixture onto the hot surface, and quickly formed it into a pancake shape.
He then put the lid on top of the whole thing to distribute the heat through the whole okonomiyaki. About half way thorough the cooking process he came back and flipped the whole thing over, and placed the lid back on for further grilling.
And then the whole thing was flipped over again so that the toppings could be added. Look at those pork strips! (No they weren’t streaky bacon, but actually thin slices of pork. Not sure if they were back bacon.)
I told my server that I wanted all the toppings – okonomiyaki sauce (close to a bbq sauce), Kewpie mayonnaise, aonori (seaweed) and bonito flakes. They leave you with bottles of the sauces as well as a bottle of hot sauce in case you want a little more to go with your meal.
Ok now the really neat part. (Be warned though, I am easily amused. I’m quite pathetic, really.) I had to take a video of this because it’s something that you have to really see to believe. Watch what happens in reaction to the high heat of the grill. It’s short, so you may have to watch it more than once.
To eat the okonomiyaki, I ended up cutting it up into slices like a pizza. Taste-wise, I have to say that okonomiyaki make a tasty and filling eggy/salty meal. The food, and the restaurant, are perfect for a casual dinner and conversation.
Okonomiyaki aren’t the only thing you can order here – teppanyaki and a small selection of onigiri, sashimi, gyoza, etc. are also available.
Abeno has two locations – the original Abeno near the British Museum and Abeno Too, located in Leicester Square. The second location isn’t big either, but I find it has more windows and light, and as a result feels a little bigger and less crowded.
47 Museum Street, London
17-18 Great Newport Street, London