Osaka is rife with okonomiyaki joints, and at first, Hisashi-san wanted to take us to a nice place near the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. We spend so much time ogling the fish there, we ran out of time, so we opted to try something closer to Osaka Stadium before the soccer game. Hisashi's wife, Masae, graciously opted to go save seats instead of going with us to dinner, so we dropped her off and found a place near Osaka University. I'm not sure if she was actually avoiding the inevitable heartburn to follow, or being entirely altruistic. I think it was the latter.
"Okonomiyaki" is based on two Japanese words, "okonomi" meaning "what you want" or "what you like" and "yaki" meaning "grilled". So, basically, it's whatever you want on a grill. Traditionally, it's made from eggs, cabbage, flour, grated yam and water, with meat or seafood added in (whatever you want). It's formed into an omelette shape and grilled at your table, with a dose of brown tonkatsu sauce, some Japanese mayo, and fish flakes added on top. I'm not sure exactly what the fish flakes add other than entertainment value. You can see in the video that when heated, they start to come alive, dancing on top of the concoction. Alex added the "IT'S ALIVE!" sound effects to heighten the experience.
Frank ordered the house specialty, which was less pancake and more glob of noodles with curry sauce and bits of vegetables. I went the traditional route, ordering the standard egg-flour-cabbage-meat combo, but I could not discern any particular meat in the dish. Alex ordered some edamame (soy beans) and grilled beef chunks, which were quite tasty.
I can't say that this is something I would want to eat every day without a good cardiologist on call, but it was a fun experience. It tasted better than I expected, and the flavors actually worked well together. Who knew cabbage, eggs, fish fishflakes and tonkatsu sauce would be a winning combination? It seemed like it was dreamed up by some poor grad student who ran out of yen before the end of the semester.
In short, if you're ever in Kansai, be sure to try the okonomiyaki. Ask for extra fish flakes and watch the magic.