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Gaijin - Okonomiyaki and more - Paul Virant - Fulton Market

Gaijin - Okonomiyaki and more - Paul Virant - Fulton Market
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  • Gaijin - Okonomiyaki and more - Paul Virant - Fulton Market

    Post #1 - November 20th, 2019, 11:20 pm
    Post #1 - November 20th, 2019, 11:20 pm Post #1 - November 20th, 2019, 11:20 pm
    Gaijin has been open for a few weeks. Being big, long-time fans of Paul Virant (Vie, Vistro, etc.), we were excited to check out his new okonomiyaki-focused spot in Fulton Market. Years ago, Paul's wife lived in Japan and became enamored with these savory Japanese pancakes. This is essentially the origin story of Gaijin.

    I actually ran into the Virants at Mitsuwa Marketplace late last year, when I was shopping, coincidentally enough, for ingredients to make okonomiyaki. It was then that they shared their plans to open Gaijin. Of course, they swore me to secrecy. And they also, very generously, provided a bunch of tips and guidance on what to buy and how to cook them. In spite of the fact that I'd never made them before, with the extra professional help, they turned out pretty darned good. The product being turned out at Gaijin is, not surprisingly, far superior. We stopped by for a delicious lunch earlier this week. First, a few appetizers . . .

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    Gaijin - 950 W Lake Street, Chicago

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    Chef/Owner Paul Virant heading up the line during lunch service

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    Kombu | marinated seasonal vegetables

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    Crudite | black garlic miso, soy, citrus
    I had this dish at a previous visit and the dip component has changed. At that time, it seemed like nearly straight miso. This seemed like more of a mayo-based dip. Still delicious.

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    Short Ribs | marinated boneless short ribs, rice, scallions, sesame
    Tender, unctuous and a wee bit sweet.

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    Veggie Korokke | mushroom, rice, curry, Mighty Vine tomatoes, daikon pickle, tonkatsu sauce
    Very nice croquette-type packages.

    Next up, the main attraction, okonomiyaki . . .

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    Negiyaki-style Okonomiyaki | savory scallion pancake, bacon, egg, ponzu
    Complex, comforting flavors and a nice range of textures

    Per Gaijin's menu, Osaka-style okonomiyaki are described as Japanese savory cabbage pancakes cooked on a griddle with customized ingredients.

    Image
    Osaka-style Shrimp Okonomiyaki | fried shrimp, corn, creole butter, arare, (cheese curds, bacon)
    Kind of spectacular, ok? :D

    Per Gaijin's menu, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki are described as pancakes in which the ingredients are layered rather than mixed together and yakisoba noodles are included.

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    Hiroshima-style Traditional Okonomiyaki | yakisoba, bacon, egg
    Loved this one, too. Just delightful.

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    Hiroshima-style Vegetarian Okonomiyaki | yakisoba, mushrooms, egg, yuba, fried tofu
    This was someone else's order but it was sitting in the pass, so I got a shot of it. Looked damned good.

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    Sesame Yuzu | black sesame ice cream, yuzu syrup, strawberry compote, honey sesame brittle, snow cap
    Almost peanut butter-like in flavor, the black sesame ice cream (under the snow cap) was cool, velvety and intense. The snow cap was tender, light and delicate. The rest of the components were tasty, too. The brittle would have been a great dessert on its own.

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    Cinnamon Gooey Buttercake Ice Cream
    Channeling Vie by incorporating its most iconic dessert into an ice cream. What will they think of next?! :D

    In case my lack of description leaves any question, this was an absolutely awesome lunch. I hope the pictures speak for themselves because the food we ate is a bit hard to describe. Gaijin is pretty busy at dinner time (based on attempted reservations) but our lunch was at 12:30 and while it was bustling, it wasn't slammed. We had a reservation for a table (counter is walk-in only) but after a few moments, 3 seats at the counter opened up, so we moved over. I can't wait to go back.

    =R=

    Gaijin (website)
    950 W Lake St
    Chicago, IL 60607
    (312) 265-1348
    There are many things that are legal that are not a great idea --Nick Shabazz

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #2 - November 21st, 2019, 2:24 pm
    Post #2 - November 21st, 2019, 2:24 pm Post #2 - November 21st, 2019, 2:24 pm
    Thanks for the report, Ron. We're very curious and look forward to going. We've enjoyed Paul Virant's food at more than one of his "outlets" and have always come away impressed and eager to have more.
    That said, listening to his interview with Louisa Chu, I was dismayed to hear his Japanese pronunciation. I know he is not Japanese and I do not expect fluency. I do not think it is unreasonable, though, to expect someone opening a Japanese (or French or Peruvian or whatever) restaurant to respect the culture sufficiently to take a little trouble to learn how to come close to the right pronunciation.
    I'd be just as dismayed to hear the owner of a French restaurant pronounce crème brulee as CREAM BROOLY. Yes, I know his wife spent time in Japan. Sadly, her pronunciation of okonomiyaki (she was briefly in on the interview) is as off as his: there is no accent on the third syllable. Indeed, Japanese often sounds like a monotone to speakers of Western languages because there is no stress on the syllables; each syllable carries the same weight.
    Is this a nit? I don't think so. I do think that getting the words at least "close" bespeaks a respect for the food and for the culture. And it was simply sad to hear some words so mangled that it took me a while to even figure out what he was referring to.
    Last edited by Gypsy Boy on November 21st, 2019, 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #3 - November 21st, 2019, 2:39 pm
    Post #3 - November 21st, 2019, 2:39 pm Post #3 - November 21st, 2019, 2:39 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:Thanks for the report, Ron. We're very curious and look forward to going. We've enjoyed Paul Virant's food at more than one of his "outlets" and have always come away impressed and eager to have more.
    That said, listening to his interview with Louisa Chu, I was dismayed to hear his Japanese pronunciation. I know he is not Japanese and I do not expect fluency. I do not think it is unreasonable, though, to expect someone opening a Japanese (or French or Peruvian or whatever) restaurant to respect the culture sufficiently to take a little trouble to learn how to come close to the right pronunciation.
    I'd be just as dismayed to hear the owner of a French restaurant pronounce crème brulee as CREAM BRULY. Yes, I know his wife spent time in Japan. Sadly, her pronunciation of okonomiyaki (she was briefly in on the interview) is as off as his: there is no accent on the third syllable. Indeed, Japanese often sounds like a monotone to speakers of Western languages because there is no stress on the syllables; each syllable carries the same weight.
    Is this a nit? I don't think so. I do think that getting the words at least "close" bespeaks a respect for the food and for the culture. And it was simply sad to hear some words so mangled that it took me a while to even figure out what he was referring to.

    Eat the food and let me know what you think. :wink:

    =R=
    There are many things that are legal that are not a great idea --Nick Shabazz

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #4 - November 21st, 2019, 2:46 pm
    Post #4 - November 21st, 2019, 2:46 pm Post #4 - November 21st, 2019, 2:46 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Eat the food and let me know what you think. :wink:
    =R=


    You got it. As I said--purposely--in my opening, we've always enjoyed his food a great deal. I thought long and hard about whether to even post, but I honestly believe it's a point that should be made.

    But I'm looking forward to the food! :lol:
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #5 - November 21st, 2019, 3:35 pm
    Post #5 - November 21st, 2019, 3:35 pm Post #5 - November 21st, 2019, 3:35 pm
    I do think it's a valid thing to discuss when looking at the dynamics of someone from outside a culture opening a restaurant serving food from that culture, especially when you use a Japanese word as the name. I can't stand when Bobby Flay says "chi-pull-tay" because it just reeks of being willing to profit without feeling any need to engage. I personally have really strong objections to the hyperforeignism of putting an accent on the e in poke, and I legit take that into account when considering a poke place.
  • Post #6 - November 21st, 2019, 4:19 pm
    Post #6 - November 21st, 2019, 4:19 pm Post #6 - November 21st, 2019, 4:19 pm
    I think we're edging toward a discussion about appropriation which, at least as it applies to culinary matters, I consider to be complete and utter bullshit. Textbook victimless "crime." No amount of someone else cooking your recipe or botching a pronunciation transfers ownership or prevents you from doing it (or saying it) the way you think is right.

    This is a melting pot, baby! If the food's good, I'll be back. If not, I won't. That doesn't mean I don't think it's of value to understand the origins of a dish. I do. But it isn't always a primary concern for me, either.

    =R=
    There are many things that are legal that are not a great idea --Nick Shabazz

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #7 - November 21st, 2019, 4:32 pm
    Post #7 - November 21st, 2019, 4:32 pm Post #7 - November 21st, 2019, 4:32 pm
    Ron, no. I am NOT arguing in the least that Paul Virant couldn't or shouldn't cook Japanese food. I do NOT believe that only Japanese can cook Japanese, only French can cook French and so on. I think that's flat wrong.
    I'm honestly trying to make a different point. Which is: whatever you choose to cook, respect its origins. Which means, among other things, pronouncing the words right. That's it.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #8 - November 21st, 2019, 4:57 pm
    Post #8 - November 21st, 2019, 4:57 pm Post #8 - November 21st, 2019, 4:57 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:I'm honestly trying to make a different point. Which is: whatever you choose to cook, respect its origins. Which means, among other things, pronouncing the words right. That's it.
    As someone who mispronounces most every non English word that comes out of his mouth, and quite a few English at that, there are people in this big wide world who have respect for a culture but no facility for language. Should I stick to chicken pot pie simply because I'm able to pronounce it to your standards?
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #9 - November 21st, 2019, 5:20 pm
    Post #9 - November 21st, 2019, 5:20 pm Post #9 - November 21st, 2019, 5:20 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:Ron, no. I am NOT arguing in the least that Paul Virant couldn't or shouldn't cook Japanese food. I do NOT believe that only Japanese can cook Japanese, only French can cook French and so on. I think that's flat wrong.
    I'm honestly trying to make a different point. Which is: whatever you choose to cook, respect its origins. Which means, among other things, pronouncing the words right. That's it.

    Ok, understood. This is an issue about which I've been thinking quite a bit but I did not mean to put words in your mouth (properly elocuted or mispronounced). :D

    =R=
    There are many things that are legal that are not a great idea --Nick Shabazz

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #10 - November 22nd, 2019, 8:17 am
    Post #10 - November 22nd, 2019, 8:17 am Post #10 - November 22nd, 2019, 8:17 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I think we're edging toward a discussion about appropriation which, at least as it applies culinary matters, I consider to be complete and utter bullshit. Textbook victimless "crime." No amount of someone else cooking your recipe or botching a pronunciation transfers ownership or prevents you from doing it (or saying it) the way you think is right.

    This is a melting pot, baby! If the food's good, I'll be back. If not, I won't. That doesn't mean I don't think it's of value to understand the origins of a dish. I do. But it isn't always a primary concern for me, either.

    =R=


    Based on how adamant you are, I don't think there's any changing your mind, but I do think you should consider how it feels to have deeply cultural connections to food and then to have someone cash in on that culture without any regard for the people of that culture itself. Going to the poke example, the cash-in actually did do harm. I have seen with my own eyes people saying that Hawaiian-owned places are not serving "real poke" because they don't have the incorrect accent and they aren't serving the Chipotlefied version of deconstructed maki. Aloha Poke was even trying to sue businesses in Hawai'i for using the damn word aloha. Is it the worst thing to happen to the Hawaiian people? Not by a long shot. Does it still hurt to see your culture essentially used as a prop for making someone money? Yes.

    That said, I don't think that is what Paul Virant is doing (I'm actually excited to go to Gaijin), but I also don't think we should be blind to things beyond "just the food." Virant seems to have done the legwork as far as I can see with going to Japan and actually learning what the hell he's doing and the restaurant is presenting the food in a way that seems true to their aim.
  • Post #11 - November 22nd, 2019, 9:51 am
    Post #11 - November 22nd, 2019, 9:51 am Post #11 - November 22nd, 2019, 9:51 am
    gnarchief wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I think we're edging toward a discussion about appropriation which, at least as it applies culinary matters, I consider to be complete and utter bullshit. Textbook victimless "crime." No amount of someone else cooking your recipe or botching a pronunciation transfers ownership or prevents you from doing it (or saying it) the way you think is right.

    This is a melting pot, baby! If the food's good, I'll be back. If not, I won't. That doesn't mean I don't think it's of value to understand the origins of a dish. I do. But it isn't always a primary concern for me, either.

    =R=


    Based on how adamant you are, I don't think there's any changing your mind, but I do think you should consider how it feels to have deeply cultural connections to food and then to have someone cash in on that culture without any regard for the people of that culture itself. Going to the poke example, the cash-in actually did do harm. I have seen with my own eyes people saying that Hawaiian-owned places are not serving "real poke" because they don't have the incorrect accent and they aren't serving the Chipotlefied version of deconstructed maki. Aloha Poke was even trying to sue businesses in Hawai'i for using the damn word aloha. Is it the worst thing to happen to the Hawaiian people? Not by a long shot. Does it still hurt to see your culture essentially used as a prop for making someone money? Yes.

    That said, I don't think that is what Paul Virant is doing (I'm actually excited to go to Gaijin), but I also don't think we should be blind to things beyond "just the food." Virant seems to have done the legwork as far as I can see with going to Japan and actually learning what the hell he's doing and the restaurant is presenting the food in a way that seems true to their aim.

    Such are the inevitibilities of living in the glorious, multi-cultural society of which we are a part. I guess how one feels about it is personal and variable. Being the mutt that I am, I've had plenty of experiences where "my" dishes have been prepared by "others." Personally, I find this charming, bemusing and endearing. I've never been offended by it. Even when the dishes have sucked or were wrong, the strongest emotion I've felt was disappointment that the food wasn't better. If the details are wrong, it's nothing more than an opportunity for discussion.

    As for the poke example (most of us know the specific case to which you are referring), I think you're conflating corporate exploitation -- something no one here would ever accuse Paul Virant of -- with a smaller, way more benign dynamic. In this specific case, the offender has attempted to take ownership of the term and actually block others from using it. I agree that that's wrong. But it's an extreme and, as far as I know, unique instance. Other than this, though, in the worst case, the "crime" is nothing more than insensitivity, many times unintentional and originating out of nothing but admiration. This should be celebrated, not lamented.

    =R=
    There are many things that are legal that are not a great idea --Nick Shabazz

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #12 - November 23rd, 2019, 1:00 pm
    Post #12 - November 23rd, 2019, 1:00 pm Post #12 - November 23rd, 2019, 1:00 pm
    One thing I forgot to mention about our meal at Gaijin was the excellent Gaijin Lager (draft), which is a collaboration with Moody Tongue brewery. I thought it was crisp and refreshing, with just a perfect amount of hops to give it some bite but still leave it food-friendly.

    =R=
    There are many things that are legal that are not a great idea --Nick Shabazz

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #13 - November 23rd, 2019, 6:49 pm
    Post #13 - November 23rd, 2019, 6:49 pm Post #13 - November 23rd, 2019, 6:49 pm
    Given that he named the restaurant Gaijin, it is completely appropriate for Virant to mispronounce Japanese words.
  • Post #14 - November 24th, 2019, 11:50 am
    Post #14 - November 24th, 2019, 11:50 am Post #14 - November 24th, 2019, 11:50 am
    Gypsy Boy wrote:I'm honestly trying to make a different point. Which is: whatever you choose to cook, respect its origins. Which means, among other things, pronouncing the words right. That's it.
    Ok, now I get it, I just had to experience it from the other direction. I was at Zip Z Express for an order of wings and a three young fellows came in and ordered cheeseburgers. Now, keep in mind, the Asian couple has run this Howard Street business for 30+ years, when the grandmotherly co-owner repeted back the order she demolished the word cheeseburger.
    WTF
    I started to seethe and realized just how wrong I was to be dismissive of Paul V and family's cultural misstep. I'm a big enough person to admit when I'm wrong. Mea culpa.
    Last edited by G Wiv on November 24th, 2019, 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #15 - November 24th, 2019, 12:39 pm
    Post #15 - November 24th, 2019, 12:39 pm Post #15 - November 24th, 2019, 12:39 pm
    G Wiv wrote:the grandmotherly co-owner repeted back the order she demolished the word cheeseburger.
    WTF

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puJePACBoIo
  • Post #16 - November 25th, 2019, 6:17 pm
    Post #16 - November 25th, 2019, 6:17 pm Post #16 - November 25th, 2019, 6:17 pm
    I had to show this thread to my co-worker who is born and raised in Japan. He found it amusing because his own personal standpoint was that he could care less where someone is from who is making his food, even his own culture's food. He said he even finds it endearing when a gaijin (aka foreigner) is making an attempt to cook his culture's food. His own personal standpoint is "as long as the food is good, I could care less where the person who is cooking it comes from." He did say as long as they aren't totally bastardizing something and calling it their own, but then again he started the big philosophical discussion about "what is authentic anyway?"

    With Paul V's pronunciation, he asked"so what? Who cares." - as long as he's not telling a native speaker that's how you say it if they tell him that he's saying it wrong and isn't a jerk about it.

    He also mentioned that Okonomiyaki means "your way" or "what you want" and there's not many rules about it other than getting the base right. It's basically your choice of what to put in there and there's essentially no rules. So if you want to put a big piece of chicken on top of it, then there's nothing wrong with that because it was your choice. If you want to stuff a pancake inside of another pancake, then that's fine too - as long as the pancake base was right. I know what the poster was talking about with the poke and that's a whole different can of worms, but it sounds like it's not the best potential analogy compared to okonomiyaki.

    It did start an interesting conversation though between us. What G Wiv joked about above is something my co-worker and I actually talked about before. There are numerous places in this country cooking American food that are run and being cooked by immigrants where English is not their first language. I don't know, maybe in the middle of Idaho they care how someone pronounces "cheeseburger" but I'd figure most reasonable, not bigoted jerks would care less as long as the food tastes good. I think it's rather rude to assume someone who is learning a new language is not making an effort with pronunciation just because they got it wrong. Nobody in the entire world gets a language correct right away and there's many speakers to languages they didn't grow up with who say things incorrectly 50 years later still. I work with numerous people from India who have been in the US for 10-20+ years and guess what? They pronounce words wrong - and nobody at the office cares to make a big deal about it because they aren't jerks and understand the people are making an effort, but they have trouble saying it the "correct" way. To assume they're not making an effort without talking with them first is also ridiculous IMO.

    And not saying this applies to Paul V, but you do realize that native speakers don't always speak 100% properly, right? Do you think that every born and bred American speaks perfect English? Not even close. A great example is my mother-in-law who is born and raised in China and never lived anywhere else. Whenever she is visiting or I visiting China, she teaches me new words/phrases - but she actually pronounces some words completely differently than 99.9% of the people in China. My wife and father-in-law always correct her during these teaching sessions and tell me to not say it her way because it would not be right. She's a native speaker, yet if I learned 100% from her I would still be pronouncing some words incorrectly.

    And as mentioned before, some people just don't have the facility for foreign languages. To assume someone isn't making an effort because they're pronouncing a word incorrectly in a language that is not their own is just flat out ridiculous. Maybe you should have a conversation with Paul Virant and see what he's all about.
    Last edited by marothisu on November 25th, 2019, 6:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    2019 Chicago Food Business License Issuances Map: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1AGfUU ... sp=sharing
  • Post #17 - November 25th, 2019, 6:25 pm
    Post #17 - November 25th, 2019, 6:25 pm Post #17 - November 25th, 2019, 6:25 pm
    So how's the food? :twisted:
  • Post #18 - November 25th, 2019, 7:11 pm
    Post #18 - November 25th, 2019, 7:11 pm Post #18 - November 25th, 2019, 7:11 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:So how's the food? :twisted:

    You should go and let us know.

    =R=
    There are many things that are legal that are not a great idea --Nick Shabazz

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #19 - November 25th, 2019, 8:24 pm
    Post #19 - November 25th, 2019, 8:24 pm Post #19 - November 25th, 2019, 8:24 pm
    marothisu wrote:It did start an interesting conversation though between us. What G Wiv joked about above is something my co-worker and I actually talked about before.
    Happy to hear this as I've been the recipient of a couple of mildly irritated private messages.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #20 - November 25th, 2019, 9:06 pm
    Post #20 - November 25th, 2019, 9:06 pm Post #20 - November 25th, 2019, 9:06 pm
    G Wiv wrote:
    marothisu wrote:It did start an interesting conversation though between us. What G Wiv joked about above is something my co-worker and I actually talked about before.
    Happy to hear this as I've been the recipient of a couple of mildly irritated private messages.


    We (co-worker from Japan and I) had a conversation over lunch about the same thing on Friday after he mentioned he's ordered American food many times from people where English is their 2nd languages, and it wasn't pronounced correctly. I showed him your post before and he thought it was incredibly true.

    It's amazing to me how unforgiving people are to others regarding language. As long as they aren't telling a native that the native is wrong about pronunciation then people need to chill out about this as long as they're making an effort.
    2019 Chicago Food Business License Issuances Map: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1AGfUU ... sp=sharing
  • Post #21 - November 25th, 2019, 9:25 pm
    Post #21 - November 25th, 2019, 9:25 pm Post #21 - November 25th, 2019, 9:25 pm
    - Anyway. The food looks good - hope to try it sometime.
    2019 Chicago Food Business License Issuances Map: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1AGfUU ... sp=sharing
  • Post #22 - November 26th, 2019, 5:12 am
    Post #22 - November 26th, 2019, 5:12 am Post #22 - November 26th, 2019, 5:12 am
    marothisu wrote:I had to show this thread to my co-worker who is born and raised in Japan. ... With Paul V's pronunciation, he asked"so what? Who cares."


    That's his view and if he's fine with it, great. That wasn't the reaction in my house and yes, my wife is of Japanese descent. Her dad was Nisei and her mom was born and raised in Japan, coming here only as an adult.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #23 - November 26th, 2019, 6:58 am
    Post #23 - November 26th, 2019, 6:58 am Post #23 - November 26th, 2019, 6:58 am
    Gypsy Boy wrote:
    marothisu wrote:I had to show this thread to my co-worker who is born and raised in Japan. ... With Paul V's pronunciation, he asked"so what? Who cares."


    That's his view and if he's fine with it, great. That wasn't the reaction in my house and yes, my wife is of Japanese descent. Her dad was Nisei and her mom was born and raised in Japan, coming here only as an adult.


    Of course this would be many peoples' reaction to hearing a wrong mispronunciation.

    That was not my point though at the end of the day. To assume that person isn't trying at the language is ridiculous and not very considerate especially if the person didnt indicate they aren't trying. Of course if he literally said he's not trying, then that's a different story.
    2019 Chicago Food Business License Issuances Map: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1AGfUU ... sp=sharing
  • Post #24 - December 6th, 2019, 4:53 am
    Post #24 - December 6th, 2019, 4:53 am Post #24 - December 6th, 2019, 4:53 am
    Having spent a lot of time in Japan over the past decade, I'm excited to give this a go. I'm wondering why the okonomiyaki seem to be seared/served (?) in a pan. Anywhere I've been in Japan they are cooked live, "teppanyaki style", over a table top griddle, or if not there on a griddle behind the bar. Based on the photos it seems they are also being far too generous with the sauces on top. But will keep an open mind...
    Marno
  • Post #25 - December 8th, 2019, 10:57 am
    Post #25 - December 8th, 2019, 10:57 am Post #25 - December 8th, 2019, 10:57 am
    So there are griddles on each table, and they turn them on when you arrive. However, they cook the pancakes on a griddle in the kitchen (open for viewing) and my sampler platter arrived on a plate and never touched the griddle on our table. My colleague’s Hiroshima style pancake was delivered to the table and set on our griddle to continue to cook/stay warm. He’s a bit of a Japanophile and noted that in his extensive travels in Japan they are usually cooked like on the table right in front of you. I’m not sure cooking it on the table would have improved the product much, which I thought was really tasty. A small quibble, but I would have liked to have access to kewpie/bulldog to apply myself. As noted by others, the Hiroshima version was fun and something I’ve never had.

    I tend to like one or limited trick ponies like Gaian and am happy to have it as an option. That said, my okonomiyaki itch will probably only need to be scratched a couple times a year.
  • Post #26 - December 10th, 2019, 6:56 pm
    Post #26 - December 10th, 2019, 6:56 pm Post #26 - December 10th, 2019, 6:56 pm
    The respect given to the food is high here. I think that counts for something. Chicago has seen a steady tick in Japanese restaurant openings in both the city and suburbs (Arlington Heights / Palatine). Gaijin is my new favorite. I really like what they've done. Cool layout, easily approachable menu, open all day, Kakigori!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Ronnie's pics are pretty much perfect though my Kombu was much darker in color. Still spectacular but not as pleasing on the eyes as the serving in his pics. We got the arctic char off the small plates. It was cooked perfect to the point where some people probably would've sent it back for being undercooked as it was pink in the middle. But it broke apart flake by flake perfectly. Yakisoba with Porkbelly was big time in my book. Specifically the big chunks of well seared pork belly that broke apart like the fish. As tender pork belly as I can remember.

    I just got back from Japan a few weeks ago (Tokyo / Osaka) and never did get to try the Hiroshima style okonomiyaki in Osaka. So I went with that this trip in knowing full well I'd be back for the Osaka style sometime soon. Or will I? I might be a Hiroshima guy when it comes to my preferred style of oknonmiyaki. I loved the fact it was layered and they did a terrific job with the layer of noodles which were nice and chewy in the middle but crisped up on top.

    But what I was most interested in was the Kakigori. First up bc when I left for Japan there was nowhere in Chicagoland to get kakigori (that spot at Mitsuwa might as well be shaved ice). But when I came back we had a spot somewhat specializing in it. That's as many as NYC and one more than LA. While the pineapple upside down kakigori I tried was a bit different than all those I had in Tokyo it was still really good. My favorite dessert of the year actually as far as Chicago goes. What was different to me is that they put ice cream in the middle but I had no problem with the housemade pineapple sherbet. That said it reminded me more of a Shave Ice with a Dole Whip center I had in LA earlier this year, but that's nitpicking. I imagine the kakigori flavors will be switched up regularly. I look forward to strawberry season. I also need to go back for a mochi donut. I had those in Seattle not too long ago and they were addictive.
  • Post #27 - Yesterday, 5:12 pm
    Post #27 - Yesterday, 5:12 pm Post #27 - Yesterday, 5:12 pm
    First place I ever tried okonomiyaki was in a food court in Osaka. I have vivid memories of that rendition.

    Mrs Willie and I ate lunch today at Gaijin.

    Pork belly yakisoba was spot on, nice chew to the noodles, still some crunch on the cabbage, some grilled bits of pork as well as some fatty, delicious.

    We then tried a flight (3 small) of Osaka okonomiyaki: chicken, octopus, pork. All were skimpy on the bonito flakes as well as the cabbage in each very overcooked, no crunch or chew whatsoever. We liked the flavors so will be back to try again but if overcooked again, will be a big disappointment
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.

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