At the center of the dining table is a fiery iron griddle with eager diners huddled around it. With metal spatulas in hand, they flip their okonomiyaki once, twice, thrice before slicing it open and taking a bite. This happens every day in restaurants all over Japan–locals digging into their hot-off-the-grill okonomiyaki which they themselves prepared and cooked.
If you’re going “Okonomi-what?!” right now, let’s break it down.
Okonomi means “what you want” and yaki means “cooking.” Put that together and you get “cooking what you want.” They come in the form of pancakes, only they’re made thick and savory with all sorts of fresh ingredients like seafood, meat, and vegetables. They’re a staple dish in Japan (most ubiquitous in Osaka) and are well-loved for the comfort it brings to its eaters.
The Japanese cook their own okonomiyaki and now we can, too!
Before you go booking your plane ticket to Japan, know that there’s now a restaurant in Manila where you can cook your own okonomiyaki and feel like a real Japanese local! Dohtonbori, which has 285 stores in Japan and 300 worldwide, has recently opened two branches in the country (one in Greenhills and another in SM North EDSA) to give us the authentic okonomiyaki experience.
Dohtonbori is the first one in Manila to introduce us to such a wide variety of okonomiyaki (they have sixteen kinds on their menu!) as well as the only place where us noobs can learn how to make okonomiyaki with our own hands–just like how the Japanese do it! All their main ingredients are delivered straight from Japan to make sure we get the same exact experience here as the locals do there.
You don’t have to be a pro to cook up your own okonomiyaki
You don’t need Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver’s skills in the kitchen to cook up a perfect okonomiyaki. All you have to do is follow the instruction cards on the table to have yourself a great meal.
You don’t need to worry about setting anything on fire either because their teppan grills (all of which are flown in from Japan) can sense when things are getting too hot and will adjust automatically. So really, there’s no way you can mess up!
The first step is to mix the okonomiyaki ingredients that will be provided for you in a bowl. You then pour the thick mixture onto the teppan and shape it into a circle. Let it cook for five minutes then flip it over. Do this two more times, always waiting five minutes in between flips.
When you’re done with the three flips, smother it liberally with okonomiyaki sauce and top it with Japanese mayonnaise, ao nori, and bonito powder. The last (and best) step is to plunge your teeth into it and be blown away by your own cooking!
If you can’t decide on which okonomiyaki to make, the Cheesy Pork Okonomiyaki is a delicious choice. It’s a treat biting into the succulent slices of pork, hidden treasures for you to find among the vegetables and tempura bits. And to make every mouthful even more heavenly, it’s got melted mozzarella cheese in the middle!
Dohtonbori may be known for its DIY okonomiyaki, but it’s not the only thing you can cook and eat here. Their teppan pizzas are equally as delicious and can easily be made from scratch, too!
There are four pizza flavors to choose from but the Dohtonbori Pizza is the most interesting pick. It has basically the same ingredients as their okonomiyaki but instead of mixing all the ingredients up, they’re sprinkled on top of a crust. Think of it as a deconstructed okonomiyaki!
To make this dish, pour the batter onto the teppan, place the pork strips on top, and flip it. Let it sit for three minutes before turning it over again. Spread the okonomiyaki sauce evenly and add the cheese, cabbage, tempura bits, and red pickled ginger.
Make a hole in the middle of the toppings and pour the egg into the cavity. Cover it up for seven minutes and boom, you’ve got yourself a Dohtonbori Pizza! Don’t forget to watch the egg yolk ooze out as you slice into your masterpiece.
The Omelette Yakisoba is another item off Dohtonbori’s menu that you shouldn’t pass up on. It may be a little more complicated to make than the okonomiyaki or teppan pizza but you’ll feel like the winner of Iron Chef Japan once you’ve successfully wrapped the yakisoba and all the other ingredients up in the omelette!
It’s rewarding to sink your incisors into this one, the flavors of the beef tendon, pork, cloud ear mushrooms, noodles, and egg all working together to please the tastebuds.
If you think you can squeeze in more food into your belly without your jeans totally giving way, the Striploin Steak, Gyoza, and Zaru Soba are other drool-inducing dishes that are worthy of space on your table.
For your last hurrah, order up the Tiramisu and Berries Mini Parfait for dessert. The former is a decadent combination of mascarpone cheese and chocolate brownie bits while the latter is a refreshing, “tanggal-umay” treat made up of vanilla ice cream and frozen berries.
You’ll have all the help you’ll need to cook your own okonomiyaki
Every time a new guest walks through the door or whenever a customer places an order, all the servers go “Ponpokopon!” at the top of their lungs, faces as bright as day. You’ll hear this lively cheer resound throughout the restaurant countless times during your visit, each shout with as much spirit and gusto. This is just one of the ways Dohtonbori’s service stands out.
Just like how their ingredients are imported from Japan, they make sure their service is up to Japanese standard as well. Filipino training managers were sent to Japan just so that they could come back and teach their staff what excellent service is to the Japanese. You’re not going to hear the sound of chairs being dragged along the floor or plates being banged on the table here. You will, however, be seeing a lot of smiling and bowing.
They’re also trained to be great cooks so whenever you’re having trouble with your okonomiyaki or whatever it is you’ve got cooking on your teppan, you can let the pros help you out!
Whether you’re looking to have okonomiyaki-flipping skills like the Japanese do or just want to try something fun, hit up Dohtonbori. It’s incredibly easy even for those who have zero cooking knowledge and it’s a fun experience for everyone who’s crowded around the teppan.
Dohtonbori can be found at the G/F of the Main Bldg., SM City North EDSA, Quezon City and at Missouri Square, 8 Missouri St., Greenhills.