Japanese cuisine in Chicago is generally divided into two camps: sushi and ramen. But NBC 5’s Food Guy Steve Dolinsky has a few more treats in mind as he wraps up his month-long look at some of his favorite Asian dishes.
Gaijin is tucked under the Morgan Street Green Line stop in the West Loop; the idea of chef Paul Virant, whose wife lived in Osaka, and convinced him to open the first okonomiyaki store in Chicago.
“It’s a tasty cabbage pancake; ‘okonomi’ means ‘as you like’ or ‘how you like it’ and ‘yaki’ is ‘grilled’ or ‘grilled’,” he explained. “Osaka which is the original style is is a dough that consists of wheat flour, dashi, mountain yam or nagaimo, egg, green onions, pickled ginger, cabbage all mixed together and then grilled.
Once cooked on both sides, they are brushed with a Japanese okonomiyaki sauce and a healthy drizzle of Kewpie mayo, along with a shower of dried seaweed and a handful of bonito – the classic smoked and dried tuna used in all Japanese cuisine. Another option: the Hiroshima style.
“Similar ingredients but layered with the addition of yakisoba noodles,” he said.
The eggs are cracked two feet above the griddle so they spread out, providing a base for the layered crepe, which, when done, gets the same okonomiyaki-mayo-bonito sauce trifecta.
How about some dessert?
“Kakigori is Japanese shaved ice,” Virant added. “All of our kakigoris are integrated with an ice cream flavor in the middle, topped with some kind of syrup.”
A very different dessert situation in the Chinatown Square Mall at Kyo Matcha, a franchise of an East Coast chain, serving Kyoto’s beloved matcha tea in several forms.
“Kyoto in Japan is best known for the highest quality leaf tea. Matcha chocolate, matcha ice cream…” Kyo Matcha’s JoJo Chen said.
Soft serve in fact; great on its own or with toppings like sweet red beans or crunch.
Not just any layer cake, but an elaborately constructed 25-layer affair assembled in the kitchen. A “towel cake” which takes its name from its shape; in this case, the tint is the result of ube violet powder. Also, a rich milk cake drizzled with heavy cream and tapioca pearls.
“Everything is done by hand, everything is done daily.”
Here’s where you can go:
950 Lake St W.
2167 Place de Chine Sud
100 E. Algonquin Road, Arlington Heights