Monday, 1 December 2008
Abeno Too, Covent Garden
Abeno Too is an 'Okonomi-yaki' restaurant. I have no idea of the literal translation of this phrase, but as far as I can make out from my lunch there on Saturday afternoon, it's probably something like "egg and rice patties, cooked on a hot plate in front of you". Which isn't quite as catchy as 'Okonomi-yaki', so I can see why they've gone with the Japanese.
Apparently these kind of gaffs are all the rage over in Japan, and it certainly felt very authentic with the all-Japanese waiting staff and wooden bench seating. As for the food itself, well, maybe I'm missing something. I got the impression it was a twisted Japanese take on American food, in much the same way we consider Chicken Tikka Masala to be Indian. I ordered a Pork (actually bacon) Deluxe and a vegetable noodle omelette thingy, the omelette thingy arriving first and rather disappointingly already cooked from an extra hidden kitchen out the back somewhere. It was dressed with what was billed as "Japanese brown sauce and Japanese mayonnaise", but which tasted for all the world like Heinz and Helman's. It tasted pretty much like you'd expect - noodles and vegetables, wrapped in egg.
The Okonomi-yaki patty itself was, thankfully, cooked with a bit more theatre. The ingredients arrived raw in a metal bowl, with a whole egg yolk perched proudly on top. Our waiter then unceremoniously mashed up everything together vigorously and poured the mixture onto the hot plate. Once ready, we split up the patty with our little paint scraper tools into bitesize portions and wolfed it down. It tasted, again, rather like you'd expect fried egg and rice with bacon to taste - "familiar" I think is the word. In fact, it's probably true to say that were it not for the extra excitement of seeing your food prepared in front of you, the cuisine at Abeno would be considered too dull to be worthy of a prime location in the centre of our nations capital. I can perhaps see how this kind of thing would work in Japan, where the fusion of European and Japanese ingredients may seem exotic and different, but when I saw the contents of the metal bowl being mashed up and dropped onto the heat all I could think was "I could have done this myself, at home, and it would have cost about 50p".
But then again, maybe I'm missing something.