Last night, I've done something I've not done in possibly more than 15 years. I (kind of) willingly ate egg.
I promised my friend I'll meet her for dinner (before my supposed flight) at Abeno Too. I've never been, so I looked at their menus so it won't take me long to order. I then realised that it's an okonomiyaki place. Warning signs in my head went a-flashing as I envisioned the egg pancake mixture and I've not eaten egg long before hitting puberty. I've made up my mind that I was going to go for either an eggless side, a soba, a tofu teppanyaki and lots of sake. Of course, like my cancelled flight to Philippines, things didn't go exactly as planned.
At 6.30pm, the place was buzzing. The four teppanyaki tables by the windows are only given to groups of three or more after 5.30pm. Ana and I got lucky to grab seats by the long sharing table as soon as we got there. Shortly after being seated a waiting queue started. I felt like my luck was about to change.
The lovely server asked us what we wanted. I thought I knew what I wanted but looking at the menu really confused me again. I've had some detox tofu salad for lunch so the teppanyaki and soba were out. Ana - bless her cotton socks - was really concerned, but said that the okonomiyaki at Abeno are really good and are "mostly cabbage, not much egg". Fairplay to her sales skill-set. I was also quite intrigued when I saw punters enjoying their Japanese pancakes in glee. I saw a lot of yolks and was quite intimidated. Was I ready to give away my egg-virginity? I wasn't 100% sure but because I've already felt defeated with the whole flight dilemma I thought to myself, when in Rome... well, get the Tokyo Mix (pictured above) - a Japanese pancake of prawn, pork and squid.
Putting on a brave face I poured the sake and started munching on the ebi itame which was gorgeous. The prawns were outstandingly cooked and the garlic and soy sauce was just right. I wish they had more than a teensy bowl. I promise you I could've eaten ten servings in one go.
We had more sake and some yaki-gyoza. Though I personally prefer gyoza when it's steamed, Abeno's grilled take were so fresh I almost cried they only had five per order. Each parcel was packed with flavour. The nice balance of asparagus and prawn went so well with our chosen sake, a chilled Karatanba, which was so refreshing and crisp. I felt so happy that I almost forgot about the Icelandic volcanoes.
And then it was time for enlightenment.
I saw the yolks first and stiffened but as the server started mixing all ingredients on the grill I saw the yolks dissolve, each silky circle sliding to move into a huge circle of goodness. I was very much drawn into the process, looking out for any remnants of the yolks. The okonomiyaki looked so good and though I felt like an addict (an egg-hating addict) I knew I was surrenderring myself to rehab. "Oh see, there's not much egg to it.. it's mostly cabbage!" Ana quipped as we watched our server doing his thing expertly. I nodded, eyes transfixed on the grill. A few minutes later the super deluxe sized pancake was ready for garnish: Japanese mayonnaise, a bit of brown sauce, nori flakes and a very generous amount of bonito flakes. The bonito flakes were so wispy they looked like fireflies faffing about. What a pretty looking thing.
Shyly, I picked up my mini spatula and took the first slice. Much to my surprise, it didn't taste as eggy as I thought it would do. The pancake was thick, moist and bursting with filling. The rich, slightly tangy Japanese mayo and sweet brown sauce went so well with the prawn, squid and pork mix. The bonito flakes had a lovely saltfish taste which balanced the flavours of the okonomiyaki. I was honestly, honestly pleasantly surprised and probably had as much as Ana.
Two sides, a shared massive pancake and lots of sake later we were full and happy with the meal. Our bill came down to just below £4o - a really really really good bargain! Service was good. The place is tiny but for what it is, I think it's perfect.
So there. I've been brave and I've willingly eaten egg. And I would gladly go back to have the same thing again.
17-18 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JE
020 7379 1160