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..Abeno Japanese Okonomiyaki restaurant, London WC1..a review..

Updated: May 13, 2022


Abeno okonomomiyaki restaurant London

My latest meal out the other day took me to the Abeno Japanese Restaurant in London's Bloomsbury. The restaurant is on Museum St, literally a minute away from the British Musueum. Abeno describes itself as Europe's first specialist okonomiyaki restaurant - the place was established in 1993, so it has certainly been around for a good long while (almost as long as I've lived in London.) I'm sure you're aware of what an okonomiyaki is but if not, in brief it's a Japanese savoury pancake made with a wheat flour batter (or a mix of wheat and yam flour) mixed with shredded cabbage and other ingredients. Okonomiyaki in Japanese means, "fried as you like it", so as the name of the dish implies, you get to select what additional fillings go into your okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki specialists typically seat diners at table with a built in "teppan" stell plate on which the pancakes are fried in front of their diners. Abeno is no exception to this, each table has its own built in teppan plate.


I had checked out the restaurant website before I went and was struck by two things. Abeno advises people to make a reservation (which I didn't do but probably should have). Second, although it's speciality is okonomiyaki, (there are 14 varieties available) Abeno's menu also includes some other Osakan specialities like Omusoba that I really wanted to try.

Abeno restaurant London interior with customer

So, I arrived at Abeno without a reservation and was told I would have to wait for 10 minutes. That's something I never mind. A busy restaurant with its tables full is always a promise of good things. When the 10 minutes were up, my co-diner and I were invited inside. Abeno is a cosy place with only 8 tables. Everything was spotless and the teppan cooking plates were mirror bright. Abeno is a family owned restaurant and the owners were there in the thick of it with at least one of their children, a well informed, friendly young man who made our teppanyaki (expertly as it turned out.)


What did we eat?


We ordered the following:

  • Miso soup

  • Spicy Naniwa Okonomiyaki (Superior)

  • Pork & Squid Omu Soba

The Miso soup arrived first. The Okonomiyaki contents arrived a few minutes later and cooking commenced in front of us. The Omu Soba arrived shortly after the Okonomiyaki had finished cooking, so timing-wise everything worked very well.


How did the food score?


  • Miso soup 8/10

Abeno restaurant London Miso soup

I've written before that I think miso soup is a good first test of any Japanese restaurant. It's not at all difficult to make a good miso soup but it's very easy to make a bad one. Miso soup is about more than just miso and hot water (although many lower middle/end Japanese restaurants don't appear to think so.) Abeno describes its miso soup as a blend of 4 different kinds of miso, so I was intrigued.

The soup looked good, a nice depth of colour, some chopped spring onion and a few cubes of silk tofu, garnished with white sesame. We both took a taste. Ummmm. This is what miso soup should taste like - slightly salty but with that indefinable umami flavour sat behind it. Enough umami to make you want more, enough saltiness to satisfy with just the one small bowlful. I asked my co-diner, "How much was this?" The answer, "£3.50." Hmm, I thought, why on earth can't other Japanese restaurants turn out soup as good as this?


Conclusion: A very nice way to start our meal


Spicy naniway okonomiyaki Abeno restaurant London
  • Spicy Naniwa Okonomiyaki 9/10

The Spicy Naniwa Okonomiyaki comes with pork and Korean kimchi together with some extra hot chilli powder. It arrived at the table premixed in a bowl and our young cook proceeded to spoon it onto the hot teppan plate to get the frying started. The strips of pork were laid direct onto the teppan around the okonomiyaki and everything was then covered with a steel lid while the magic underneath happened. Our cook returned a few minutes later and piled the pork onto the pancake and the lid was closed again. My co-diner had order the "Superior" (large) portion but my first impression was that it still looked a little small. But a small portion of goodness is a better thing than a large portion of mediocrity, so I decided to wait and see. Our cook returned again and we chatted for a while as he shaped the pancake and then flipped it over. It was so nice to able to find out a little bit about his life, his four siblings - hats off to Mr and Mrs Abeno - running a restaurant while bringing up 5 children! (There just are not enough family run restaurants in London anymore.) Anyway, back to the food. Our cook returned for a final time armed with all the seasoning for the okonomiyaki - green powdered seaweed, okonomiyaki sauce, Kewpie mayo and bonito fish flakes which were duly liberally applied to our beautifully finsihed okonomiyaki. (As this was the Spicy Naniwa we were also offered some chilli oil, which we declined.) So, the dish was ready and all that remained was to cut it up and dig in.


How did it taste? From the first bite to the last, this okonomiyaki was a delight. A delicious fried crust with a soft mix of batter and cabbage underneath. I spent some time trying to detect what the other filling might be that gave this okonomiyaki such a rich flavour - I was told later that there were some "secret ingredients" - whatever they are (I have an idea but I'm not going to spill the beans here) they work perfectly. I had thought the serving a little on the skimpy side for a "Superior" portion but I was wrong, the portion was just the right to satisfy. As okonomiyaki go, this little pancake was from the top drawer.


Conclusion: Could this dish be improved? I'm not sure how. It was very, very good.


Omusoba, 8/10


Omusoba is an Osakan dish. If you've ever heard of Omurice, you'll know that dish is composed of

Om-Soba by Abeno restaurant London

rice with chopped vegetables (with or without meat) folded in an omelette. So, an Omusoba? Yup, it's an Omurice but with chopped yakisoba noodles inside instead of the rice.

Now, there's a Japanese idea that food should first be enjoyed and savoured with the eyes. In the case of Abeno's Omusoba, it would have been difficult not to enjoy the spectacle that arrived at the table. It was so prettily decorated, I really had to struggle to pick up my chopsticks to dissect it. You can see it in the photo above, a thin omelette decorated with a lattice work of brown sauce, mayo and ketchup and garnished with a little spring onion and beni shoga ginger. So simple, but such a visual feast.


How did it taste? I have to confess, I'm not from Osaka and I can't claim to be an expert on Omusoba dishes but this tasted very good as far as I could judge, The yakisoba noodles still had a little "bite" in them and there was plenty of pork and squid to enrich the flavour. Like Omurice, Omusoba is a family dish most often made with leftover noodles (or rice), so the focus is on a filling, hearty meal rather than an exquisite flavour. In this case, Abeno Omusoba didn't disappoint.


Conclusion: I left Abeno thinking, "Why on earth haven't I been here before?" It certainly won't be so long before I return to this wonderful little piece of Japan in London.


The bill:

Abeno restaurant London takeaway menu

Miso Soup £ 3.50


Pork & Squid Omusoba £14.00


Spicy Naniwa Okonomiyaki £16.00


Total £33.50


(Excluding service)





Summary: Placing this restaurant only a few moments from the British Museum was likely a very savvy way of picking up the trade of Japanese tourists in need of some nourishment after a morning of culture vulturing at the museum. But the quality of the food Abeno produces really does deserve a much wider non-Japanese audience. If you ever find yourself in the West End and minded to try out something new, do yourself a favour and try Abeno. I think you will struggle to find a better made, better priced Japanese restaurant offering.


Food: ★★★★★ Ambience: ★★★☆☆ Value for Money: ★★★★★


You can find Abeno Japanese Restaurant at 47 Museum St., London WC1A 1LY. Reservations and takeaway via www.abeno.co.uk


(PS: the restaurants I review are unaware that I am reviewing their fare and service. I pay for what I eat. My opinions are honest and unbiased....)

 

And how about making it yourself?


We all love to dine out and you certainly won't be disappointed by Abeno's offering. But don't forget you can make Japanese food at home which will not only taste good but for a fraction of the price too! I've listed two recipes below for items I ordered during my review. Why not give them a try? Just follow the links to the written recipes and Youtube tutorials.


Okonomiyaki with bacon recipe by kurumicooks tasty easy healthy authentic Japanese Asian and Fusion food and cooking for your kitchen

Recipe #1 : Okonomiyaki with Bacon. Abeno's okonomiyaki are uber tasty but you can produce a great Japanese savoury pancake in your own kitchen using just a frying pan. You need look no further than my recipe Okonomiyaki with Bacon. If you want to see my Youtube tutorial, you can find the link by clicking Okonomiyaki with Bacon.

(PS: When I make an okonomiyaki, I like a little more fibre left in the vegetables, so mine are chopped but not blitzed, so your jaws will have just a little more work to do!)

 

Recipe #2 : Miso Soup with Tofu. This is one of the easiest and most satisfying Japanese dishes you can make, Abeno's miso soup is definitely up there in the taste charts but you can make an equally good miso soup yourself in no time in your own kitchen. What's more, miso soup is a nutricious dish you can eat for a light lunch with a bowl of rice or you can enjoy it as part of a larger evening meal. You can find my recipe for making your own by clicking miso soup Miso Soup with Tofu. If you only want to check out the Youtube tutorial, you can find that by clicking Miso Soup with Tofu.


About the reviewer.


Hi, I'm Kurumi, a cooking writer and blogger. I'm Japanese but I have lived in London for the last

30 thirty years. Back in the days before the internet (and Youtube), I was a food writer. My first book published in English was called Japanese Cooking for Two which I wrote in 1994. It has become the 9th best selling Japanese cookbook ever… yippee!

My other books were ‘The Noodle Cookbook”, “The Soy for Health Cookbook” and “Healthy Noodles.” I also published a book in Japanese “English Home Cooking”. Then I had children and my life changed!

By the time my children had grown up, the world had changed quite a lot too! Internet, Youtube, Insta etc. So, these days, instead of books, I publish recipe and articles on my website and on my Youtube channel. I hope you'll check out my recipes - they are all tried and tested (some more times than I care to mention!) until I think you will get them right first time when you make them and enjoy eating them.


If you’d like to read more about me or my books, then follow the link here:


https://www.kurumicooks.co.uk/about


Happy eating! Kurumi XXXX.



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