Saturday, September 10, 2005

Harsh Reality Check: Gaja Okonomiyaki

Sometimes you think you're the shit, and then all of a sudden you come to the realization that you're sooo not.

Such was the case the other night when my friends and I attempted to "make our own" okonomiyaki at Lomita's Gaja Okonomiyaki. Girls Night Out started with the usual girlie squeals and hugs: "Oh my GAAAWD, how ARE you??? I haven't seen you in SOOOO long!!!" We poured over the literal tome of a menu, chatting a little in between, and then placed our order. "We cook for you, or you cook yourself?" Well of course we chose the latter, we're a bunch of smart girls, right? Or so we thought.

They gave us all the tools...and we still fucked up

A couple more minutes of uninterrupted talking, and our bowl of pork-kimchee okonomiyaki mix, neatly and colorfully arranged in a stone bowl like a bibim bap, arrived along with an instruction card. OK, step one: Spread oil on teppan plate...Check! See? Piece of cake! Step two: Mix Okonomiyaki well. Yeah, like this is too easy.

Mmm, pretty!

This part was easy

So we kept yapping away about life and shoes and gossip whilst in the meantime, we had poured our okonomiyaki onto the grill, not realizing that on the instructions it said that beginners should perhaps make two small pancakes instead of one so it'd be easier to flip. Nor did we really pat the thing down constantly. Well, we thought it was cooking up okay. Ahh, whatever, it'll be fine, we thought. Back to the chit-chat.

We thought this part was easy too

I think our server noticed that we were going to have problems 'cause she came over and made us cut the thing into pieces before we flipped it. Which wasn't a very easy task either, 'cause there wasn't exactly a uniform consistency throughout the pancake--there were softer parts where the batter was, and then there were chunks of pork and kimchee all over, which were harder to cut. So the the quarters we attempted to cut came out looking like a sloppy relief map of the world. Not only that, but one side of our pancake had turned out darker than we'd liked it to be. Yup, we'd made our first "Ghett-O-konomiyaki."

Our ghett-o-konomiyaki

OK, time to quit yapping and get serious--we had to perform an extreme makover on this haggard pancake. After a few brushes of sweet okonomiyaki sauce, some shakes of dried seaweed and a few piles of dried bonito, you could hardly tell the difference! OK, at least it tasted good. In fact, the fact that our pancake had turned out a little darker than we had liked it made for a crispy crust, a nice contrast to the fluffy, egg-y interior. My favorite part was the kimchee, which added some needed spice to all the other mellow flavors.

All dressed up!

Either we quickly learned our lesson that we actually need to pay attention to what we're doing or the next dishes were just easier to cook (or needed no cooking at all!). An order of barbeque beef cooked quickly and easily, and tasted perfect dipped in a citrusy dipping sauce in its medium rare form. Our seafood yakisoba also required self-cooking, but no self-flipping, so needless to say, it turned out tasting and looking good. We made sure we followed the instructions to a tee this time, cooking the seafood and veggies first, then adding the chewy noodles, and we were definitely pleased with the results...a little salty, a little sweet, the chewy bite of the seafood and noodles a great textural match to the crispness of the bean sprouts and cabbage.

We made sure to pay attention on this one

No flipping necessary, just stirring!

This looks more edible

One of my fave dishes of the night was one that required no cooking by me and my friends. I think our Gaja Salad, containing lettuce, shredded cabbage, tofu, tuna, cucumber, sprouts and seaweed all tossed with a creamy sesame dressing, had some kind of drugs in it because it was that good. No cooking required, simple, and addictively delicious--what more could we ask for?

No cooking=good eats!

Looking around the room as we finished our dinner, it seemed the people at the tables next to us had better okonomiyaki making skills. Whole pancakes were flipped with ease, cooking up to a perfect golden brown. Show-offs.

Dessert would be a chocolate banana wrap and a Deluxe Japanese Parfait. We actually had a choice of making the wraps ourselves on the grill but we told the server to go ahead and make it in the back. I think I heard a slight under-the-breath chuckle...was it that obvious that we sucked? Our chocolate banana wrap was more or less a crepe without the delicate crepes; the wrap was instead more of a Bisquick pancake. Really yummy...though I don't think there's much room for error with warm choclate sauce and bananas.

They made the wraps for us--can't you tell?

Now our Deluxe Japanese was, well, interesting, to say the least. Served in a tall, and I mean tall, sundae cup, we first dug in to the whipped cream, red beans, sweet red bean filled manjoo and azuki bean mochi balls on its top layer. Then as we dug deeper into the second layer of whipped cream, we thought what the dark brown stuff that we saw through the glass was chocolate. Wrong. It was more red bean...mixed with corn flakes! And what would await us on the bottom? Look--it's agar agar cubes mixed with whipped cream! It was nice to have such a "unique" desert; I just don't know if I'd order it again--it was Japanese Parfait overkill!

Japanese parfait on steroids

We had a wonderful experience, despite our ghett-o-konomiyaki. In short, Gaja Okonomiyaki doesn't suck, we do.

Gaja Okonomiyaki
2383 Lomita Blvd.
Lomita, CA 90717
(310) 534-0153


Anonymous said...

Hey Pam - This is why I don't make my own Okonomiyaki....I'd probably really screw it up. Nice review, and nice photo's!

Daily Gluttony said...

Thanks Kirk! Yeah, we may as well have had big "L"'s painted on our foreheads!

BoLA said...

Great job Pam! heehee! I thought your Okonomiyaki was Ghett-O-fabulous! :) Will have to check this place out with my g/f who lives in Lomita. Love the interactive cooking! Fun fun!

elmomonster said...

Perceptor made it look so easy. You made it look real!

Professor Salt said...

Good thing I wasn't eating when I read "Ghett-o-konomiyaki," or I would've shot pieces of pupusa out my nose.

It looks like Pangea, rendered in food. You can almost see the island of Atlantis.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for sharing.
Through your blog, a lot of people including me of course have a chance to read and learn

I have read some of your post and I really enjoyed reading it.
And if you want to learn chinese,please visit at
Thanks again and looking forward for more of your posting soon!