Okonomiyaki, a popular and widely varied dish in Japan, is often described as a savory pancake. But that can be a little confusing and, perhaps, misleading. Picture a thick, hearty batter made from yam, cabbage, water and flower. Then add, basically, anything you can think of. Pork and cheese topped with mayonnaise? Check. Scallops, squid, beef, ginger, octopus, egg, and yakisoba noodles drenched in okonomiyaki sauce and coated with bonito flakes? No problem. To the uninitiated it can be a bit daunting -- until you remove pretense and pride, and then it becomes an absolute delight.
There are a few versions of the dish floating around Los Angeles, often as a mediocre option on an over-sized izakaya menu. But at Gaja Moc in Lomita, okonomiyaki is their specialty. Each table is outfitted with its own sizzling flat top, and unlike at your childhood birthday dinner at Benihana, you actually get to do the cooking yourself. (You can have them do it, but what's the fun in that?) First, you choose from the dizzying array of okonomiyaki options, or select from the list of their most popular combinations.
Once chosen, you'll be given a bowl filled with your ingredients, and a hefty mound of batter. Then you simply follow your wrinkled, step-by-step instruction sheet (don't worry, they'll keep an eye on you if things start to go awry), and you'll be cooking and flipping your enormous, crispy creation in no time.
As an added bonus, Gaja also sells some of the finest beers Japan has to offer, as well as some fairly ridiculous ice cream sundaes. Just remember: mixing alcohol, large groups of friends, and dangerous cooking surfaces can sometimes be problematic.
Gaja Moc: 2383 Lomita Boulevard, Lomita; (310) 534-0153.
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