When most Japanese people hear the word ‘okonomiyaki’, they think ‘Osaka’. But a secret that Kansai residents want to keep to themselves is that Kobe has a wealth of great okonomiyaki restaurants too!
With a huge variety of flavors you just can’t get in Osaka, it’s worth going to Kobe just for this traditional treat.
What is Okonomiyaki?
Literally meaning “fried to your liking”, Okonomiyaki is a cross between a thick savory pancake and an omelet. Made with a base of egg, flour, and often cabbage, the other ingredients are up to you.
In Japan, each area tends to have its own take on okonomiyaki, and in Kobe, you’ll find a variety of meats, seafood and special sauces that you can’t find anywhere else.
1. Shibata: For true Kobe-Style Okonomiyaki!
By far the area with the most okonomiyaki shops in Kobe is Nagata. South of Shin-Nagata Station, downtown near Komagabayashi Station on the Kaigan Line is where you need to head for an unforgettable gourmet experience!
Walk around Kubocho, Udezukacho and Komagabayashi-cho, and you will find a huge variety of okonomiyaki restaurants.
In other words, it’s an intense okonomiyaki battleground.
With that in mind, the above ‘Ganso Okonomi Dojo’ must be very confident, as their name literally means ‘The Original Okonomi Dojo’ (yes, Dojo meaning the hall used for martial arts!)
A bit away from that, just off the national highway is the ‘Honmachi Suji Shoutengai’ arcade. As you enter you’ll find the quaint ‘Shibata’, open since 1947.
This establishment is known as “the birthplace of modan’yaki” (okonomiyaki fried with yaki-soba). Of course, this means at lunchtime there are plenty of people ordering the wonderfully filling soba-and-okonomiyaki combination, especially when the price is as low as 650 yen!
But if you want a bit more variety, it’s best to avoid this one as you’ll likely be full from just the one order. If you’re up for trying different things all at once, we recommend getting their specialty ‘kaiyaki’ (650 yen) and ‘bokkake’ (700 yen). ‘Kaiyaki’ is shellfish okonomiyaki, whilst ‘bokkake’ is a different take on a traditional beef dish.
At this restaurant they first stretch out the mixture to make a very thin base, then put the cabbage and green onion on top, followed by shellfish, and finally lightly frying it all together.
This is often called a ‘Usuyaki’ or sometimes even ‘Western Yaki’ in the Kansai region, and the normal way of making it is to not use any eggs.
A regular okonomiyaki is made with egg and cabbage, but because this restaurant specializes in ‘Usuyaki’, there is a separate part of the menu dedicated to egg-inclusive items.
So how is this specialty okonomiyaki made? First, they cleanly remove the meat from the shell, then put it onto the teppan (griddle) along with the cabbage.
The high heat means that the cabbage will wilt a bit, which makes the flavor mild enough so as not to interfere with the flavors of the shellfish. This also makes the bottom of the okonomiyaki nice and crispy.
It looks so delicious you’ll just want to eat it straight off the spatula! But of course, it’s best to put it on a plate and wait for it to cool down instead of risking burning your taste buds off...!
Before you cut it up and put it on your plate though, be sure to brush it with some of Akashi’s “Dream Sauce”. Then sprinkle it with katsuo-bushi (fish flakes) and aonori (dried seaweed), for the true okonomiyaki experience.
There is also a spicy sauce for those who want it, but for the most part the locals will use the sauce provided. It goes particularly well with shellfish.
In this restaurant there is a long teppan at the counter that seats six people, a teppan in the back that seats five, and two tables of eight where the teppan is built-in.
For the most part customers will fill in from the back, but be warned – you’ll find yourself getting especially warm at the counter seats because of the high-heat griddle!
The grilled okonomiyaki is put onto a <@chiritori@i|> – basically a giant spatula – and brought to the pre-heated teppan at your seats.
Next up is ‘Nagata’s Famous Bokkake’. ‘Bokkake’ is also sometimes referred to as ‘Sujikon’. It is made up of finely cut beef and konnyaku cooked in a slightly sweet soy sauce mixture.
Interestingly, at ‘Shibata’, the only main difference between their bokkake and their sujiyaki, is that their bokkake is made with green onion, whereas the sujiyaki is made with the usual cabbage.
For this dish, first they start with green onion and then put the sujikon (meat mixture) on top. The green onion is cooked to the exact right point to get the optimum texture. It seems like a taste adults would enjoy the most, and would go quite well with a glass of beer or sake by its side! Of course, it also goes well with the usual okonomiyaki toppings of sauce, aonori and katsuobushi.
- Address 2-chōme-2-9 Udezukachō, Nagata-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken
- Phone Number 078-611-0650
Hours: 11:00 – 15:00, 17:00 – 20:30
Regular holidays: Wednesdays
(Above prices tax-inclusive)
2. Ippei: Mouth-watering Traditional Okonomiyaki in the Heart of Motomachi
Following Tor road, you’ll find this gem of a restaurant called ‘Ippei’, co-run by a lovely couple. In the area you’ll find a number of interesting downtown shops, such a fashionable boutiques, Italian restaurants, fish shops, grocery shops, and other unique stores. There’s certainly enough to keep you entertained!
This means that the clientele is also a great mix of people – from high school children to their teachers, families and couples, not a head isn’t turned by this wonderful okonomiyaki restaurant!
All of their ingredients are fresh and delicious, their seafood and meat fillings are so mouth-watering that there is no need for mayo or any kind of spicy topping – their simplicity is what makes them so great!
With the old-style gas burner teppan surrounded by Japanese cypress wood, it really gives off a traditional Japanese vibe – perfect for the simple tastes of authentic Japanese cooking.
With the fish shop across the road for their fresh shellfish, squid and octopus, along with the couple owning their own fruit store, they can set out along their professional food network to produce okonomiyaki of the most outstanding quality.
At this store they pay incredibly attention to detail, making sure to only make their batter 500g at a time, without letting it sit for too long, and every day they pick out the best-looking cabbages. This, along with their changing recipes according to season, makes for a truly ‘Japanese’ experience.
The couple’s craftsmanship is on par with other top okonomiyaki places. Simply watching them put together the ingredients is drool-worthy – you won’t be able to take your eyes off of it!
Although shellfish in yakisoba and okonomiyaki is fairly common, there are some customers who will cook them in butter! For this, much like at traditional sushi places, the shellfish price will depend on how big the catch was that day, but for the most part, it will be around 1,500 yen.
There are also have some richer items on the menu, such as their “Kobe Beef Steak” (market pricing) and their “Chanpon Yasai” (2,500 yen).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a typical Kobe-style okonomiyaki place without offering sujiyaki. Sujiyaki is a soft, delicious dish made from beef tendons. At 730 yen, it is one of their most popular dishes – they pay extra attention to the preparation and make sure to remove excess fat for the best flavor possible.
They slow-cook the meat in a sweet and spicy soy mixture, making for a tender and flavorsome dish.
They also have an egg mazeyaki, where you put sujikon, green onions, tempura bits and cabbage on top of the egg mixture.
The sauce is then carefully painted on. Other toppings such as katsuobushi (bonito flakes), aonori (seaweed flakes) and spices can be sprinkled on as you see fit.
The combination of the soft egg mixture, and the crunch of the finely chopped cabbage is only further improved by the richness of the seasoned beef, which is truly delicious.
Instead of being buried by the array of French, Italian and Chinese restaurants in the area, Ippei truly stands out with its brilliant flavors that you absolutely cannot miss if you’re in the area!
- Address 4-chōme-11-7 Nakayamatedōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken
- Phone Number 078-232-1161
Hours: 11:30 – 14:00, 17:30 – 21:00 (Sundays until 19:30)
Regular holidays: Mondays
(Above prices are tax-inclusive)
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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