When you ask someone about Japanese food they always talk about the same three things: Sushi, Ramen, and Miso. Usually, when people from the west are asked about Okonomiyaki the response is “what the hell is that?” That was my response. I had no idea what it was so I thought I’d check it out.
Okonomiyaki is a kind of pancake made from batter, cabbage, cheese, meat, fish, pretty much anything you want hence the name “Okonomi” (Your preference). For the first few months of my visit to Japan I was a bit of a militant vegetarian, and finding an Okonomiyaki restaurant that would cater to vegetarians was damn near impossible. Although Okonomiyaki is predominantly veg, avoiding Dashi (fish stock), Bonito (dried fish flakes), or any other meat derivative is like trying to avoid liquid in soup.
After a little research and some help from Marianna who is far more competent than I at searching for things, we found Okonomiyaki Zen. Okonomiyaki Zen is located in Shinjuku and has made it very clear that they cater to vegetarians and vegans. They even come around to your table with a checklist of things you can and can’t eat and make sure there is no cross-contamination with other dishes.
They have semi-English speaking staff, English menus, even the condiments on the table have English labels. The veggie options are ginger, and cheese and yes, both dishes are absolutely delicious! While you’re there ask what Sake the waiter would recommend as it goes hand in hand with Okonomiyaki!
If you plan on paying Okonomiyaki Zen a visit I highly recommend you drop them an email with your desired date, time and dietary requirements first. Although they are more than happy to accommodate, I get the feeling that the work they have to put in last minute to clean and sanitize workstations to cook your specific dietary requirement might be a bit of a pain. They have always seemed extremely grateful that I have booked a table via email.
It might be because I’m a bit of a greedy fat boy, but I would highly recommend getting a side dish or two, maybe even getting two Okonomiyaki, just because one Okonomiyaki never really hits the spot for me.