Okonomiyaki Restaurant, オーブナテ (Oubu-nate) Bldg., Higashi-Shinsaibashi 1-8-14, Osaka, tel: 06-6245-0414
Tentekomai is a five minute walk from Shinsaibashi subway station in Osaka. The speciality of the house is okonomiyaki, but the menu features many other Japanese favourites and special side-dishes of the day.
Newcomers reading this are wondering, “Well, what is okonomiyaki?” Basically, it’s a light batter mixed with shredded cabbage and egg. The options of meat (usually pork), shellfish and/or green onions go over that, with a topping of okonomi sauce (a sort of thick Worcestershire sauce), powdered seaweed and/or a squirt of mayonnaise and fish flakes. This is all fried up on a large griddle (teppan) built right into the counter or into your table. It’s Japanese comfort food, tasty and filling, and little joints that make it are everywhere, especially in Kansai.
Ms Masami Fujiwara opened Tentekomai in April, 2006. Her knowledge of okonomiyaki is extensive ﾐ she grew up helping her parents in their okonomiyakiya in Toyonaka, and this experience put her in good stead when the time came to set up a shop of her own.
Ms. Fujiwara has tried hard to make Tentekomai a homey place, and when you enter, that’s just how it feels – in fact, you take off your shoes at the genkan when you arrive, pass through a small entryway, which opens into the main room. The dining room is all natural wood and soft lighting. To the left is the long counter, which seats six, and behind which, Fujiwara-san holds court.To the right is raised tatami with three tables which altogether can seat eighteen. Instead of the sound of enka heartache, relaxing jazz and R&B plays in the background (Nat King Cole’s Jazz Trio while we were there).
For dinner, we tried something trad and something mod. First, Ms Fujiwara fixed us the old Osaka stand-by, butatama (pork okonomiyaki: tama – egg – is also shorthand for “okonomiyaki” on Osaka menus).The rest of Japan calls this Kansai-yaki. The pork was thickly-cut (some chains use shredded stuff that is almost transparent), the batter light, the sauce flavourful but not too sharp. The awanori seaweed powder had a nice salty zing to it, a good counterpoint to the fish flakes (katsuobushi). It goes well with the good selection of Japanese beers (¥550-¥600) and shouchu (from ¥500) available. Once you’ve tasted Tentekomai’s butatama made with fresh ingredients and served up hot, you’ll never again buy one of those sad, cold, paint-can lids from the supermarket.
Next, we tried a pizzayaki (Fujiwara-san’s invention, ¥900) – a circle of batter with layers of cabbage, onion, green pepper, pork, a special pizza/okonomi
sauce and cheese (not flipped but covered, to let the cheese melt). The taste is not unlike a cheese and bacon pizza and Fujiwara-san says it goes well with
Tentekomai serves over a dozen distinct varieties of okonomiyaki. There is also a daily selection of small side-dishes and appetisers (o-souzai). These are mostly vegetable and fish dishes (I had some delicious hourensou-no-goma-e – spinach and sesame – on the day I went). Don’t be afraid to try something new! The English menu is clear and complete, and Ms. Fujiwara (although she’ll modestly deny it) understands English very well.
Tentekomai means “hectic life”. I asked Fujiwara-san why she chose such a name. First of all, she explained, it’s a pun – a teko is the little flat implement used to flip the okonomiyaki (and it’s okay to eat with it – Osaka style – instead of using disposable chopsticks). Tentekomai is also a roundabout wish for
success – ” If things are hectic here, then it means business is good, doesn’t it?” With that thought in mind, we left her pleasant restaurant wishing Ms Fujiwara a very deservedly hectic future.
Originally appeared in Kansai Scene, March 2008 issue.