Pancakes for Dinner

March 19, 2014 | By Waikiki Magazine Team

Chibo Restaurant serves up a unique dish.

At first glance, okonomiyaki looks like a giant pancake. And, for the uninitiated, that’s probably the best way to describe it: a savory pancake filled with cabbage and a selection of meat and/ or seafood.

Get your taste of this unique dish at Chibo Restaurant, located at Royal Hawaiian Center. Masatsugu Nakai founded Chibo Restaurant in Osaka, Japan in 1967. It has since grown to 60 locations. The Waikiki location is the restaurant’s largest and only location in the U.S.

Okonomiyaki originated in Japan, during the Edo period. The delicious dish’s popularity grew after WWII, and today, you’ll find many variations of the dish—the most popular being the Osaka style.

A hearty mixture of flour, egg, cabbage and mountain yam makes up the “pancake” portion of Chibo Restaurant’s signature okonomiyaki. From there, diners can choose from a selection of meat and seafood to include in the dish. Go for the Okonomiyaki “Chibo,” a house specialty that includes sirloin, shrimp, squid and scallops. Patrons can create their own version with other choices that include pork, bacon, chicken and kim chee.

If possible, sit at the teppan stations when at Chibo Restaurant. This is where you’ll witness the rest of the okonomiyaki magic—the artful preparation that the teppan chefs take in making this dish. After crafting the pancake, now with all meat and vegetable selections completely incorporated in it, the chef slathers it with Chibo’s okonomiyaki sauce—their version of plum sauce—and cuts it into a design with a mayonnaise sauce. This is finally topped with a delicate pile of shaved bonito that is shaved so thin it appears to dance atop the dish.

Don’t be mistaken—Chibo Restaurant is no one-trick pony. Other delicious options include their yakisoba, a dish of noodles mixed with a selection of meat and vegetables, cooked teppan style with dazzling efficiency. Try the specialty Yakisoba “Chibo,” mixed with sirloin, shrimp and squid. You can also opt for it to be served “crepe style,” which is exactly how it sounds: the noodles are presented atop a thin crepe. There are also traditional teppan options such as a set meal served with salad, rice, tsukemono (Japanese pickles) and miso soup. Teppan options include chicken, lobster, filet steak and an impressive Prime N.Y. Steak and Half-Lobster Tail combo. It all goes well with a cup of tea, sake, a Japanese beer—or maybe Chibo’s Tropical Punch.

Chibo Restaurant’s inviting interior and friendly staff make it the perfect place to linger over a nice meal. Choose from an array of side dishes, salads and appetizers, including the flavorful ‘ahi poke. The poke is tossed with onions and a special sauce and served atop a bed of lettuce. This beautiful creation is topped with colorful shredded carrots, radish and daikon.

Head there for Happy Hour, 3-6 p.m. daily. Choices include edamame ($3), teriyaki or garlic chicken ($7), ‘ahi poke ($10), ribeye ($10) and various drink specials. Night owls can opt for the Late Night Happy Hour, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., where you’ll find live music and no cover charge.

While it may not be the most familiar dish, those who have tried Chibo Restaurant’s okonomiyaki have become quick fans of this beefed-up Japanese version of a crepe.

Photos: Jeff Sanner