Okonomi Yaki: Popping Up in Temescal

Last month, I went to check out Temescal Brewing on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. I can’t say that I was there for the beer; I was there to try “okonomi yaki,” a popular street food from Japan. I met up with a group of friends at Temescal Brewery for the Okkon pop-up. Every other Wednesday, Satoshi and Sochi Kamimae sets up a table and a grill in the Temescal Brewing beer garden to make the Japanese specialty.  
“Okonomi yaki” is described as a Japanese pancake. I was excited to try it for the first time. I had never even heard of it before. I placed my order for the “buta tama” which is the classic “okonomi yaki” with pork. Additional toppings of mochi, mentaiko roe, wild shrimp, and mushrooms could be added. I added mochi to mine.

It is a pretty interesting scene to watch Chef Satoshi make the pancakes. I watched as he made them individually with love and care. Chef Satoshi would toss shredded yam, cabbage, tempura bits and green onions in a bowl and combine it together with an egg and flour batter. After a thorough mix, he would then slowly pour the mixture onto a heated grill. On top of the mixture, he would add two thin strips of pork belly. Once cooked part way through, Chef Satoshi would turn over the golden brown pancake to cook the other side.  
I think the pancake gets turned a number of times and a lid is placed on it to ensure it cooks thoroughly and evenly. It’s not a quick cook, so its genius to set up this pop-up in a beer garden where you can enjoy a nice cold beer and have a place to sit while you wait.
Since we ordered separately, my friends and I just shared them as our orders came out. The “okonomi yaki” were dressed with a sweet and savory sauce and an avocado oil mayonnaise. They were fantastic. I enjoyed the exterior, especially what was brought out by the crispy pork belly. The vegetables were abundant, fresh, and delicious. I would describe the “okonomi yaki” more as a crispy omelette rather than a pancake. The additional topping of shrimp on one and the chewy texture of mochi on another were great.  They were excellent to wash down with beer as well.
Most people that come to Temescal Brewing are here for the local craft beer. I’m not like most people. I am one who definitely needs good food to enjoy a good beer. I am lucky to have had both in one place. Temescal Brewing has a nice selection of homemade brews on tap. Their website currently list nine varieties. I enjoyed one of the lighter beers. Temescal Brewing celebrated their one year anniversary last month. Congratulations and best wishes for many more years to come and many more “okonomi yaki”!

New Pub on the Block: Aisle 5

Aisle 5 is a newly opened pub located in Oakland’s Grand/Lakeshore District. They serve twenty craft beers on tap and have a food menu focused on cooking from a wood fired oven and grill. Aisle 5 is Tina Wadhwa’s first business venture and she is likely the first East Indian woman to open up a pub in the area.  
I stopped by a couple weeks after they opened and had some trouble navigating through the business. The way things work is that you order at the counter, get a number, claim a seat, and your food comes to you. This might work well in a food court, but for me it didn’t at Aisle 5. My friend and I ordered drinks first. I got a refreshing local cider from Healdsburg and my friend had a glass of wine. We sat down and took a menu with us. When we decided on what to eat, I had to get back in line at the counter to order and it was five or six people deep. I can say it was partly my fault since I didn’t know what I wanted to eat from the start and wasn’t prepared for the “food court system.”

Nonetheless, our food came and I was happy. Chef Mark Scott is behind the pub menu. The first item that arrived by number was the chimichurri shrimp and it was wonderful. It was grilled to perfection and included a tomato and cucumber salad that was a nice companion piece. It was my favorite dish of the evening.

We also shared the smoking duo which is both chicken wings and baby back ribs. You get to select the sauces for both meats. I went with buffalo wings and habanero baby back ribs. The chicken wings fell flat for me because it was not crispy leaving a very soft rubbery skin. The ribs however was a redemption as they were cooked well and packed a lot of flavor. I really enjoyed the apple jicama slaw. If that is a definition of slaw, this would be my favorite preparation. At one point, Chef Mark stopped by to say hello, so I took the opportunity to inquire about the slaw. He revealed that he added a little honey to sweeten this side dish. 


With Boot and Shoe Service next door and The Star on Grand across the street, I was a bit wary about ordering pizza from Aisle 5. But they had the wood fired oven and an extensive pizza menu, So I wanted to give it a try. I got the smoked sausage and mushroom pizza. Sure the toppings were good, but I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the pizza crust. I even ate some of my friend’s leftover pizza crust (she is watching her carbs). I wouldn’t say that the pizza is better than Boot & Shoe Service, but it is an excellent alternative in the neighborhood.


I’m really hoping that Aisle 5 considers the feedback and hire some excellent wait staff to pull everything together. They’ve got a lot going for it- great food and drinks, perfect location, and a nice space.  
*Disclosure- this meal was comped, but writer has made every effort to remain objective.

The Trappist: Beer and More

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The Trappist is a specialty beer cafe located in Old Oakland. They specialize in beers from Belgium. They have been around for awhile, but it has been too long since my last visit. A lot has changed. They’ve expanded to more than twice their size, recently opened a new location in Rockridge, and now serves food. The Trappist was participating in Oakland’s Restaurant Week. For $20 you could get a pre-fixed menu including one of their beers on tap.

My friend and I went straight from work Friday evening and it was already quite busy. After reviewing the three course meal they were offering as part of Restaurant Week, we decided to order a la carte.

I’m not going to pretend to know beer. I can enjoy an ice cold beer on a warm day and I can enjoy a beer that pairs well with food. I would consider the menu at the Trappist to pair well with beer.

I did a little research before going to the Trappist. I asked my colleague to help me pick a beer according to my tastes. He recommended the Allagash White Ale with a 5% ABV for me. It’s one of their lightest beers, but still has character and a good fresh taste. My friend got some help at the bar. The bartender gave her a taste of the St Bernardus Tripel and she liked the flavor and creaminess. She returned with a glass of the St Bernardus Tripel as well as a bag of chicharrones from 4505 Meats. This would be a great snack to hold us over before our food arrived. The chicharrones had a very strong pork taste that surprised me. I wasn’t expecting that strong of a flavor because it came out of a plastic chip bag. The fresh chicharrones also kept sticking to my teeth. The novelty was still fun.

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My friend and I shared a salad and a sandwich. The salad we chose was the Greens, Farro, and Pears. It came with a red wine vinaigrette and sprinkled Point Reyes blue cheese. It was a nice combination and I especially liked how they julienned the pears.

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The Trappist Reuben is a grilled corned beef sandwich with gruyere cheese and sauerkraut. This was a delicious sandwich. It came with a few of their house pickled vegetables that I enjoyed. The pickling spice was a little too hot for my friend.

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I was intrigued by the almond beer brittle for dessert, but maybe next time as my friend is allergic to nuts. We decided to head next door to Tamarindo for something sweet.

If you love beer, the Trappist is a great choice for you. And if you get hungry, there is probably something tasty on the menu that would compliment that beer in your hand.