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”!

Hawker Fare: More Than Fair

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I finally got a chance to dine at Hawker Fare this weekend. It’s been open for about five months. Hawker Fare is the second Oakland restaurant by Chef James Syhabout. His first restaurant is Commis. I have yet to try the only restaurant in Oakland that earned a Michelin star. I guess I’m waiting for the right occasion to dine there. You don’t need an occasion to dine at Hawker Fare as the cuisine is Southeast Asian street food, predominantly Thai.

Uptown Oakland was bustling on Friday night. My friend and I walked into what I found to be a lively, trendy place. With loud music and a disco ball, I thought I was at a nightclub rather than a restaurant. After about a fifteen minute wait, we were given a nice corner table.

My friend ordered a Thai ice tea while I had a Singha (Thai) beer. The tea came in a cute mason jar mug.

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We decided we were going to eat family style. We ordered two “snacks” and two rice bowls between the two of us.

My friend loves beef larb so it was a must try when we saw it on the menu. Beef larb is a beef salad with red onions, mint, and cilantro. This meaty dish was fresh and flavorful.

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The blistered green beans was cooked with smoked bacon and dried shrimp. It had a hint of spice which was really nice.

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Many yelp reviewers rated the 24hr pork belly rice bowl as one of the best dishes so I had to have it and add a fried farm egg on top. This dish was glistening and beautiful. I had to break the egg yolk and mix it in with the pork and rice. It was OMG good! I would come back for this alone!

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The other rice dish we ordered was their special which was a shrimp curry rice bowl. The large plump shrimp was cooked nicely and the flavor of the curry really popped.

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It’s become trendy for restaurants to make soft serve with Straus dairy. Hawker Fare joins that group, but to make it fusion, they flavor it with condensed milk. I ended my delicious meal with a soft serve on a cone. The condensed milk flavor was very subtle. I admit it was fun to eat.

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Hawker Fare is definitely a winner. Lucky for me, it is close to work. I can see many more meals here for sure.