GaJa - okonomiyaki
GaJa Japanese Restaurant
2383 Lomita Blvd
Lomita, CA 90717
i only heard about Gaja through my godsister karen and her husband chris. a week or two ago, they sent me a text of their okonomiyaki and it looked so good, i couldn't stop thinking about it. i was trying to figure out when i could get out to lomita, which by the way, i've never been to, and had no idea where it even was! so blessed am i, the food gods were smiling upon me and presented me with a most fortuitous opportunity...i was meeting some old friends for dinner and we were originally going to check out shin sen gumi, but i couldn't stop thinking about gaja and my desire to check this place out!
so the morning of our dinner, i kept debating with myself about whether i should change the restaurant or not, thinking...would it be inconvenient for everyone, is it a pain for everyone if i changed it? but i had to seize the moment...so i texted everyone and said, change of venue! we're going to gaja! i gotta tell you, i have some of THE greatest friends...everyone was so cool and drove from all over just to meet up and eat. it took me 45 minutes to get there! luckily during my drive, when i was about 20 minutes out, i thought...OMG! i better call for reservations because we had a party of 8! thank goodness they took my reservation so quickly...chris and john arrived first and were seated immediately.
john's been here before and knew that this place gets packed! so we were fortunate because later on...people were waiting!!! another good indicator that this place is authentic is the number of japanese customers...and john also told us that all of his clients from japan always requested to eat here as well. so you know they are doing something right!
i'm not a connoisseur of okonomiyaki so this was completely new to me. the menu was overwhelming and daunting...there were so many choices and i wasn't quite sure what to get. i swear my a.d.d was kickin' in! i felt totally lost and thankfully my friend john had been here before and all of us looked at the menu collectively, asked the waitress a couple of questions and decided on what to get.
some of you might already be salivating at the thought of eating okonomiyaki, but some of you might be thinking...what the hell is that? well...according to wikipedia...this is what it is.
Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き?) is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki meaning "grilled" or "cooked" (cf. yakitori and yakisoba). Okonomiyaki is mainly associated with Kansai or Hiroshima areas of Japan, but is widely available throughout the country. Toppings and batters tend to vary according to region. if you want to read more go to:
the waitress said that the chicken wings were very popular so we picked the spicy mayo wings...
they were ok...the wings seemed a little anorexic and dry. the spicy mayo was ok...nothing earth shattering. would i get them again? probabably not.
remember...gotta have your greens! Gaja salad...
it had corn, tofu, tuna, tomatoes, cucumbers, mixed greens and shredded cabbage and a creamy japanese dressing. this was really good and refreshing...we got the regular size and it was huge! it served 6 adults.
as you are going through the menu it'll tell you what the ingredients are inside the okonomiyaki...
since my godsister karen had told me that GaJa was one of the only places that has Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, i felt it was important for me to try this one specifically. we picked the seafood mix. the difference between the Hiroshima style versus plain okonomiyaki is that the Hiroshima style is layered, each component is cooked then put in between the two layers of egg and pancake and the regular style is all mixed together then griddled/cooked.
this really is gigantic!!! (not as big as my big ass bowl of pho...but still very big) its basically the size of the entire griddle underneath...
the top layer is egg, underneath is pancake and in between is all the delicious goodness.
peek a boo!!! see? doesn't that look so appetizing?!
my favorite part that i look forward to...what do you think it is? the yakisoba of course!! and i really like the chewiness of the pancake underneath.
you guys know i'm a sauce girl and that i love mayo...ohhhh mama! i'm seriously in heaven right now!
let me just say, i was very conservative with the mayo, but the reason why the sauce and mayo is so good on here is because you get this kind of sweet and tart umami-esque sauce mixed with the creamy mayo that mellows it out and you have all kinds of different textures with each bite. sometimes its all noodles with some egg, or then a piece of thin pork, which honestly isn't super tender or anything, but i just kept on chewing, then maybe a chewy piece of octopus. it doesn't really matter what happens to land on my fork for the next bite, but its just homey, comforting food. now that i have experienced the hiroshima style, i think that this would be one of my favorite ways to eating okonomiyaki.
What i really appreciate about this dish is that you could easily have any of these ingredients in your own home and put it together...its like so many cultures where you have a dish that is just a potpourri of ingredients in your fridge and you put it all together and suddenly someone's created this new dish. this is food that familiar flavors and textures, not only is it comfort food, but its fun food that you can share with your friends or be a complete pig and eat it yourself. AND you can cook it yourself if you want!! think about it...you don't have to prep anything AND someone cleans up after you!! i think that when people can be a part of the cooking process, that's what makes this place so appealing!
but if you are lazy and you're still paying the same price...you can have them make it for you! either way...its still fun. i really did enjoy this and would eat it again.
This boy knows how to eat! GO B!!!
He watched all of us put the okonomiyaki sauce on our servings and just picked up the bottle himself and tried to pour it! SO DAMN SMART! i seriously love his enthusiasm for food and enjoying it as it should be.
don't forget the mayo!
he is too freaking cute! can you imagine!? he is eating everything on his plate!! if only all kids could be this good at the dinner table and eat what's put in front of them! i know you've already fallen in love with him too as much as i have.
i love how it say "healthy pancake", we chose the pork okonomi...
wow...my nail looks pretty good there...maybe i could be a hand model?! anyone have an agent they can refer me to?! maybe i should call mary hart for her agent! haha
again, we had them prepare it in the kitchen for us...
those golden brown crusty pieces are the pork that's been crisped up during the cooking process...nice and cruncy.
when the make it in the back, it is flattened out much more than how other people made it at their tables. obviously its because it'll cook faster and they can serve it to us more quickly.
see...it's thin slices of pork,
the flavor of all the ingredients totally melded together, it was mild and i felt like everything kind of got lost, except for the bites of ginger...giving your tastebuds a little jolt. i did like the crunchy texture of the griddled pork but overall, i felt like it really needed the sauce and the mayo to give it more hmph!
i snuck some secret shots of other people's okonomiyaki...they mixed it all up in a bowl first then put it on the griddle. there is an assortment of oil and sauces/condiments for you to use as you prepare your own okonomiyaki on the griddle in front of you.
this group of three girls to our left worked as a team...it kind of reminded me of curling! the quick movements of the spatulas, sliding underneath and out and back and forth...making sure the bottom didn't burn, occasionally adding extra oil if it needed it. and when it was finally done, they carefully made zigzags of sauce and mayo over the top before they ate it! everyone can make their own masterpiece. it was really cool to watch them make it...i can't wait to try it myself next time.
overall, i really did enjoy eating here...the drive is quite a haul for me...but if i was in the mood for okonomiyaki, i would drive down again. i will remember to come early because it does get crowded, or else call for reservations. i would like to check out their extensive menu and try something new next time, but i would definitely order the hiroshima okonomiyaki again. this is a great place for friends to get together, cook and share a meal. if you have kids who you feel are old enough to work a griddle, i think its the perfect place to come and let them be a part of the cooking process.
so instead of ending the evening, we decided to go somewhere for some coffee and dessert...
King's Hawaiian Bakery and Restaurant
2808 Sepulveda Blvd
Torrance, CA 90505(310) 530-0050
none of us were quite sure where we should go, and as we were driving king's hawaiian popped in my head, but i had no idea where it was. but lucky for us, joey and erin thought of it and took us right there! it's literally like five minutes away. they must've read my mind! =)
i am seriously starving right now as i'm writing this post..and wishing i could have some more of that hiroshima okonomiyaki! for the past 6 hours i have been wishing i had a pint of ice cream in the freezer, i even debated going to the market around 11 pm to get some...but i'm trying to have some self-control. ok...i just wanted to share the fact that looking at these pictures makes me hungry too!
the cake display case at king's hawaiian bakery.
i love this picture...you can just imagine what he's thinking...perhaps..."ooooohhhh how i wish i could just jam my fingers into those cakes and shove it in my mouth!" or..."is it my birthday yet?!" (he actually gets one of these cakes on saturday!! wishes do come true!)
its like the heavens opened and the golden glow of the lights shining on those big beautiful cakes...calling to him...EAT ME!!! you know he's hoping mommy is going to let him have some.
hmmm...who can resist eating king's hawaiian dinner rolls with softened sweet creamy butter?!
we couldn't! it doesn't matter that we just had dinner...these sweet rolls are so easy to eat! i could eat these all day long! just make sure there's plenty of butter! (stomach fully growling at this point!) i sure wish i had bought some from the bakery before we left!
this kid is definitely on my list of people i'd take eating with me.
AND! he knows exactly which is the best part of the roll...THE BUTTER!!! He licks it off first before he shoves the rest of the bread in after it! i love this little boy!!
Three layers (guava, passion, lime) chiffon cake with whipped cream filling and the three fruit nectar glaze on top.
this cake is light and airy and my favorite part of it is actually the nectar glaze on top. i got the passion fruit, which i love the tartness. i shared a little bit of my cake with B and he ate it all up! he was asking for more...but mommy had to say enough. i can't help but chuckle to myself...i love that he has such a great appetite!
chris ordered the paradise cake in the cheesecake form...