located just a stone’s throw away from the british museum, abeno is the perfect spot for a legit japanese food fix after a day at the museum. specialising in okonomiyaki (japanese pancake containing a variety of ingredients), this traditional japanese establishment also serves a range of other foods cooked before your eyes on a hot plate at your table, including teppanyaki, yaki-soba (fried noodles), and om soba (noodles wrapped in egg).
my friend and i visited on a friday afternoon and we were greeted by the sight and smell of food glorious (fried) food being cooked at the centre of each table once we entered, which got us even more excited to eat. (NB: as enticing as the smell of freshly-fried goodies is, unfortunately it lingers on your clothes so wear something you’re going to wash…). abeno occupies a simply-decorated and cosy shop along musesum street that makes for a very pleasant place to have a casual lunch:
they have a special lunch menu, so its not a bad idea at all to make a trip down for that all-important mid-day pick-me-up:
since they are known for their okonomiyakis, it wasn’t difficult to decide what we wanted to go for – we decided on an osaka mix and a tokyo mix. it came with a miso soup and the side dish of the day which was some kind of green bean-like vegetable in sesame dressing.
the miso soup was flavourful and wonderful for a cold day, but i do wish they had added some ingredients into the soup instead of just having a measly few pieces of seaweed. i really enjoyed the side of greens – it was well-chilled, extremely fresh, and they had a very nice crunch to them. the sesame dressing was also light and added in just the right amount such that all the greens were well-covered, but they certainly were not dripping in sauce.
not long after, the raw okonomiyaki ingredients were brought to our table in shiny metal bowls, all ready to be mixed and cooked before our eyes!
we were rather pleased with their generosity with the ingredients! every condiment was also very fresh, and everything was subsequently mixed together to give this:
then the cooking began! the mixtures were poured onto the hot plates before us and shaped, before being left to cook under metal lids for a few minutes.
after some fancy flipping and the removal of the lids, this is what greets you:
trust me, by this point, the smell and wait you’ve had to endure thus far will leave you completely ready to tuck into this pancake of goodness sitting pretty before you! but before going for it, there’s one final step to be done – the decorating of the okonomiyaki! there is a range of sauces/toppings you can pick from – japanese mayo, sweet katsu sauce, seaweed and bonito flakes! needless to say, we opted for everything, and a bit more 😉
the final product:after admiring the bonito flakes that were very much alive and swaying atop the freshly-made pancakes for a bit, we happily commenced demolishment of the okonomiyakis.
there was actually not much difference in taste between the tokyo mix and the osaka mix, which i think probably means not enough kimchi was added to the osaka one to give it that additional spicy punch. nonetheless, both were very good. the ingredients were fresh, the pancake was lovely, warm, fluffy and tasty, and the sauces that accompanied them were great complements. the combinations of ingredients were good, and i particularly liked the squid and prawns which were really crunchy and naturally sweet! it didn’t take long for us to get through the pancakes though, because they were not very big at all. for someone with a big appetite, you’d probably be just half-full but there is the option of getting a deluxe okonomiyaki (which i assume is bigger), or adding noodles to the mix though!
we had room for dessert, and i was really excited by the impressive range of desserts they had on their menu:
after much deliberation, we opted for the kyoto sundae!
kyoto sundae: green tea ice cream, azuki red beans, cream – £5.95
besides the fact that the sundae itself was structually unsound and basically impossible to eat without putting the scoop of ice cream in serous danger of rolling right off, it was pretty good! hidden beneath the cream were some crunchy cereal bits as well as mochis, so it pretty much had all the makings of a perfect matcha sundae. i love red bean so my only qualm was that they were a little (or not so little) stingy with the red bean sitting atop the ice cream. also, for its price i had imagined something bigger, but then again i suppose the size of the okonomiyakis for the price we paid should have been some indication to manage our expectations with the dessert serving size. matcha anything is always good though, so i still really enjoyed this dessert!
abeno is certainly worth a visit for the relatively novel experience of having your food prepared before you. the quality of the food is also commendable, and it makes for an entertaining lunch experience although i think the okonomiyaki itself though very tasty and rather yummy, isn’t particularly mind-blowing. i’d probably be raving about it more if it was slightly more reasonably priced! at £13 for the lunch set, it is a bit steeply-priced for what you get. (or maybe i’m just comparing this to what you pay for something similar back home or in japan, which i really shouldn’t be doing because this is london after all…) i will return if i’m craving teppanyaki-style food or some good japanese dessert, but probably not as frequently as i would if the pancakes were just that tiny bit cheaper!
47 Museum St
London WC1A 1LY
PS. they have a sister outlet serving the same things (if i’m not wrong) – Abeno Too located near covent garden/trafalgar square at great newport street!