You’ve had sushi and ramen, but have you tried okonomiyaki, chawanmushi or Japanese soufflé pancakes? Japanese cuisine is now an ubiquitous part of America’s culinary landscape, yet it goes far beyond raw fish and noodle soups. If you are ready to dive deeper into the lesser-known foods of Japan, try one of these unique Japanese specialties at Lettuce Entertain You restaurants. They’ll have you saying, Umai (delicious), in no time!
A traditional savory egg custard, chawanmushi can be made with a variety of ingredients, the most popular being mushrooms and dashi. It’s steamed, usually in a teacup or small bowl, and can be enjoyed either hot or cold. At Naoki Sushi, Chef Naoki Nakashima serves a luxe version with dashi, truffle ponzu, and crispy bubu arare, or rice crackers, that provide a beautiful textural contrast with the warm egg custard.
Japanese Soufflé Pancakes
These fluffy, sky-high pancakes start much like their American cousins, with eggs, flour and milk, but the addition of extra whipped egg whites make them really stand above typical flapjacks and give them their signature “jiggle.” To get a taste of these unique sweet treats, head to Sushi-San for the Japanese Breakfast with three soufflé pancakes topped with matcha butter, dusted with powdered sugar and finished with Okinawan Black sugar syrup drizzled tableside. Fun fact: Okinawan sugar is dark and rich with a deep flavor similar to molasses, made from sun-drenched sugarcane and imported from Japan.
Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake made with egg, flour and whatever ingredients you have on hand – almost like a Japanese frittata! This comfort food originated in Osaka, Japan and comes in many different styles, but most commonly you’ll find versions made with cabbage and thinly-sliced pork, topped with bonito flakes. At Ramen-San, stop in on Saturday or Sunday afternoons to try three different types of okonomiyaki including: Berkshire ham and American cheese; Crispy pork belly; and 18-hour smoked brisket and braised octopus. The dish is available at the River North location from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM on Saturday and 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM on Sunday and at the Fulton Market and Streeterville restaurants from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday.