This is a great question, and one that I bet a lot of people in the US would say NO to because the concept of dining out means someone waits on you, and they serve you food that someone else cooked. I am sure there are a few places, probably some form of "ethnic" food, perhaps Asian, that have this concept, but all in all, I think the majority of Americans would shudder at the thought of going to a restaurant to cook your own food.
Before I get to that, let me just show you the BEST white elephant gift ever. Yep, that's a gameboy with a game. Ryan joked that he always wanted one as a kid but never got one. Better late than never, right?!?!?
Now that you have had a moment to think about how you would feel about going to a restaurant to cook you own food, let me show you how neat the experience is and introduce you to two different kinds of cook-your-own food Japanese restaurants. I'm guessing that if you are reading this blog, you like food as much as we do, and would definitely enjoy places like these.
First is a place called Aburi-An. It is a Japanese BBQ restaurant. I actually posted on this place once before, but we have been back since and tried some different thing. At this restaurant you sit at a table with a gas grill in the center, complete with a hood (which definitely helps), and you can order a variety of items to be grilled. The menu also includes other food, in case you don't want the BBQ or just want someone else to do the cooking.
We started with cheese rolls. It's just one of those things that you get a craving for and it won't let go. Not kidding, these are addicting, and not the healthiest choice out there. So you order a small portions, get your fix, and hopefully that holds you for a while.
Meet the cheese roll:
I have also shown these on previous posts since we get them at the Cheese Roll House (shocker, right?), but this was the first time we tried them here. This is the Japanese version of a mozzarella stick. It's a cheese stick in a wonton wrapper and deer fried. Tons better that a US mozzarella stick.
I started off with the tomato salad. It's a whole tomato in a soy based sauce, with LOTS of onions. Very yummy!
Now on to the grilling. We started with a nice veggie plate. There were peppers, kabocha, onions, eggplant, carrots, and a leek type of veggie.
We also got an order of mushrooms to grill.
Ryan had the marbled beef.
This time I went with the shrimp. Last time I did scallops, so this was a little different.
They turned out perfectly! I am definitely getting the shrimp again!
The best part we have found about BBQ places is that the food always comes out the exact way you want it. Ok, almost always, but if it doesn't the only person to blame is yourself! True, it may be cheaper to buy the ingredients yourself and cook at home, which of course we do too, but it is a fun experience to do out. Plus, you do not have to clean up. Bonus! Around here, these types of places are common, and are popular, despite being able to do it at home. It becomes more of a social experience when done at a restaurant, and makes a great place for dinners out in larger groups, especially for special occasion parties.
Next up is Dohtonbori. If there is one place that I would call my favorite, it would probably be this one. Not kidding, this is place is so much fun that you almost forget you are actually doing work to get your food. Plus, their sign is so unbelievable cute that you just have to give it a try. I went here the first time with 2 of my friends when we went to Towada to check out the second hand kimono shop. I had no idea that the kimono was so complex, and I don't have a full one yet, but I did get most parts for 2 different kimonos. More on the later. For now...welcome to Dohtonbori!
Each table has a griddle. You can see the little flipper spatulas, which you notice are what the cuddly cartoon character in the sign above is holding.
The main thing to order here is called okonomiyaki. This is a Japanese pancake that really translates to any way you like it. Basically, you can make a pancake with just about anything. Now, the use of the word pancake here is a little different from the American breakfast pancake. In fact, my okonomiyaki didn't even have any flour in it. You can also order items other than the okonomiyaki, but for the most part, everything uses the griddle. Since it was big enough I was able to have a whole half for myself and it was very easy to keep my food separate from any meat at the other end.
One of my friends ordered some beef. She comes here often, so she has had the pancake many times, and this time settled on the beef.
She also ordered gyoza, which although they are a traditionally Chinese food, are also popular in Japan. My other friend who was with us is Chinese and we were once talking with someone about gyoza and how the Japanese word for them is very similar to the English word. Out of curiosity I asked how the word was pronounced in Chinese and she said a completely different word. Lesson learned, these are not called gyoza in Chinese. I thought it was hilarious. I just always assumed!
These gyoza are cooked right on the griddle. Go figure!
You place them on the grill, then put down an ice cube, and cover with a lid. Then they steam. How neat! So, if you have a griddle at home, you can give this cooking method a try.
This is the mystery pouch. My one friend ordered a lunch special and it came with this. They didn't tell us what it was, just put it on the grill and told us 8 minutes. Oh yeah, they give you timers so you can keep track of how long you are cooking for. It's very useful. After 8 minutes she opened it up...and guess what...I can't remember what was inside. Sorry, this was a few weeks ago. I am almost certain it was a piece of meat.
Time for my okonomiyaki. I ordered a shrimp okonomiyaki. It comes in a single bowl with all ingredients inside. You can see the egg on top. This acts as the binder. You get a spoon (see the wooden spoon) and mix it all up.
The main ingredient was a kind of cabbage, and everything got mixed up with that. It looks a little like a salad.
Here is my friends smaller version. I watched her get hers started first before giving mine a go.
Here you have it:
This was my first attempt at okonomiyaki. See, it comes out like a veggie pancake. It cooks for 5 minutes on one side, then flips for another 5 minutes and then back to the first side for another 5.
Once it was all done I could dress it up. The traditional toppings are the okonomiyaki sauce (like a BBQ sauce), mayo and bonito flakes, and in this case mine also came with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). I only did the sauce and some panko for my first time.
I seriously have fallen in love with this place. I don't care if I have to do all the work, it is so good and so much fun. Yes, I can probably do this at home, and I probably will, but at least at this place I know I am getting the ingredients in the right amounts. Maybe once I am an expert I will give it a go at home. I will say that I do think the electric griddle we have will get more use now that I know we can cook so many things on it. I guess I knew that before, but I found a lot more that I didn't think of before coming to eat at this place.
Maybe you are wondering just how much I loved this place. So much! So much that I brought Ryan back later in the week. We actually spent most of the day in Towada looking around.
I saw this bar and I couldn't resist. It made me immediately think of the Swanky Dietitian, more for the swanky and less for the drunky, of course.
Let's see how Ryan faired at Dohtonbori. There are so many items on the menu that it is really hard to make a final decision. In the end he went with a vegetarian choice. No, that is not butter on top. It is actually mochi, which is a glutinous Japanese rice cake. Since it was Ryan's first time, our server helped him out by showing him how it's done. He mixed it all up and then set it up in the right sized pancake on the grill.
I ordered something I was eyeing the last time, but sadly they were out that day. Not this time though! Any guesses? Yeah, you probably won't guess, but I promise I will show you in a minute...after it finishes cooking.
To make Ryan's, the mochi goes down first. Honestly, it didn't seem much like mochi to me, but the server insists this is mochi.
The pancake mix goes on top, and then it cooks for 5 minutes, before flipping.
Then I got mine started. I loved the one I ordered the other day, so I went with that one again. Next time I will be braver and ordered something else. It is tough because I worry there may accidentally be some meat and I know this one is good. But there are so many I want to try, and I know next time I need to be different.
Anyone guess that I had salmon with some butter cooking in that dish? If you did then you are correct! This cooked perfectly! I would love to buy a dish like this can cook this way on my griddle at home. I will definitely order this again.
Ryan went all out on his toppings and tried a little of everything.
So much fun!
QUESTIONS: Would you ever go out to eat at a restaurant where you cooked your own food? I know I asked this once before, but now you have seen some more examples and I wanted to ask again. Have you ever heard of okonomiyaki? Do you have a griddle at home? What would you like to cook on the griddle?