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Wakisaka: comfort food on the streets of Osaka

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Wakisaka is a mom-and-pop restaurant that specializes in Osaka’s soul food: okonomiyaki. From what I could tell the small but cozy restaurant abuts their living quarters so that the pair don’t have far to travel. Mom works the floor while Pop works the teppan, the iron hot plate without which there would be no okonomiyaki.

On a recent visit we were the last ones in for lunch. As we sat at the counter, the master was happy to shoot the breeze while he went through the motions of mixing and cooking our okonomiyaki, a sort of pancake made from flour, eggs and cabbage. We had the usual unfussy fillings: pork and seafood. One came covered in a blanket of aonori, a fabulous and gorgeous green laver.

It surprises me that okonomiyaki has failed to catch on overseas in the same way as other Japanese foods have, especially ramen. It’s cheap and delicious and best enjoyed eaten out in the company of others, but for some reason okonomiyaki doesn’t travel.

One of my lunch companions insisted on dessert; it was all wagashi, or Japanese sweets. Another companion insisted on refusing. I sampled. The mostly tasteless tokoroten looked like noodles made from rice vermicelli; it is in fact made from agar, a byproduct of boiling seaweed. Tokoroten will never achieve global domination, but okonomiyaki should.

8-4 Otemachi, Ibaraki-shi, Osaka; 072-645-3939; open daily 10 a.m-5 p.m (closed Weds.); nearest station Ibarakishi; smoking OK; about ¥700 per head; no English menu; no English spoken.