In honor of Hiroshima month here at Umami Mart, I visited Chinchikurin in LA a few weeks ago, where they specialize in its regional cuisine. Namely they serve Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. A popular chain in Hiroshima proper, this is Chinchikurin's first American outpost, that just opened in the end of 2016 on LA's west side aka Sawtelle Japantown.
I had heard about Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki - a sort of deconstructed version of the more common Osaka-style okonomiyaki, where each element is layered on top of each other. In an Osaka-style okonomiyaki, all of the cabbage, batter and egg is mixed altogether then laid on the hot plate like you're making a pancake. With the Hiroshima-style version, each ingredient is cooked separately, then stacked on top of each other. Plus, yakisoba (stir-fried noodles) are a major element of the dish.
We showed up at 8pm and the place was packed.
Chinchikurin reps Hiroshima vibrantly.
Their menu was full of local Hiroshima specialties - from okonomiyaki to tsukemen to a soupless tan-tan men. We went for the first two.
My eating companion Yoskay!
Sidenote: Yoskay informed me the "chinchikurin" is a local derogatory term for short people in Hiroshima.
The table had all the fixins needed for the okonomiyaki - Kewpie mayo and okonomiyaki sauce. This sauce tends to be a bit sweeter and runnier than Bulldog sauce.
The mayo came in this awesome dispenser, The Magic Five, boasting 5 small spouts so it squirts out in a fun stream of mayo.
First came out the tsukemen - a ramen salad with a bowl of broth for dipping.
Juicy pieces of gyu suji (beef tendons) adorned the bowl along with lettuce, spinach and ruby red tomatoes. A lemon too for a fresh squeeze.
The dipping broth is essentially a load of rayu (spicy sesame oil), vinegar and a bit of shoyu. There were sesame seeds, green onions and cilantro floating around too.
The dish was surprising light and full of umami. The amount of rayu was intimidating and I thought it would be too oily, but it was balanced well by the vinegar. This was a refreshing dish - perfect for the hot summer months of LA.
The Hiroshima okonimiyaki came up next.
We decided to keep it simple and go with the basic version (Chinchikurin has 9 versions on the menu - topped with anything from mayo-doused shrimp to their namesake okonomiyaki filled with ground beef instead of vegetables).
When our server had taken our order, she asked if we wanted the noodles to be soft or pari-pari (crispy). I asked which she recommended and she immediately said pari-pari. This was the winning Umami Point of the dish.
But one can not forget the fried bits of squid that fills the pancake, which was also a local tradition in Hiroshima. I have always had my okonomiyaki with pork slices inside, but the fried squid was a welcome alternative.
Together with a fried egg, cabbage and bean sprouts, this dish was a textural explosion in our mouths. Add some more mayo and okonomiyaki sauce, and you're set for a savory feast.
I really loved the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. The crispiness of the noodles, the egg and vegetables all complemented one another. Plus, there's no batter so it's lighter than the usual okonomiyaki I have had. On a hot night in LA, all you need is this dish and a pint of beer. Heaven!
There was a video on loop playing on the wall, with scenes of Hiroshima city. I can't wait to visit one day. Of course there is devastating history, but the regional dishes and sakes are worth exploring, I am sure. Also, with a name like Chinchikurin, I'm sure the native folks have killer senses of humor.
2119 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025