See below for my Gaijin Review: Japanese Pancakes Have Come to Chicago!
Neighborhood: West Loop
- Renewal & Hope cocktail
- Yuzu cocktail
- Spicy Miso Soup
- Veggie Korokke
- Vegetarian Hiroshima Style Pancake
- Chocolate Mochi
I finally tried Chicago’s first and only Japanese Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) style restaurant. Gaijin is now one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago! I was impressed by everything I ate, it was all so delectable and distinct. Their beverage menu was also extensive and I enjoyed the vibe on the socially distanced patio! It’s not the largest patio, but it was distant enough for me to enjoy it and feel safe. They also had hand sanitizer on each table, which was so kind! Someday when this pandemic is over I’d like to eat inside of this dimly lit, chic restaurant.
Japanese Inspired Cocktails
The menu has a diverse collection of sake, cocktails, and wine but the cocktails sounded too fascinating to turn down. We ordered the Renewal & Hope and Yuzu cocktails. The Renewal & Hope had Buddha’s hand vodka (I hope this brought me closer to enlightenment), yuzu sake green tea syrup and egg white. What a creative and unique collection of ingredients! The Yuzu cocktail was also an incredible cocktail with yuzu vodka, butterfly pea syrup and yuzu tonic.
These drinks were the perfect mixture of sweet and savory to start our meal with. We began with the Spicy Miso Soup, which was such a unique miso soup because it had spring vegetables and such a rich flavor! It was not your average miso soup! There was just something extraordinary about it that I haven’t tasted before. We also had the Veggie Korokke, which was like a Japanese croquette stuffed with fresh mushrooms, rice, and served with the most robust tomatoes I have had in awhile. Their vegetables are locally sourced and you can definitely taste that.
The Okonomiyaki – Japanese Pancakes
Gaijin has two main type of Japanese pancakes: Osaka and Hiroshima style. The Osaka style is a savory pancake with cabbage where the ingredients are all mixed together. The Hiroshima style is where the ingredients are layered rather than mixed. I personally enjoyed the Osaka style more but both were incredible. We did a Shrimp Osaka style pancake, which was certainly the highlight of the meal. It had tempura fried shrimp with an elotes style corn, creole butter, and arare (Japanese bite-sized cracker) for texture drizzled with a savory-sweet sauce on top. The flavors blended seamlessly well while also having a fun, crunchy texture!
For the Hiroshima style pancake, we ordered the vegetarian one which had toothsome yakisoba, fresh mushrooms egg, tofu skin, and we added kimchi to it. The succulent soba was the most prominent part of the pancake and the cabbage/kimchi flavor really came through. It was also a gigantic pancake so expect to take home some leftovers!
A Mochi Conclusion
Even though we were full, I couldn’t turn down a Mochi donut. What a fabulous creation! There were so many other intriguing sounding desserts and I am not even a dessert person but I couldn’t try it all, alas. We ordered a chocolate stuffed Mochi donut and it was out of this world! It had a mixture of hard and soft textures and the chocolate was melted and gooey. Everything about this was decadent but not in an overwhelming way. I left this mouthwateringly delicious meal stuffed and amazed. Gaijin is a gem and it’s worth trying whether it’s on their patio or for take-out!
Hungry for more reviews? Check them out here!