Randomness Guide to London - Differences between Version 8 and Version 7 of Okan, SW9 8PS

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Japanese restaurant in Brixton Village, specializing in okonomiyaki and other Osakan street food. It opened in mid-2011. The proprietor has been selling okonomiyaki from a street stall in Brick Lane since 2002.

The venue is austerely but cheerfully decorated to resemble an Osakan street cafe and is a light, airy spacephoto. There is table seating for 16 inside and 12 outside, with another four seats at the counterphoto.

As of September 2011, otumami (starters) range in price from £1.75 for miso soup to £3.25 for a tofu salad; all but one of these are vegetarian. There is an option to have four starters on one plate, as a sharer or light main, for £6.95. There are nine different combinations of ingredients for the okonomiyaki; cheese and sweetcorn (£6.50) is the cheapest and the only truly vegetarian option (due to the fish sauce in the kimchi), while the Okan Special (£8.25) combines kimchi, prawn, squid, and sweetcorn. Noodles can be added to any okonomiyaki dish for £1. There are also pork (£7), prawn (£7.25), or tofu (£6.75) yaki soba. The only dessert option is green tea ice cream (£3.25) from LAB G, another Brixton Village establishment.

Tea and freshly prepared cordials are £2.50, with still or sparking water (£1) and fruit juice (£1.75) also available. Okan does not yet have a license and there is a £1-per-person corkage charge.

Note: payment is cash-only at the moment.

On a September 2011 lunchtime visit, itsbruce found the service to be friendly and helpful. The staff assumed that I wanted chopsticks rather than western-style cutlery. I opted for the set lunch menu, which included "Okonomiyaki of the day" (I chose kimchi from the two options on offer), miso soup and a salad for £6.50. The salad (mixed green leaves and edamame with sesame dressing) was small but crisp and vividly flavoured. The kimchi okonomiyaki was delicious, quite a respectable portion and very filling. The miso soup was light and contained good quality fresh tofu. The presentation of all three dishes was very attractive. To accompany the meal, I had an elderberry and fresh ginger cordial, which was tart and refreshing and had fresh-cut slices of ginger suspended in it. The final bill was £9.

On a follow-up visit, itsbruce had the otumami setphoto; edamame, kimchi, fried aubergine and tofu salad. Once again, the presentation was good. The edamame was good quality and the kimchi was tart and crisply textured, not soggy or limp. However, they were outshone by the other two portions. The tofu salad was a slightly larger version of the green leaf and edamame side salad that comes with the set meal, with the addition of smoked tofu, which was delicately flavoured and had a lovely texture. The aubergine dish, fried with soy, honey and ginger and served with a miso dressing, presented a dazzling range of flavours and was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, due to the fish sauce in the kimchi, there is not currently a purely vegetarian version of this option but the proprietor is looking for ways to solve that problem.

Conscientious vegetarians are currently limited to one okonomiyaki option (cheese and sweetcorn), one yaki soba option (tofu), miso soup and all the starters apart from the kimchi. Vegans have the same list, minus the okonomiyaki. Nevertheless, a vegan could accompany vegetarian or omnivorous friends and eat well.

itsbruce's verdict: Friendly staff, cheerful service, delicious and well-presented food. I intend to become a regular visitor.

See also:

Last visited by itsbruce, 21 October 2011. Prices taken from the latest menu, October 2011.

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