On the Menu

Unlikely (and Excellent) Okonomiyaki at the Gastropod

Chef Travis Kukull picked up this Japanese dish from a poodle named Frances, and produces it in the most minimalist of kitchens.

By Allecia Vermillion April 23, 2013

Okonomiyaki with purple broccoli, octopus, and squid ink. Photo via Gastropod's Facebook page.

 This tiny brewpub in SoDo is about the last place on earth you'd expect to find okonomiyaki, a sort of savory, griddled pancake-meets-omelet-meets pizza, layered through with various vegetables or protein and topped with even more fun stuff. But there it is, usually $12, and with an ever-changing cast of seasonal garnishes.

Last month, Epic Ales brewer Cody Morris and chef Travis Kukull completed a renovation that turned Epic's closet-sized brewhouse into a closet-sized gastropub, The Gastropod, where Kukull puts forth thoughtful plates like housemade duck sausage or foraged nettle pesto on tagliatelle (ditto on the housemade) using only three portable butane burners, a countertop oven, a sous vide machine, and a tiny rack of pans.

Despite the minimalist trappings, Kukull's okonomiyaki invariably arrives with an impressive texture. The name comes from the Japanese words okonomi ("as you like it" or "whatever you like") and yaki (grilled). The texture comes from a Japanese mountain yam Kukull helpfully describes as "like snot." Not the most appealing description, but an apt one. The components of the okonomiyaki change daily; it might contain octopus, bacon, cabbage and potato and be topped with an egg and squid-ink mayo. Or maybe roasted brussels sprouts, leeks, and kimchi, with a topping of wood sorrel, sea urchin emulsion, and a duck egg. You know, whatevs.

Best of all, Kukull acquired this technique by watching Cooking with Dog, a series of Japanese cooking lessons on YouTube narrated by a heavily accented gray poodle named Frances. Frances does not do the actual cooking, though he does sit on the countertop in close proximity to food preparation.

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