We wanted a good okonomiyaki that we hadn’t tried yet, and I’ve noticed that Hassho’s original shop gets the most accolades. We had heard that the lines at Hassho can be very long, so we decided to get there at 6pm for an early dinner. We almost walked into another place by the same name, but something seemed wrong as there were only 2 people inside. When we did find the original shop and took the last few counter seats, you notice on the wall that this is the training ground for many okonomiyaki entrepreneurs, and only when they learn the ropes, can they go off and start their own shops with the Hassho name, for which there are certificates of affiliation. Seems there are about 5 or 6 shops now, including one in Okonomi-mura, and the one we passed by earlier. But for folks visiting Hiroshima, this is the place to go for the best version of the plain Hiroshima okonomiyaki.
Hassho is quite an operation. There are about 6 people (probably more) behind the counter attending to the customers, or otherwise doing their part in the okonomiyaki assembly line. The teppan on the far left is where the okonomiyaki is born with a thin circular layer of batter is painted on the teppan and then loaded with cabbage (not quite thinly cut as the mainstream places), and along with a shake of salt, pepper and something-or-other, slices of pork belly is placed on top of the mound. Then the crucial flip of the mound. The general that runs the shop came back from his cigarette break to work on the mounds (there were about 10 mounds at that point). He managed each flip so effortlessly with the least arm motion needed to flip a loose mound of pork and cabbage on a crepe. No doubt he is a master.
The teppan at the front of the shop is where the okonomiyaki is finished, with the fried noodles, and egg. But these aren’t just any fried noodles and eggs. Unlike many of the other okonomiyaki places, Hassho freshly boils their noodles (that part of the assembly line is in the center of the shop, with the hot water changed with about every dozen or so orders). And the fried egg with the runny yolk is the exclamation point. Some good photos on this website: http://www.dai1975.com/tabearuki/okon...
We each ordered a plain okonomiyaki and while we were waiting (it takes about 20 minutes), we got an order of the suji-pon (long simmered gyu suji or beef tendon in a ponzu sauce, and garnished with grated daikon). This is a very rustic dish, but refreshing with the ponzu. This is probably not for someone who doesn’t like that hard gelatinous chewy texture, like chicken joints. But it’s definitely for me.
Then the okonomiyaki arrived. I was eating gleefully until I reached that second half of the okonomiyaki and realized that we had a late lunch, and I was getting full very quickly. These things are pretty mammoth. Moreover, since all three of us got the same thing, I realized that I was getting a little bored trying to stuff my face with the same flavors in every bite. As we were slowing down, we were getting the uncomfortable glare from the general, so we all made the effort to eat enough to get the okonomiyaki off the teppan (you eat off the hot grill with spatulas) and on to our little plates. For future reference, better to get one less okonomiyaki than the number of people in the group, and get something different, like the kaki-yaki (oyster) or the buta-yaki (pork) grilled on the teppan, if just for variety (these looked—and smelled—really good).
We left quickly with a gracious “gochisousama-deshita”, with our heads down, feeling like we didn’t live up to the challenge. But I’ll be back to make up for it.