Shinjuku: Okonomiyaki
Kyochabana (Shinjuku: Okonomiyaki)
Open 5-10:30pm (LO) daily.
Sun: Open Sundays
no smoking: No smoking

Original-recipe Kyoto-style okonomiyaki is the specialty of the house here, but we were even more impressed with the kitchen's creative vegetable dishes and unusual yakisoba variations. The basement dining room is cozy and unpretentious, service is friendly, and prices are quite reasonable - a nice combination in this often-overpriced neighborhood.

We started off a recent meal with an entertaining amuse-bouche of savory tapioca and sweet-potato vichyssoise, followed by a thick slab of daikon steak simmered with yuzu and leek. Our bagna cauda was a hefty portion of colorful Kyoto heirloom vegetables served on a gigantic leaf, the dip brought to life by a tangy miso paste rather than anchovies. The next dish - garlic-sauteed mushrooms - seemed more inspired by Madrid than Kyoto, but we quite enjoyed the garlicky detour.

When you're done with starters, the yakisoba is especially recommended - real buckwheat noodles (rather than the usual ramen-style wheat noodles) are cooked up on the flat grill along with tomatoes and other vegetables, then livened up with tiny dabs of wasabi for an appealingly different take on this usually mundane dish.

Both yakisoba and okonomiyaki are available in offbeat avocado- and tomato-based versions, with options like pork, shrimp, cheese, bacon and mushrooms ready to add to the mix. Voluminous portions are big enough to share, especially if you've had starters.

Drinks include budget wines (we enjoyed a decent South American chardonnay) as well as beer (Yebisu), shochu and plum wines. Budget around Y2500-3000 for dinner with a few drinks.

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-6-9, Yamaguchi Bldg B1F.
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Venue listing from Bento.com4 Star Rating: recommended