Savory pancakes can be found in almost every Asian cuisine. Thin, wispy sheets designed to be dunked into vats of curry. Crisp‑skinned discs loaded with seafood. Overstuffed oblongs so packed with vegetables and hunks of meat that they stretch the very definition of pancake. And all can be found in Orange County.
Fans evangelize Ebisu Ramen’s signature soup. But the Japanese restaurant’s sleeper hit is okonomiyaki, a kind of pancake-omelet hybrid made from a batter of shredded cabbage, egg, and a bit of flour. Griddled to a crisp, it’s lacquered with okonomiyaki sauce (like a thick, sweetened Worcestershire), drizzled with squiggles of mayonnaise, and showered with a heap of katsuobushi, the smoky, wriggly bonito flakes. Ebisu offers nearly a dozen okonomiyaki versions—including, shrimp, pork, or oysters. And each is best with a cold beer.
The Past Memories is as much museum as it is a pubby restaurant, decorated with faux telephone poles, faded movie posters, and rusted lanterns that look to be from the Korean countryside. Nearly every dish here is designed to pair with the beer or soju of your choosing. Try the pajeon, pizza-sized scallion pancakes that nearly flop over the edge of the plate. Best is the seafood variety, loaded with squid, oysters, octopus, and carrots.
The scallion pancake at Irvine’s Asian Tapas is positively spartan by comparison. Shot through with scallions and toasted in a pan, it’s flaky and tender, like a croissant pressed flat into a single sheet. This is not so much a stand-alone dish as an ideal side that makes the restaurant’s starring entrees even better.
A trip to Ebisu is not complete without a bowl of noodles.
Go for the “special” ramen: a noodle salad of sorts, topped with slabs of fatty roasted pork,
tomato wedges, julienned spears of cucumber, wispy radish sprouts, shredded lettuce, and
a dab of spicy mustard.
18924 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley
The Past Memories
9252 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove
6380 Irvine Blvd., Irvine