Inside Gaijin
Photo: Jeff Marini

The restaurant’s name, which means “foreigner” in Japanese, might read like a hedge against accusations of cultural appropriation. And yet chef Paul Virant’s faithful interpretation of okonomiyaki — the thick, crisp-edged savory pancakes that are as iconic to the city of Osaka as deep dish is to Chicago — feels like a studiously researched love letter. Certainly, Virant tweaks okonomiyaki for his local audience — he uses sausage from Publican Quality Meats, for one thing — but stays true to traditional recipes, lightening the texture with grated mountain yam and tempura pearls and topping each pancake with shimmying fish flakes and a splatter-art matrix of a sweet and savory sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. Gaijin initially seemed like a departure for the classically inclined Virant, but take one bite of his okonomiyaki and it all makes sense.

Update:Gaijin’s carryout and delivery menu features nine okonomiyaki options, like the one with Publican Quality sausage and bacon, plus some small plates. For dessert, you can get the light-as-air glazed rice flour doughnuts in flavors like matcha, strawberry, and pandan. There’s also a new walk-up window, where you can get mini okonomiyaki and shaved ice desserts.