Traditional Japanese music bubbles out of the doorway, spilling into the lobby of the Coolidge Corner Arcade. A curious onlooker might notice that this hip new spot closely resembles Ganko Ittetsu Ramen, its sister restaurant opened by the same owner. Stepping inside, we were immediately transported into a place halfway across the world.
Gantetsu-Ya, a new little nook of Japan within Brookline, features famous street food like takoyaki, or savory octopus donut balls, and okonomiyaki, more well known as “Japanese Pizza” in the U.S. Although local, the different elements of the food and environment combined to create an immersive experience reminiscent of flying into the heart of Japan: full of new tastes and culture.
The restaurant is exclusively take-out, but there are few tables provided inside and in the lobby area if you wanted to have a sit-down meal. The menu, though relatively short, uniquely features five variations of okonomiyaki to accommodate anyone’s specific preferences. These can include add-ons like seafood, pork, cheese or mushroom.
We decided to order the Original ($13.50), the Mushroom ($15.50), and the takoyaki to share. Instead of your standard Coke products, we were delightfully surprised to see an array of different non-carbonated Japanese sodas with flavors like lychee and mango.
The okonomiyaki is a complicated dish. Consisting of many layers, it combines a unique variety of flavors and ingredients. The base of the bowl was a soft and squishy rice pad with a coating of thinly sliced cabbage. Covering the cabbage was a layer of noodles and egg cooked together into one piece. Sprinkled heartily on top are the toppings, including scallions and popped rice, and traditional sauces are drizzled over it all to bring everything together.
First of all, expect a ton of food from one dish. Not only was the okonomiyaki large and incredibly filling, there was also just plenty to take in. With each new bite came a completely new experience from the previous. The cabbage was very moist, which we found slightly overwhelming to the overall taste of the dish. The noodle and egg layer composed the bulk of the bowl. While delicious, it was slightly difficult to eat due to its structure. The sauce, generously layered on top, was faintly sweet and savory. We would buy a gallon of it alone.
On the side, the takoyaki was a fun, if rather hefty addition to the meal. Each order comes with eight balls, which are firm on the outside but melt in your mouth upon the first bite. The octopus was fresh and balanced nicely with the toppings. Slathered in delicious takoyaki sauce and garnished with curling bonito flakes, this snack should not be skipped.
We were unable to finish each of our dishes, opting to ask for a to-go box. Quick warning: The lids are incredibly difficult to put on. To test our struggle, we used a stopwatch to see how long it would take until the lid snapped on: it took a whopping 6 minutes and 36 seconds. Beware if you are in a hurry and want to take your delicious leftovers home!
Overall, Gantetsu-Ya fits in incredibly well with the comforting and cozy vibe of the Arcade. With unique touches like a huge glass window to observe the chefs while they cook, to the traditional Japanese roof tiles fixed onto the walls, the new spot is perfect for any casual meal out.