Sakuratei offers standard okonomiyaki/monjayaki fare in a cool atmosphere at great prices. It's got a very indie/hippie vibe with all the artwork and graffiti on the wall. You have three options: go for the all-you-can-eat (tabehoudai) course, pick from their original mixes, or choose your own without the tabehoudai option. The place is very foreigner friendly, with English instructions on how to cook the stuff if you've never tried, and an English menu/drink menu. I'd say the taste is like all the other okonomiyaki places I've tried, so come for the ambiance and the cheap prices. It's 1,900 (for men) and 1,700 (for women) for tabehoudai, and a group of 8 of us went recently and had 5 dishes for an amazing 750 yen per person without the tabehoudai option. Make reservations, this place is huge but very popular and you'll have to wait (especially on weekends) if you don't!
The benefits of Sakura-tei are twofold. First the is extraordinarily cheap all you can drink option, something like JPY1250 for 1.5h or 2hrs.
The second is the variety of okonomiyaki and monjyayaki. Where else can you get a mexican themed 'margarita monjyayaki' that tastes like a burrito pie (american invention)?
I've been here about 5 or 6 times now and they are very consistent and usually friendly.
Sakuratei is a hip place. They know it, and you’ll get it as soon as you walk in. The walls are covered in graffiti art, the service staff looks like they just came back from a skateboarders convention, and the place is hard to find, which makes you feel even more “in the know.”
The food is simple: lots of variations of okonomiyaki, monjayaki and a few side dishes. We went for a special Thai okonomiyaki (900 yen), which sounded like a good idea in theory. But, as soon as the sauce hit the hot iron griddle, it started to caramelize and then burn, which didn’t make for an appetizing smell. Not a bad choice to broaden your okonomiyaki horizons, but definitely not something to go crazy about.
I’ve always thought that monjayaki looks like barf. I did live in Kansai when I first arrived in Japan, and I’m biased, but it seems to me they got the better recipe over there. Why would anyone want to scoop gooey stuff out of the griddle is beyond me. Mind you it doesn’t taste bad, and Sakuratei does a reasonable job, but it’s hard to get inspired by barf bubbling before you.
We got a smoked salmon salad (680 yen) as well as chorizo sausages (480 yen). The salad was nice but stay away from the sausages.
Drop by for the young atmosphere and for beers on the outdoor deck during summer. The food is alright, but nothing worth writing home about.
This restuarant is quite a find in Harajuku. It's uniqueness makes it really worth a visit. However, it is hard to find as it's in the backstreets of Harajuku. A map is definitely a good idea. The art gallery type atmosphere is perplexing while eating Okonomiyaki, but also quite enjoyable.
Cooking your own meal on the skillet was really fun though, and probably best done in a group of 3-4 people so you can try many of the flavors if not getting the all-you-can eat option. However, of course coming as a couple is fine, too, when I was there, a Japanese couple near us kept ordering more and more and they really looked like they were enjoying it. We were all seriously amazed at how much they could eat.
The English menu made things easy, and there are tons of options. Don't forget to use all the delicious toppings in the side little basket, including using a paintbrush type tool to "paint" on the main sauce.
I had hard time just to get there. You should better take a map with you because you will probably get lost if you are visiting for the first time.
The entrance is at the end of narrow alley, and it has an apperance similar to a fancy Japanese Izakaya. However, the inside is far from what you imagine from the entrance. The lightings are bright, and the walls are painted with pop style arts. Its atmosphere was good enough to make you expect a fun dinner. A hot plate is placed on the center of the table for cooking Okonomiyaki by yourself. My friend and I had an all-you-can-eat Okonomiyaki/Monja cource. Each dish comes in small portions so we were able to enjoy various menus. One dissapointing thing was that only one topping can be chosen for each Okonomiyaki and if you wish to mix few toppings, you would have to pay an extra charge. The taste wasn't super good, but it wasn't bad. I gave it 4 stars because we had fun time cooking and eating Okonomiyaki and the atmosphere was quite entertaining. I guess "fun" is the key to enjoying Okonomiyaki.
When leaving the restaurant, I was surprised to see a few foreigners visiting here, since I thought it was very rare for foreigners to visit Okonomiyaki restaurant. I am sure that Sakura-tei is special among other Okonomiyaki restaurants.
One of my friends produced a Google map while we were standing outside of Harajuku station. “Okonomiyaki” is one of personal obsessions. She proclaimed that a friend had recommended they be all end all okonomiyaki restaurant, and we set off to find it. Because Japanese streets are impossibly byzantine, we wandered around for a little while. Abruptly, we arrived at a psychedelic building. My friend announced that we had arrived. We didn't go “in,” exactly. “In” would be the wrong word. Between the main building and the fence, there was an impossibly narrow ally. Alice in Wonderland style, we went down the ally and turned the corner. At the end of the ally, there's a squid painted on a sign which points the way to Sakuratei, the okonomiyaki restaurant. One of the main draws for my friend was that Sakuratei offers tabehodai. She assured me that I wouldn't get too full; there's not that much substance to okonomiyaki. For the record, I left stuffed. The inside of Sakuratei is as wildly ornamented as the outside. Odd little people and creatures wave, smile and eat okonomiyaki in Technicolor on the walls.
The table has a large flat grill in the center. Okonomiyaki tabehodai is a hands on experience, you see. Basically, you order the ingredients that you'd like, and you're served the ingredients. There is a knack to cooking okonomiyaki, but it's not that hard. Just mix your bowl of ingredients and dump them onto the grill. The hardest part is leaving it on the grill long enough so that it's easy to flip. There are lots of condiments that you can put on your okonomiyaki. As one of my friends said, eating okonomiyaki is all about going over the top. Be sure to lather on lost of the sauce. Monjyayaki, which is often served with okonomiyaki, is a little bit more difficult to make. First, you mix it, but just put the cabbage and dry ingredients on the grill. Let them sautee until the cabbage becomes translucent, shape them into a ring, and pour the liquid in the middle. Monjyayaki is looser than okonomiyaki; eat it when it looks done.
Though all of this may sound difficult and overwhelming for someone who doesn't speak Japanese, it's not. First off, they have a very comprehensive English menu, and on top of that, the waiters are more than willing to help you. Women pay 100 yen less for tabehodai than men. For women, it's 1600 yen, so it's 1700 for men. Beers are moderately priced.