“Some other stores in the area have it, but they aren’t doing it the right way,” says Edward Kam. He’s talking about Japanese soufflé pancakes, the centerpiece of the offerings at Okaeri Japanese Café, which he owns with operating partner Atsushi Nakamura and chef Junzo Miyajima.
Miyajima, also the creative force behind the menu at Gyu Shige in Fairfax, worked to perfect his recipe for the airy treats. The result is the region’s only authentic version of the Instagram-famous pancakes. Unlike flat American hotcakes, these pancakes — somewhere between breakfast and dessert — are whipped to a towering height thanks to the stiff peaks of meringue in their batter. Cooked at a low temperature, the result is indeed as much eggy soufflé as it is pancake.
At Okaeri, there are three versions. A plain duo of pancakes is topped in vanilla cream and fresh fruit. The matcha soufflé pancakes are baptized in green tea–flavored cream and accompanied by red bean paste and rounds of mochi. Best of all is the stack of pancakes covered in strawberry-flavored cream, enhanced with strawberry sauce and fresh berries.
Strawberry lovers also dare not miss the strawberry sandwich — akin to biting into a cloud — composed simply of whipped cream, berries, and sweet bread. Diners can add a chocolate and banana version without the threat of getting too full.
Fans of Japanese comfort food aren’t limited to sweet flavors. Onigiri are rice balls stuffed with ground beef curry, shrimp tempura, and spicy tuna, among other savory delights. There are even Hawaiian-style Spam musubi. Besides the pancakes, the onigiri are the most popular dishes at the café, says Kam. “I was surprised how much people enjoy them,” he adds.
But we’re not surprised. Okaeri specializes in Japanese eats cute enough to belong in an anime, and guests can assemble a meal from a collection of fantastic surprises that taste as appealing as their picture-perfect appearance suggests. 14215 Centreville Sq., Ste. V, Centreville