Food News

Japanese Comfort Food at Okaeri Café

It's always fun having your lunch stare back at you
It's always fun having your lunch stare back at you Hank Vaughn
Okaeri Cafe is a Japanese spot in Richardson that strives to serve what it calls Japanese comfort food, which is fitting for a place whose name derives from okaeriansai, which translates to “welcome Home.” Owner Michelle Vi Pepping had the concept in the works for over two years and was just ready to go public when the pandemic hit. By the end of September 2020, they were finally able to do some pop-ups and now have a full-fledged physical location to serve up their take on a cozy coffee and tea shop with a menu of Japanese-inspired dishes.

Some of the specialty hot teas are loose-leaf varieties that include sench, jojicha, jasmine, oolong, matcha genmaicha and yuzu kukicha at $15 for an attractive glass pot’s worth of brewed tea. Coffees include latte, cappuccino, cold brew, Americano, etc., as well, but we settled for a single cup of oolong, brewed from a teabag. With that out of the way, we moved on to the comfy eats.
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A nice cozy spot for indulging in some comfort food and a spot of tea
Hank Vaughn
Visitors can dine in one of their chairless booths if they're willing to remove their shoes and sit on a pillow during the meal. These were popular choices and never remained empty for very long. It was a moot point for us, however, in that at this stage in life eating whilst sitting on a pillow on the floor has lost some of its bohemian appeal. Plus, no one wants to hear the creaking of joints. We opted for a table.
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Fun and intimate seating is available for those with young knees
Hank Vaughn

Having no children in our party didn’t stop us from ordering the Katsu Nuggets from the kids’ menu, because who doesn’t like rice molds in the shape and likeness of a shiba inu? They are served with breaded chicken Katsu Nuggets, seasonal vegetables and spring mix salad. The presentation didn’t disappoint; it was a cute and happy-looking plate staring back at us. Not bad tasting, either, but we were here for the doggies.

Next, a Katsu Hotto Doggu — a hot dog lightly breaded in panko and fried, then topped with shredded cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and Japanese mayo. It was a lot, and large, but it was flavorful. It wasn’t clear if one was supposed to pick it up and eat it in the traditional hot dog manner or attack it with a knife and fork. We chose the latter because we’re dainty that way. Other hotto doggu options include kimchi, tofu, and okonomi, which is topped with bonito flakes, nori, furikake flakes, Japanese mayo and ketchup. Maybe next time.
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A panko-encrusted fried hotdog with a bit of garnishing sauces
Hank Vaughn

An order of omurice followed, a traditional Japanese fried rice dish topped with swirled omelet and served with special house-made demi-glace. They refer to the thin omelet that encompasses the rice as a tornado due to the swirl of egg evident in the presentation. Evidently, this recipe was the result of thousands of eggs worth of research, and it would appear that such dedication pays dividends.
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Omurice, rice topped with a tornado omelet
Hank Vaughn

During the meal, we also sampled some hibiscus matcha lemonade and matcha ginger beer, both of which were bright and fresh, but a little matcha can go a long way, so take that into account.
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Matcha Cheesecake for those who simply cannot get enough matcha
Hank Vaughn
Dessert was a slice of matcha cheesecake, which had a fluffy souffle texture and was less sweet than the traditional version found at Mindy’s. Evidently, this is baked by TinTin Japanese Cheesecake, a local bakery based in Plano. This was just enough to round out our lunch, and at this point, we were ready to say goodbye to all things matcha … at least a bit.

Okaeri Café, 312 N. Greenville Ave. Suite 100 (Richardson) 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
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Hank Vaughn is a freelance writer who enjoys sharing and overthinking his food and drink experiences, both good and bad, from his culinary journeys with his wife across North Texas and beyond.
Contact: Hank Vaughn