Otafuku - 236 E. 9th St., East Village
Ika Okonomi Yaki (Unsweetened flat pancake with Okonomi sauce), Takoyaki (Unsweetened ball pancake with Takoyaki sauce)
The streets of New York area are a nonstop cafeteria. From salted pretzels to roasted nuts, from souvlaki to dirty water dogs, we've got the standards covered. Thanks to portable purveyors like Daisy May's and Hallo Berlin, we also have options like pulled pork and bratwurst. Not to mention, of course, the pizza, gelato, tacos, arepas, gyros, dosas and so much more.
Now there's a new contender to the list of street fare. While Otafuku doesn't technically sell from a cart, its storefront is practically the size of one and there are no seats except for the one bench outside. The menu is also extremely specialized, featuring only three items. There's the yakisoba, fried soba noodles mixed with meat and vegetables, a dish I've had many times. Then, more excitingly, there are two kinds of pancakes. The takoyaki is ball-shaped, with the texture and color of a hush puppy, and the okonomi is flat, with the serrated edges of a cupcake wrapper. Eager to try both, I ordered Combination B and brought the plastic tin back to my apartment.
The takoyaki was terrific, with a great crispy exterior and a delicious filling of octopus tentacles and viscous octopus sauce. Surprisingly, it reminded me most of a corn fritter. And although there were a very reasonable six balls for $3, I liked them so much that they disappeared in about two minutes.
The okonomi, which literally means "as you like it" is cooked with the ingredients the customer picks. It can come with sweet corn, peppers and scallions, and with fillings like squid, pork, beef and shrimp. I also really liked the okonomi I got, with its tangy sauce, its coat of bonito flakes, and large chunks of squid. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I felt compelled to keep eating it even after I realized I'd forgotten to tell the cook to leave out the scallions.
Of the two pancakes, I preferred the takoyaki, but either one would make a great, cheap and filling meal. With their offer of the $8 Combination though, there's really no reason to choose between them when you can have both. After all, on the streets of the city, with so many carts and so many cuisines, we already have so many tough choices to make. 8/10
From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out
- Name: Lonesome Hero
Thursday, July 21, 2005