Lunch: So, So Glad I Didn’t Accidentally Walk Past Otafuku One More Time

I don’t even want to know how many times I’ve walked down this particular block of E. 9th Street in the East Village and not noticed Otafuku, the sliver of a restaurant most recognizable by the pair of long, colorful, Japanese flags hanging out front.

photo-1photo-2

This East Village via Tokyo portal serves only heaping hot plates of three kinds of items, and combinations thereof: takoyaki, deep-fried wheat-flour balls with bits of octopus inside (think Japanese falafel); yakisoba, pan-fried soba noodles with squid, shrimp and all kinds of veggies; and okonomiyaki, fat, griddle-cooked, savory pancakes of chopped vegetables (primarily cabbage, scallions), batter and your choice of pork, beef, shrimp, squid or corn. 

I chose Combination A ($7), one okonomiyaki pancake with shrimp (buried under the bonito flakes on the left) and a half-order of yakisoba (right), thinking I’d be going home with a light sampling of two-thirds of the menu. What I was sent home with was this: 

photo-4Oh, my. It’s a giant clamshell full of some of Japanese-style g-r-u-b. So much food. And so cheap! (The most expensive combination meal tops out at $9.) 

I said yes to all the extras, which means the pancake was topped with a sweet, soy-based sauce (my guess) and thin zig-zags of mayonnaise, both out of a squeeze bottle, dried bonito flakes and seaweed powder. A stoner’s delight; no wonder this gem has been around sort of forever (plus five years).

TIP: If you’re on foot, Otafuku might be easier to spot if you watch for the magical, vine-draped, cloister-looking alley that I always stare at, and which is probably responsible for me not noticing Otafuku before, but that I’ve never actually eaten at, either. It’s next to that. (Incidentially, I didn’t know the name of the neighbor when I wrote that sentence. I did a little recon and found out it’s called Cloister’s Cafe. Well put.)

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