Thursday, August 16, 2007


The first of my New York posts, and what better way to start than with one of my favorite Japanese snacks? I read about the takoyaki at Otafuku on Chef Eats, and I tracked the place down when I hit the Big Apple. Otafuku is just this small shack in the East Village with a cheerful old Japanese guy cooking. It's a take-out place, so there's nowhere to sit inside, although there is a single bench right outside the shop. And they only have four items on their menu - takoyaki, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, and edamame. Not really a problem for me, since I love all four of those dishes!

Takoyaki is a fried Japanese dumpling ball made of batter and octopus, topped with okonomiyaki sauce (which has a tangy, sweet taste), Japanese mayonnaise (which is thicker and sweeter than normal mayo), and dried fish shavings. The batter is poured into cast iron hemispherical molds so that the batter is shaped into actual balls. If made properly, the takoyaki is just slightly cripsy on the outside but soft on the inside. Of course, I always think the sauce and mayo on top make all the difference for this dish.


The takoyaki at Otafuku was quite good, but what I left raving about was their okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a fried pancake made from a batter consisting of flour, yam, eggs, shredded cabbage or other veggies, and some kind of meat (I had beef on mine). The word "okonomiyaki" literally means "cook what you like," which I always took to mean that you could throw all sorts of things into the batter to get an endless variation of pancakes. Anyway, the batter and ingredients are mixed together, and the entire mixture is cooked on a hot plate. Once finished, the pancake is topped with that special okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and fish flakes.

Okonomiyaki (top) and takoyaki (bottom)

The reason I loved Otafuku's okonomiyaki was that is tasted exactly like the ones I had in Japan when I was studying there in 2003. Finally, I have found a place in the States that is able to capture the textures and flavors of that simple little pancake.

I really wish there was an Otafuku equivalent in San Francisco. I'd probably go there religiously.

Stay tuned for more NYC posts!

236 E 9th Street (between 2nd Avenue and Stuyvesant Street)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 353-8503

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Ritual Coffee Roasters

I love spending an afternoon at Ritual Coffee Roasters. Fresh, smooth gourmet coffee served in large glass cups. Cute milk patterns for a special touch on their lattes (shown above). Comfy couches and plenty of tables. Internet access. What more could you really want from a cafe in SF?

I'm heading off to NYC for a week, and I'll definitely return with stories of my eating adventures in the Big Apple!

Ritual Coffee Roasters
1026 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 641-1024