220 E. 9th St.
New York, NY 10003
Otafuku is a pretty simple operation, just a small room with a counter and a few stools along 9th Street in Manhattan. For all intents and purposes and a hole in the wall, you could pass by the store front and miss it. The spot does a simple menu of some very popular Japanese street food dishes near the very hip East Village neighborhood in Manhattan. You can count the items on the menu with one hand, and you’re supposed to be able to take them with you and eat. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but it’s a great little dive with good food to offer.
There are basically for items on the menu, and you get to have them in a combination of your choosing. What I tried:
- Takoyaki: Also known as “octopus balls,” these are essentially fried dough balls containing octopus and a little bit of sweet sauce on the top. Crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside and just flavorful enough to let that octopus shine. Topped with big flakes of dried bonito. Each one is huge, I would highly recommend sharing them.
- Yakisoba: Stir-fried soba noodles with a bit of onions, cabbage, bean sprouts, and most interestingly octopus meat. While just a tad on the greasy end, The noodles are cooked nicely and just a bit chewy.
- Okonomiyaki: Something like a pancake, this kind of dish is very popular in Korea and several other countries and one version or another. This take has cabbage, a “special sauce” and bonito flakes on top. The sauce gives it a lot of sweetness.
- Medetai: This is the restaurant’s take on the taiyaki, or a sweet cake cooked in a mold into the shape of a fish. Sweet and with a texture something like a waffle, you can order it with the more authentic red bean paste filling or, if you prefer, you can stuff it with nutella and banana.
The restaurant is tiny, so there’s not much to say about service or experience. It’s a simple place. You step up to the counter, take an order and pick it up there. The whole process takes about 5 to 10 minutes and you get to watch them cook your food for you, which is fascinating since these things can’t be found in many places in the U.S. It’s a fun experience to watch something really unique come together before your eyes.
Japanese street food is unforgettable, but it’s a very rare find in the U.S., even in big cities like New York. It’s nice to see a place like this bringing something unique to the market.
- There are only a few stools inside and they’re probably full. Expect to take this food and walk with it.
- The restaurant does on-site catering if you like it.
- There are four items on the menu and a few different combinations of them to your liking.