Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Fancy some Japanese pancakes and octopus balls for a quick lunch? Just to clarify for the squeamish - they're not actual octopus genitals (I can't even fathom what those would look like), but more like boiled octopus rolled up in the shape of a ball.

A couple of classmates and I decided the weather was perfect for a quick stroll to East 9th St. and re-visit Otafuku, a small storefront selling basically three different Japanese street snack foods: takoyaki (the above-mentioned octopus balls), okonomiyaki (Japanese style cabbage pancakes), and probably the most mainstream among the three choices, yakisoba (fried noodles with veggies). For a closer look, check out the pic below.

Adventurous eaters and chronically indecisive people will probably want to try on of the combination platters to sample a couple of these somewhat unfamiliar dishes (and perhaps to hedge against a unsatisfying lunch). So this is basically what we did to ensure that we would taste all three, but since everyone was eager to try the takoyaki, we all wound up with box B or C as our lunch option.

The takoyaki and okonomiyaki are somewhere beneath all those bonito flakes, with the octopus balls also smothered with some kind of sweet sauce. When asked by the counter person which toppings we wanted, I simply indicated "everything", though not knowing what that term included. I did see specks of scallion and mayo among the things that he was suddenly putting on top of our food at blizzard speed.

We decided to sit and eat on the lone bench outside the storefront, somewhat amused at the curious stares we elicited from passers-by. They probably wondered what those strange-looking items were in our plastic take-out boxes. And why we were devouring them with gusto in public.

The octopus balls (six of them) were bigger than expected, piping hot fresh off the grill (don't stuff the entire thing in your mouth!), and were quite tasty. It took a while to finish the entire combination platter though, since it was more food than we thought - yet another nice find on the East Village for a reasonably-priced filling lunch.

As one of my friends says, "It's just like the tiny stalls in the small alleys of Tokyo". Ah, music to my ears - guess I'll find out in a few weeks' time how the New York octopus balls stack up to the original.

Otafuku on Urbanspoon