Monday, July 11, 2011

Outrageous Octopus Balls and More

Takoyaki, aka octopus balls, with the works
Great global street food is always on my radar. And even better when it's right under my East Village nose at tiny Otafuku.

Tasty snacks inside
I can't believe I haven't been here before. No bigger than a food truck, the Japanese take out stand serves only three dishes. The food is made to order. And there's always a line. Need I say more? Ok, then, there's:

1. Takoyaki aka octopus balls: tender chunks of octopus in a velvety wheat dough batter

2. Okonomiyaki: dense Japanese cabbage pancakes with veggies and choice of protein

3. Yakisoba: stir-fried noodles with veggies and choice of protein.

I recently read that takoyaki for Osakans is the equivalent of pizza for New Yorkers. I get an order of 6 with a side of edamame for $6.

Ask for 'the works' to get a generous drizzle of BBQ sauce, mayo, seaweed flakes, and bonito, dried smoked fish flakes that literally dance in the heat. It's poetic. It's also so delicious. Hot off the specially cast griddle, one bite gives you a generous chunk of octopus swimming in a slightly creamy center.

Takoyaki on the griddle
My friend and fellow blogger Yoshie comes here weekly and know a good takoyaki. At Otafuku, they are made Osakan style, I'm told. Every home in Osaka has a takoyaki griddle.

The okonomiyaki is equally delicious. Two large pancakes ($8) come with your choice of either seafood or meat. I had the classic pork on one and squid on the other. Pork is thinly sliced and crisped like bacon. Squid is very satisfying too. The same toppings apply. If you can't decide between balls or pancakes, get the combo for $9.
Okonomiyaki fully loaded

The lone bench parked outside sees a lot of action. The regulars accept the 15 minute wait without any grumbling. I sat next to two friends visiting from Vancouver and staying in Queens. They heard it was worth the trek. Like me, they left satisfied.

Note: If you're in the mood for proper sit down Japanese fare, Otafuku has two sister restaurants on the same block - excellent Hasaki and Robataya.

236 E 9th St. (between 2nd + 3rd Aves)
Mon-Fri, 1-10 pm
Sat-Sun, 11 am - 10 pm
212 353 8503

Otafuku on Urbanspoon


  1. Hi, I'm the visitor fr. Vancouver that was lunching w/you on the bench! Happy to have met you and just wanted to pass along 2 of my fave local food blogs for your reference if you one day visit Vancouver! Happy Eats!

  2. Hi Anonymous

    Thanks for writing! Was great discovering Otafuku together. Appreciate your sharing your local fave food blogs too - Sherman's Food Adventures is great. Looking forward to eating my way through Vancouver soon...Happy eating.