Okonomi Part 1: The Hook Up For Fresh Fish
Hello! Welcome back. Today, we're talking about Okonomi in Brooklyn, NYC. This 12-14 seat restaurant opened in mid-2014. Okonomi is a unique Japanese dining experience, focusing on freshness and quality. During the day, it serves a breakfast/lunch ichiju-sansai, or set menu, that includes fish, soup, rice, and several small side dishes.
At night, the restaurant turns into YUJI Ramen, which provides a variety of ramen with a seafood base. On weekends, YUJI Ramen showcases a Ramen Omakase, which is a course meal that includes several tastings of fish and ramen. (I'm coming back to try this omakase... I'm so happy something like this exists). One thing I really appreciate about this restaurant is that it is conscious about the community it operates in. Each day, fresh ingredients are delivered from local markets. And, Okonomi adheres to the mottainai philosophy, which aims to minimize the amount of waste produced in running a restaurant. #respect
IMPORTANT: Okonomi and Yuji Ramen do not take reservations. Since we've only been here for breakfast, we recommend that you come at around 9:40AM before they open. Otherwise, you might have to wait a while.
Anyway, this is a lot to read in one sitting so I'm going to be a tease and talk about the fish in a second post here. Thanks for reading!
BONUS: They do not accept tip similar to other traditional Japanese restaurants.
Anyways, let's start talking about the food. At our visit, they were offering 3 types of fish prepared in their own way. There was a Spanish Mackerel Shioyaki, Tuna Donburi, and Kombu Cured Perch. Regardless of what we ordered, each entree came with a bunch of seasonal side dishes, miso soup, and six grain rice. On the day of our visit, we also had the option of adding an Onsen Tamago (Poached Egg with Sweet Soy Sauce and Sriracha Chili Powder) (see above) or Uni (Sea Urchin) from Maine.
We proudly requested 3 orders of the egg and 1 order of the uni. After a short wait, our meals arrived. The rice came with Bonito Flakes Soaked in House Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil. As it is, the rice was delicious. Interestingly, the six grain rice was made with six different types of grain. What a profound discovery! Combinations can include barley, black rice, wild rice, brown rice, red rice, and rye. The Bonito Flakes really gave the rice a nice, sweet seafood taste. Since we like to live life on the edge, we scrambled our poached egg and poured that luscious, golden liquid all over our rice. AND, we also enjoyed our uni with the rice. Uni is like the butter of the sea (see above). Just spread it over everything for some creamy and umami seafood flavor.
Now, the side dishes were pretty good. It included Okara, Tsukemono, Tamagoyaki, Mustard Greens, and Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes. The Tsukemono is simply pickled vegetables. Tamagoyaki is basically a layered egg omelet cake. The Mustard Greens were delightful. It came with a bit of Tofu Dashi, which is a tofu puree. The Okara is actually the most interesting side dish to me. It's an Almond Kale Gobo Okara. An Okara is the by-product of tofu or soy milk. It's basically the leftover shell casings from the soy beans that are insoluble. This product looks like grated radish but tastes mostly of beans.
FUN FACT: Okara is high in fiber and protein. Since this product is often discarded, it's super cheap. Some places might even give it away for free! So, it's a great economic option for those trying to increase their protein intake. The Okara is flavored with Almond, Kale, and Burdock Root. I enjoyed the Burdock Root a lot because it's mild in flavor, earthy, and a bit sweet. Loved it.