Japanese food in New York is pretty awesome. Whether you want excellent soba, ramen or yakitori, you have so many options to choose from. Nothing makes me happier than a rice bowl with delicious pieces of egg and pork tonkatsu laid on top. As you would expect, there are a lot of options for a kick ass donburi bowl, and other homestyle cooking items in general, and Ootoya makes a lot of them.
Ootoya is a Japan-based chain that specializes in traditional home cooking, specifically set meals, or teishoku, which generally consists of meat, fish, rice, miso soup and a side of pickled vegetables. The quiet buzzy atmosphere and the clean minimalist surroundings with an open-air dai really make you feel as if you’ve been transported to Japan. The food, most importantly, is comparable to what they’re serving in the mother land.
I was having a particularly rough Sunday, but as soon as I had a taste of the grilled mackerel in the hokke yuan dinner set, all my troubles seemed to melt away. I was too distracted by the deliciously unctuous and salty quality of the plump mackerel pieces sitting on top of the warm, herbal bed of rice. The hot miso soup, which was notable for the presence of thick, hearty vegetables throughout, was extremely soothing and was the perfect antidote for my depressing, cold Sunday night. Mixing in some chawanmushi into the rice and blending in the mackerel ponzu sauce really cinched things together into a delicious porridge.
The kaisen don, which was essentially a chirashi bowl served with a side of requisite soup, egg custard and pickles, was like a treasure chest of fresh, flavorful raw fish. Digging through the sushi vinegar rice and finding little orange bits of Santa Barbara uni and blue fin tuna was a very satisfactory treasure hunt, indeed. I tried to stop myself from picking at all the delicious rice, but when salty salmon roe awaits you, it’s hard to say no.
Throwing back all this food with a glass of Asahi and a bowl of green tea ice cream was just what I needed for the evening. I was at peace that my day sucked, and that tomorrow was an early start of the work week. They say you shouldn’t eat your feelings, but when stress and sadness are ingested in the form of delicious donburi, then this phrase definitely needs to be revisited.
8 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011