Otafuku & DiFara's (long)
- Jimmy Z.
Well, I finally made it to these two spots in the last 24 hours! I know anybody who has hit this board with regularity is all too familiar with DiFara's...
On the other hand, Otafuku, for those of you who don't know, is a Japanese hole-in-the-wall (literally) on 9th betw. 2nd and 3rd. They only have two dishes - - and no seating (counter space for 2 at best). The first dish, which I didn't try (yet!)is Takoyaki which are tiny broiled octopus balls (for lack of a better term). They are made with wheat flour, chopped octopus, ginger, scallion and tenkasu, then poured into what looks like a tiny cupcake mold and broiled. I can't begin to tell you how perfectly browned and tantalizing they looked.
The other dish, which I did have, is Okonomiyaki, a Japanese style-pancake/omelette made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, and a choice of beef,pork, shrimp, or squid that is mixed into the batter and cooked on a griddle. It is then topped off with a sweet sauce made of ketchup, soy, and worcestershire, as well as a drizzle of Japanese mayo, a sprinkle of dried seaweed powder, and a showering of bonito flakes. You get two in a serving (for $7) and they are enormous. It is an intensely, intensely rewarding meal. I really can't say enough about it. Frankly, it is the most delectable thing I have had the pleasure of eating since...last night!
So, I made the pilgrimage from the W. Village to Midwood by way of Bensonhurst (where I stopped to gaze at all the decked out holiday lights on the houses - - great time!). Never been to DiFara's. Took me 40 minutes and two subway lines to get home and that was with near-perfect timing. So, if I were to crave a slice in the future, I am looking at about an hour and a half commute, realistically. And it will be totally, totally worth it! I had 4 slices - ordered 1 regular and 1 'square' to start, but couldn't stop! The sicilian-style 'square' blew my mind. Great smoky flavor, excellent crunch to the crust, and, as Jim wrote in his book, "one of New York's great tomato sauces".
The coolest thing I overheard while I was there was included in Dom's (the aging owner) response to a guy who was complaining about how long he waited the last time he was there. This guy was really sticking it to him and imploring him to get more help, questioning why it takes so long sometimes. The part of Dom's response that was really emblematic of the attention to quality that this no-frills pizzeria puts into its product was when he told the customer that he cuts the slices of pepperoni to order when someone orders a pepperoni slice. The guy asked why he didn't just slice up a bunch in the morning and use it throughout the day as needed. Dom shook his head and simply said, "I can't do that. It dries out too quickly." Then he turned to tend to the pies. Classic.
Thank you Jim and thank you Chowhounds for turning me on to the joy that is DiFara's.
Thanks for a perfect explanation of the right way and the wrong way to approach DiFara's.
Somehow I didn't know about Otofuku, but I'll definitely go soon. Haven't had a good okonomayaki in ages.
I love that area of Little Tokyo. Most of the "ethnic" (ugh, detest that word) nabes are populated by immigrant families, which make for a certain type of vibe and food. There are three nabes where most of the immigrants are youngsters: irish sunnyside, filipino woodside (a slightly different thing, since this is a rare case of second generation kids sticking around the neighborhood), and japanese east village (I'm not counting the Greek 2nd generation in Astoria because they have abysmal taste in food). When this happens, you get not just a taste of "back home", but you get a HIP taste of "back home", which is a different thing entirely. The japanese east villagers have reached an unprecedented level of hipness...far hipper than new yorkers OR japanese, they're a new prototype that will take over the world. I can hardly wait.
re: Jim Leff
I'm sure the food served here is authentic, but it reminded me of pie & mash in London, loco moco in Hawaii and Spam & eggs in the US - namely, the lowest common denominator of quasi-fast food from a given land. I've tried (and liked) many different gruesome dishes in my life, and LOVE every other kind of Japanese food, but I couldn't find much redeeming quality in this stuff. I've tried it both sober and drunk - still no help.
A very unique place that's pretty overhyped in my book. Surly service, too.
Little bit of trivia on Otafuku's name. Otafuku is one brand name of the sauce that's put on the takoyaki & okonomiyaki. Basically it's tonkatsu sauce, only Otafuku sauce is made in Hiroshima & people from Hiroshima generally feel *really* strongly about Otafuku sauce. :-) Makes me wonder if the people who run Otafuku are from Hiroshima.
Below is the link to the Otafuku sauce company page -- their picture of okonomiyaki shows the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (made in layers - egg, cabbage, etc.) as opposed to the Kansai-style okonomiyaki that's mixed up and basically poured onto the griddle. Made some this weekend -- yum.