The East Village's Jimmy's No. 43 hosts all manner of culinary events—chili cook-offs, Slow Food dinners, popular bacon and beer nights—but I'd never experienced anything like last Thursday's gastronomic double-header. Not only was it local oyster night; there was a Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki party going in the back room.
The home team: Local oysters, specifically Mystics from the Connecticut side of Long Island Sound. Usually I take mine neat, slurping the bivalve along with its briny liquor. These were incredibly fresh, so much so that my buddy Jonathan, who does not share my raw oyster enthusiasm, enjoyed them. After a half dozen or so, I reined myself in because okonomiyaki awaited. (The fact that Jimmy's will be having local oyster nights every Thursday from 6 to 10 helped ease my pain.)
Visitors: Despite years of izakaya field research, I'd only eaten okonomiyaki a couple of times. The loose amalgamation of chopped cabbage, mixed with egg batter, and various and sundry ingredients (the name more or less translates to fried favorites) never really grabbed me. Kazuko Nagao, publisher of Japanese foodie web site pecopeco!, assured me that not only were okonomiyaki from her home town delicious, she'd never seen them in a New York City restaurant.
So, what makes Hiroshima okonomiyaki different? First of all, batter is poured on the griddle as opposed to being mixed with chopped cabbage.
Then add some yakisoba noodles and "a lot of cabbage." After that comes some bean sprouts and pork belly.
But what really takes Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki over the top, turning into it the Japanese version of Western New York garbage plate, is the addition of a fried egg.
These bad boys were hit with some sweet Otafuku sauce before being served to the hungry crowd. Nagao and her team worked for more than two hours churning out okonomiyaki like hotcakes.
As you've no doubt guessed Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is drinking food. Jimmy-san chose three brews for the evening: Baird Angry Boy brown ale, which comes from a brewpub at the base of Mount Fuji; Hitachino White, a Belgian-style ale; and Hitachino XH, a strong ale aged in sake casks. For one night Jimmy's No. 43 truly became what I've always thought of it as: an American izakaya.
No doubt you could find an English recipe for Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki somewhere on the interwebs, but this Japanese recipe complete with cartoons is a classic. Can someone please tell me why panel 7 shows the little girl with a thought bubble of what looks to be a kitten?