In Williamsburg this week while hoping to check out the new, almost-ready Meat Hook sandwich shop, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Okonomi is now open nearby. The latest from chef Yuji Haraguchi, who has already earned a loyal smorgas-following for his pop-up Yuji Ramen shop, Okonomi is a tiny, unsuspecting sliver of a restaurant on Ainslie Street, just off Lorimer. A simple sign with one Japanese character marks the door, and inside there are just two tables and four bar stools overlooking a tiny open kitchen. But they’re serving some of the most original cuisine I’ve found in Brooklyn lately, a fun take on a traditional Japanese-style breakfast.
Okonomi translates to “as you like it,” but really it means “as the chef likes it.” There’s no menu, and breakfast/lunch here is omakase-style, a prix fixe featuring several dishes of chef-selected small bites. All they ask you to do is choose your fish, and there were four options on the day I visited: hake filet, hake belly, local Long Island tilefish belly, and king mackerel marinated in sake, a luscious slab of fish that arrived seared and solid, looking more like a pork chop than a sea creature, yet each savory bite easily flaked off with just the touch of a chopstick.
Breakfast also includes a small square of Japanese egg omelet, broccoli rabe shirae (dressed in sesame and tofu), pickled daikon with seaweed, plus a bowl of rice, and a miso soup with ramps and turnip tops–no spoon needed. They’ll bring you one if requested, but slurping is encouraged.
The style of cooking utilized here is known as mottanai–a Buddhist concept that literally means “what a waste,” but again, is actually more like the opposite, a commitment to get the most out of every ingredient. For example, bonito flakes are used to make the flavorful dashi broth for the miso soup, as is standard, but instead of discarding them, here the leftover flakes are simmered in chili and served on top of the rice. I’m glad they took the time, because the spicy, slow-cooked morsels of fishy flakes were the tastiest thing on a very tasty menu. All of this food totals up to just $9.80, making for an enjoyable, affordable and healthy breakfast option on a slow morning off. (Though once word gets out, those 10 seats will likely fill up quickly.)
Okonomi is open from 9 to 2 on weekdays and 10 to 4 on weekends for the time being. They plan to open for dinner soon, with an eight-course ramen omakese menu featuring different styles and shapes of noodles.
Okonomi, 150 Ainslie Street, between Lorimer and Leonard, (646) 588-1551