What do sashimi and tartare have in common? Ugh, yes, I know they’re both raw. It was a trick question–no points for you! Correct answer? They’re both things I’m very familiar with yet never had, would gladly eat, and would probably love. What’s the hold-up then? Couldn’t tell ya. Most likely I’ve just been too tempted by other things on a menu to order either. While tartare remains elusive to my palate, I, at last, ordered and enjoyed my first sashimi meal at Ootoya.
Ootoya is a Japanese restaurant that focuses on home cooking and every day meals. Their website expresses how some of the more popular Japanese dishes like sushi and tempura aren’t really as common as others that classify as “ofukuro no aji,” or taste of mom’s home cooking, which one prepares with fresh ingredients and balance. Furthermore, the restaurant’s specialty is “teishoku,” or the traditional set-meal style. See how in the picture there are all those extra little bowls and dishes?
One of the most popular items at Ootoya is the kaisen don, which is a sashimi rice bowl. It’s possible to get a mini version of it, but I wanted the most variety as possible so I went for the full-size one. Plus, this was my first sashimi meal, remember? I had to do it big.
The kaisen don here is subject to change based on what’s available, but you’ll most likely find a combination of blue fin tuna, amberjack, scallop, salmon, uni, eel, and roe, all carefully placed and layered on top of rice. As I’m writing this, I’m having such strong taste memories of how smooth and meaty and tender and fresh the fish pieces were. Drooool. I knew I wasn’t going to need any convincing to like sashimi, but now I’m really wondering what the heck was I doing this whole time by not ordering it more frequently.
There are other types of sushi bowls you can order, and like mine, they all come with miso soup, homemade pickles, and steamed egg custard. There’s also hot pot like the very delicious looking buta yasai nabe (steamed pork belly slices, tomato, and potato in a soy-bonito stock), bowls like gyu shio koji don (grilled and sliced, marinated washu beef with mashed potato and water cress), soba noodles, and yakitori (skewered foods).
Ootoya seems like it runs such a precise operation from the interior decor down to the dishes, and of course, the food. This isn’t the place to go for cheap eats, but it is the place to get high-quality Japanese food. And if all the Japanese food you’ve had is sushi (and especially if it’s the kind from the grocery store that comes on that plastic fake grass), then you owe it to yourself to go to Ootoya and experience the cuisine in a whole new way.
8 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011