Okadaman Truck Shows Promise From Their (Albeit Shaky) Debut

Working the streets is not easy. Ask any food truck owner who’s ridden into the belly of the beast that is known as Midtown lunch. There was a lot of press surrounding the Okadaman truck and I imagine many folks were as excited as I was to try them out on their first day. After a minor parking snafu, they ended up on 48th between Park and Madison.

When I arrived a little before 1:00, I saw the crowds waiting. That’s not too unusual even for a veteran truck, but soon I discovered that most of those people had been waiting a long, long time and new customers were practically being turned away. As soon as I tried to place my order, I was told it would be at least a 45 minute wait. When I asked if everything would take that long, the guy on the truck said certain items could be ready in five minutes. That’s quite a change from a full on 45 minute wait! Why didn’t he suggest that? I watched the cooks on the truck and everybody seemed to be moving in slow motion. They all kept their composure, but I don’t think anybody had anticipated (or trained) for a legitimately busy lunch.

The kara-age and yakisoba were both easy to prepare, but the okonomiyaki and takoyaki (the two dishes I was most excited about) were really lagging. So I stuck with the lunch combo ($7.50) that didn’t feature the delayed dishes and I was able to walk away from the truck within a matter of minutes. As I took my bag of food, I heard others who had been waiting ask to change their orders to something quicker.

My hot plate featured a generous side of white rice and raw cabbage with both the kara-age (fried chicken) and yakisoba (fried noodles) mixed together on one side. I have a feeling the presentation was supposed to be a little bit more compartmentalized with the chicken on top of the rice. It didn’t matter too much to me as long as it all tasted good and ended up in my mouth. While I’m certainly a neurotic eater, I’m not one of those who freaks out if my chicken touches the noodles.

The large boneless chunks of kara-age were moist with a very pleasing flavor of salt and lime. The seared meat looked like perfectly browned scallops and I could have eaten them all day long. The only thing missing was some sort of sweet sauce, which I think must have been forgotten in the chaos. The menu lists the chicken as served with ponzu sauce, but it was nowhere to be found. The yakisoba had a nice smoky, slight fishy flavor (there were bontio flakes), but I found it a little too greasy and the fatty pork bits were not as flavorful as that fried chicken. Flavorwise the noodles were great, but the overwhelming grease reminded me of suburban Asian mall food – with that lasting film of grease on my mouth.

Based on the bold flavors, I think there is a lot of potential from this truck. The few Japanese pancakes I saw coming out looked might tasty and I’m dying to try those octopus balls. But if they’re going to survive the crowds, they have to pick up the pace and get the orders correct. Granted this was their first day and I know how overwhelming it can be, so I will most definitely cut them some slack. If they’re smart, they’ll spend a few days in a less demanding area and then when they’ve got their system down set up shop in Midtown. Because if their food is as good as I think it could be, this has the potential of being a favorite around these parts.

Their plan is to try Midtown East again today, most likely at their original planned spot on 45th 48th and Park. But, of course, you should check the ML Twitter Tracker before heading out.


  • Lunchers who don’t feel like waiting for Okadaman to swing by can also check out Otafuku downtown (http://otafukunyc.com/), which serves pretty much the whole entire Okadaman menu for just as cheap.

    I would withhold all judgment until we get a report on the takoyaki and okonomiyaki – doing either right means they’ve got it, getting them wrong means catastrophic failure. The former is pretty labor-intensive but if they know how to put on a show, the’ve got lightning-fast takoyaki turning with long chopsticks at high speed.

  • there is nothing worse than a food truck with whole bunch of slow people.

    • absolutely. but they’re not making no junk kimchi tacos here.

    • I’d speculate it’s more a matter of space. Okonomiyaki take up a decent amount of square footage per pancake. Yakisoba occupies the same griddle/cooktop. Takoyaki requires a finite amount of half-spherical molds and attention to detail per batch. I don’t mean to be an okonomiyaki apologist (how many times has THAT phrase been used?) but it’s obvious there’s still kinks to work out based upon utilization.

      If nothing else, give the guy a week or two – it’s a brand new mobilization of food and we need the variety out there.

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    At Otafuku in St. Marks okonomiyaki takes, at least, 15 minutes or so to prepare. I assume that within time this truck will find its groove within, but do they have a number to call in and order?

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    Even though the prices look pretty awful, I can’t help but be curious about this truck. In response to the okonomiyaki apologists, aren’t all of these items supposed to be convenience foods in Japan?

    • Kinda sorta. From what I know okonomiyaki isn’t as much of a street foot as yakisoba and takoyaki are. Ramen’s higher up on the convenience-food/quick-and-cheap-eats spectrum as well.

      Doesn’t change the fact that other than Otafuku, the izakayas downtown on St. Mark’s and maybe a couple in midtown, it’s not too easy to find.

    • yeah okonomiyaki and the balls take time to make, if already made in advance, it’s not fresh and obviously would taste bad.

      But then it’s hard to satisfy busy lunch people, only having so little time to eat…

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    The prices aren’t out of line with the handful of other places I know in New York that sell okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Probably won’t find their menu items much cheaper unless you move to Osaka.

    I do hope they get the service kinks worked out.

  • They need one of these on board the truck to distract the masses during the long waits


  • You didn’t taste the ponzu? That was the salt and lime!

  • Now that I think about it, this is probably a bad idea…as others have said, okonomiyaki is time consuming to prepare, especially if you have less hot surface space than what you need to cook all pending orders simultaneously (as certainly is the case here). The backlog would be ridiculous. I wonder if there’s a way to pre-cook okonomi/takoyaki without ruining things…if not, this is probably fail for a midtown lunch.

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      I used to work at okonomiyaki and takoyaki place. Yes, we used to always prepare for rush hour by pre-cooking. Its like “par-cooking” in a restaurant, but you have to already have an idea of how many people will be coming (depending on weather, season, etc..) and you must anticipate approximately how many people you think will be coming. If the customers don’t come, then it all goes in the garbage or we take it home for dinner. Part of doing business.

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