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.