Okonomi: a perfect Japanese breakfast


Okonomi
150 Ainslie St
Brooklyn, NY 11211

We were told the wait was two and a half hours. We waited two full hours. And. It. Was. Worth. It.

Okonomi is a tiiiiiny little Japanese restaurant tucked away on the north side of Williamsburg. It opens from 9am-3pm on weekdays, and 10am-4pm on weekends (at night, the restaurant becomes Yuji Ramen). It serves only traditional Japanese ichiju-sansai set meals for breakfast and lunch. “Ichiju-sansai” literally means  “One soup, three dishes”  – aka a healthy set meal.


I was pretty skeptical with the raving reviews. How good could breakfast really be? I did my little Yelp search beforehand and saw all the photos. The food looked pretty and small – usually the opposite of how I like my food. We got there at 10:30am on a Saturday and already saw a long line forming out the door. Someone sat outside with a suitcase – that’s when you know the place is good. That person NEEDED to eat here before jetsetting off.


Two full hours later, me, N.T., B.J., and A.H. got seated across from this couple.


You can only order the ichiju-sansai (set menu) (~$30), but can choose your fish. We had a choice of Spanish mackerel, some kind of tilefish, and a sashimi over rice bowl. I got the Spanish mackerel, which is pictured here along with all the other dishes. (FYI those flowers were real :))


So… this fish was casually probably the best fish of this kind that I’ve ever had. Seriously. It was so, ugh, incredibly fresh. Tender. Sweet. Fishy in the right way (and not that fishy really – just tasty). Not too salty. Not too bland. It was perfect. Really perfect. Its companions were also quite delicious. Clockwise starting from the greens on the left: kale greens lightly dressed, omelet cube that is so creamy, boiled/poached daikon with just a little bit of miso on top, some watermelon radish salad thing, and a pickled radish + carrot thing with sesame seeds. The last thing is a staple at Ootoya, and I’ve never liked it until now at Okonomi. Everything was just right. Hard to explain that any further.


Equally amazing to the fish was the rice and poached egg combo. The egg is $2 but 1000% worth it. Don’t even come if you don’t intend on getting the egg. The egg is cooked, according to the NYTimes review, for 23 minutes at 149 degrees Fahrenheit. The egg’s belly is decorated with a little dab of shichimi togarashi (that red seasoning mix). You then mix the egg with the multigrain rice and it is, oddly, the best thing you’ve ever had.

Everything is so simple, yet, as someone who cooks the majority of the week, I know that the simple things can be the most difficult to master. I imagine every bite of what you have at Okonomi was handpicked by someone who identified the best part of that ingredient.

Despite how small the meal looked, it was actually perfectly filling (and you guys know how much I need to eat). They’ve really figured out the whole perfection thing. Nothing was too this or too that. I left feeling just right. I highly recommend getting to Okonomi early and putting your name down while you hang out at one of the neighboring cafes.  

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