A New Japanese Spot in Bushwick Features Great Food and Drinks with a Side of Soft-Core Porn

Photos by Jane Bruce

Even during its final frantic hours before opening, while contractors fiddled with an on-the-fritz air conditioner during a high-humidity, 90-degree heat wave, a visit to Bushwick newcomer, Okiway, made us inordinately happy. For starters, it’s a veritable funhouse of Japanese kitsch, from an impressive, walleyed toy collection circling the ceiling, to magnetic letters declaring “gyoza!” and “arigato!” adorning the steel hood over the kitchen, to a colorful pastiche of retro advertisements in the bathroom, featuring Christmastime flyers for bûche de Noël and a solid amount of soft-core porn.

There are plenty of quirky booze options on hand to help put one in a slightly madcap mood, including wasabi beer, an easy drinking lager with a faint undertone of funk; deceptively sweet but assertively alcoholic sparkling jelly peach sake, which slithers down the throat like a viscous, half-deflated Jello shot; and delicate sake cups that, once filled with liquid, magically reveal spread-eagled portraits of emphatically naked ladies. They were sourced in Paris by longhaired, liberally tattooed, and (improbably for a Japanese restaurant) very French owner, Vincent Michelli, whom, in all deference to our darling husband, doesn’t at all detract from the feel-good atmosphere.

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But over-the-top Japanese pop-culture trappings aside, the most winning thing about Okiway is its devotion to okonomiyaki—those plate-sized, deeply savory, seriously eggy pancakes, generally gobbed with pork belly, sticky otafuku sauce (similar to Worcestershire), squiggles of kewpie mayo and a lively riot of bonito flakes, spurred by the surrounding steam into an undulating hula. And at the Flushing Avenue eatery, they’re as customizable as Chipotle burrito bowls; the traditional Osaka-style omelets can be amplified with squid, kimchi, asparagus, shrimp, shitake mushrooms or even blue cheese, and further modernized in preparations like “Barbecue Okonomiyaki,” piled with pulled pork and barbecue sauce; “The Vegan,” featuring kale, tofu and cabbage; or, in a nod to the roots of their Bushwick neighborhood, even a “Mexican” version, topped with avocado, chorizo, chipotle peppers and crema. Although the most intriguing option at Okiway might just be the seldom-seen Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, straddled atop a thick layer of soba or ramen noodles.

The menu is further fleshed out with an array of izakaya and street food-inspired dishes, prepared mainly on a teppan grill situated directly below the bar. Standouts include wasabi-spiked guacamole scooped up with wonton crisps, fat fried shrimp swiped with smoky sriracha, and buoyant orbs of classic takoyaki (creamy-centered squid balls), which the chef patiently flips over a grooved pan with a pair of fine-pointed chopsticks, until dramatically inflated and uniformly golden.

And the best part is, the prices are oh so right—$5-8 for small plates, $11-15 for large, $9-12 for the eminently shareable okonomiyaki—you’ll have no excuse not to treat yourself to naked lady sake shots.

1006 Flushing Avenue, Bushwick

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