Restaurant Feature: Ootoya
When most people think of Japanese food, they think of sushi, sashimi, and donburi. Interestingly enough, this is not the most common type of food that you would find in the average Japanese household. Ootoya is one of the few Japanese restaurants showcasing ichiju-sansai, also known as Japanese homestyle cooking.
Although you can certainly order your favorite sushi and nigiri at Ootoya, their focus is a “mom’s home cooking” style food that anyone from Japan can relate to. With a dedication to fresh ingredients and a delicate balance of flavors and textures, Ootoya introduces Western diners to an entirely different Japanese culinary palette.
We spoke with Mr. Yoshimoto from Ootoya to get a better idea of the restaurant’s values and popular dishes.
What is the concept behind Ootoya? What makes it unique?
Basically, we serve well-balanced set menus of Ichiju-sansai, also known as “one soup and three vegetables” in Japanese. In Japan, everyone has at least 2-3 ichiju-sansai meals per week, largely due to its nutritional balance. This style of cuisine provides a healthy variety of proteins, vegetables, and carbohydrates to fuel you through your day.
Aside from its focus on nutritional balance, it provides diners with a variety of flavors to enjoy across various dishes. This variety of flavors ensures satisfaction and enjoyment after each meal, while at the same time, encouraging mindful eating habits. By placing a big focus on using fresh, additive-free ingredients, we are able to offer the same quality as Ootoya in Japan.
What are some of your signature dishes?
Our Kaisen Don is a popular dish that includes an assorted selection of seasonal sashimi served on top of sushi rice. Customers also love our Shima Hokke Set, which is essentially grilled mackerel served with Japanese grated radish. This also comes with rice and an appetizer of choice.
The Washu Beef Sukiyaki Nabe, or Japanese hot pot, is another fan favorite. It comes with thinly sliced Washu beef and vegetables in a soy sauce inspired by an original sweet Sukiyaki sauce and is served directly in a hot pot. We always recommend that customers try this with Onsen Tamago. Many customers ended up getting extra beef to soak up all the sauce at the end!
When did you start using rice from the The Rice Factory for your dishes and why?
Originally, we were using Tamaki Gold Rice, also known as Koshihikari rice, produced in CA. However, we found that it didn’t have a sweet enough taste when cold and therefore didn’t meet our standards for takeout. Around the time when we figured this out, we were introduced to the Rice Factory’s rice. Once we discovered that the flavor doesn’t change whether it is freshly cooked or cold, we decided to switch immediately. For us, it’s the perfect rice brand, because it also perfectly suits our onigiri (rice ball) dishes.
How have customers been responding to the rice from the Rice Factory?
It’s been very positive. Our clients from cultures that enjoy rice as a staple and appreciate its unique flavors, such as Japanese and other Asian cultures, have been finding it to be delicious. They enjoy eating it by itself and often order extra potions of rice with their meals. On the other hand, our clients who are not accustomed to eating rice by itself have been enjoying it with toppings and sauces.
Do you have any news or upcoming events at Ootoya that you would like to share?
The Chelsea store is celebrating its 10th anniversary and just completed a major renovation. We just reopened on September 20th, and are excited to showcase our new and improved dining experience. Come and visit us to enjoy your classic Ootoya favorites at our new Chelsea location!
At the same time, we have also made some menu changes to cater to a wider audience and different dietary restrictions. We now offer new menu items such as the Vegetable soy milk hot pot, as well as the beef culet in an earthenware pot curry.
Do you have a message that you would like to share with our readers?
After making it through the COVID pandemic, we have a newfound connection to our mission, which is to deliver the essence of Japanese cuisine to our customers through high-quality home-cooked meals. We continue to provide safe and reliable meals to our clients by constantly sourcing only the best authentic Japanese ingredients, including the best Japanese rice. Come taste the difference for yourself!
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