3-D art or food? The okonomiyaki at May Chan Ramen and Robatayaki. (Click to examine more closely).
A couple of months ago, May Chan Ramen and Robatayaki dropped like a piece of fruit from a tree into the dead center of the East Village. The conjoining of a ramen place and a robatayaki (Japanese grill) seemed odd, but that was hardly the limit of the menu, for there were Korean dishes, too (suggesting a Korean ownership), and a seemingly random collection of other Japanese dishes that might have been plucked from any pan-Japanese menu in the neighborhood.
The okonomiyaki was curious. The dish’s name roughly means “cook what you like,” but, since there was only one variety offered at May Chan with no options, what it meant in this context was “cook what we like.” While the usual okonomiyaki is a savory and often gooey pancake studded with things like shrimp, octopus, corn, and noodles, at May Chan it’s a freestylin’ and totally weird construction. On the bottom layer is shredded cabbage, with a sort of gateau of thin wheat-flour crepes, or maybe I mean tortillas, above that. Interspersed with the tortilla crepes are swatches of lean pork, and the tortilla crepe layers are inundated with sauce that tastes like ketchup with some sriracha thrown in. On top of the whole thing is a laboriously squirted lattice of mayonnaise, an addition that handily lands May Chan’s okonomiyak in the Gutbomb Hall of Fame.
Another usefulness at May Chan is the $5 half-bowl of ramen (from a choice of three varieties), offered every day after 4 pm. 119 Second Avenue, 212-982-4285
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 23, 2009