There are certain storefronts in NYC that seem haunted. Restaurant after restaurant opens in the space only to be closed a few weeks later. Like the corner spot at West Houston and Varick streets that has hosted three restaurants in as many years. And 71 Clinton Street.
First, in December 2010, it was Patate Fellows, with a Japanese fried chicken focus, then in late May 2011 it was rechristened Hachember. Two weeks ago, the LES hole-in-the-wall was born again. This time as Dodom Pa.
Choose to saddle up to the bar or take your beers at a table in the wide, shallow space. Then glance through the plastic-sheathed place-mat menus to get a feel for what you’re in for. There’s plenty of sakes, both Kirin and Sapporo on tap, and a great shochu selection, including both sweet potato and barley-based liquors. Get it straight or formulated into a cocktail like the grapefruit shochu sour, a squeeze-your-own-grapefruit-and-add-it-to-your-glass affair.
A couple of bites and a few drinks is all you need at this Japanese bar. Yakitori selections include chewy chicken hearts skewered four to a stick (with salt or soy sauce, your choice) and a trio of unfortunately bland tsukune, chicken meatballs. Instead opt for the gyoza, which are fried casserole style in a personal cast-iron skillet. Five to an order, the lacy edges and juicy, scallion-laden centers best the local dollar orders by a long shot.
The “fried” section holds crunch-encapsulated oysters, agedashi eggplant, and pork katsu. Here, the pork is served minced and wrapped around sticks (as opposed to the traditional cutlet style) before being fried. Finished with an optional miso sauce, the bite is a perfect salty-sweet match for your beverage of choice. You wouldn’t be remiss to take two orders and call it dinner.
Right now there’s an opening deal that scores you five wings and five bottles of beer for $12, though the proportions of this offering feel odd. Nevertheless, it’s sure to draw in thirsty passersby. They’ll come to drink, then fall in love with the food. First the drunks, then the foodies, then everyone else.