Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Strangely New York: Japadog Brings a Taste of Japan From Canada

The grand opening of the new in New York Japadog restraurant
By Mitch Broder

Mr. Mustard and Miss Ketchup stood before the golden fringe, confirming the event’s significance in New York restaurant history.

Then the man in the giant red bow tie spoke and I wrote down what he said, confirming my significance in New York journalism history.

Noriki Tamura a respresentative of Japadog New York City makes an announcement
“Hello, everybody,” I wrote. “I, Noriki Tamura, represent Japadog. And … today is one of the greatest moments in the history of Japadog. We finally open our new location in New York, which is, of course, the greatest city of the world.”

He got that right, but only because of the opening. Before that, New York had an indefensible culinary gap. We may have had our hot dog restaurants, and we may have had our Japanese restaurants, but only now do we have our first Japanese hot-dog restaurant.

Only now do we have the Terimayo, the hot dog with teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and seaweed. Only now do we have the Kobe, the hot dog with miso sauce, wasabi mayonnaise, and caviar. Only now do we have the Okonomi, the pork sausage with bonito flakes and fried cabbage. And only now can we have those hot dogs with French fries and a Coke.

A delicious hot dog from the kitchen of the new in New York Japadog
That's my dog.
You can see why I made it my business to attend the grand opening of Japadog: I had to have that dog with the teriyaki sauce. I knew that it would be there. What I didn’t know was that hot dogs would be free to the first fifty customers, and I would be number thirty-eight.

Actually I was number one, because I arrived ahead of the opening to speak to the man in the giant red bow tie, who had made the opening possible. Noriki represented Japadog because he invented Japadog. I took him seriously, even though he also wore a sash that said “BOSS.”

He started Japadog in 2005 as a hot-dog stand in Vancouver, shrewdly pouncing on Canada’s own failure to sell German sausage with Japanese toppings. By last year, he was running four stands and his first Japadog store. With a record like that, there was no question that he could start here at the top.

A line forms to order at the new in New York Japadog
That's Joey.
“We have a style that’s totally different,” he said if I can trust Tatsuki Kida, who translated. “It’s one-of-a-kind. It beats all the street vendors.” I asked if he had plans for more stores. “If we succeed in this,” he said, “we’ll be all over New York — and the world. We want to make everyone happy eating hot dogs.”

A few minutes later he was standing on a chair on the sidewalk, repeating that goal. I couldn’t very well disappoint him, so I got in line. I ordered the Terimayo, and while waiting for it I spoke to Joey Heimgartner, who was not only a woman but also the first customer at America’s first Japadog.

“I’ve been walking by, waiting for this place to open for weeks,” she said. “Now it’s finally open, and it’s very exciting.” She needed a change from the Basil Popcorn Chicken she’d been getting at TKettle nearby. She got it in Japadog’s arabiki pork sausage with cheese, which is known as the Love Meat.

I stuck with my Terimayo, with butter-and-soy-sauce fries and a Coke. It was delicious, and not just because the meal would have cost me eight bucks. The bun was large, soft, and warm. The dog was large, tender, and juicy. The seaweed inexplicably worked. And you can’t go wrong with teriyaki and mayo.

I felt happy for Noriki. He worked hard to get here. I knew that some hot-dog chains have failed, but probably none of them had bonito flakes.

On my way out, I thanked Noriki and wished him and Japadog well.

I never did squeeze Miss Ketchup, but don’t think that I didn’t consider it.

New York City diners enjoy a dog at Japadog
Squeeze into Japadog, at 30 St. Mark’s Place, between Second and Third avenues, in Manhattan.

1 comment:

  1. You considered squeezing the ketchup woman??? Words are lacking.