When my friend Sarah and I used to play pool, our strategy was to divvy out two tasks: one of us would be “Trash Talk,” while the other ended up being responsible for “Skills.” We were mediocre, at best, and the trash talk definitely didn’t do much to help the game. In the food arena, it’s much easier for me to gain the ability to talk (in general) than it is to develop skills. I can read, taste and travel to be able to speak on a topic, but I lack the patience to actually make many of the things I love to eat. Ask me to steadily cut a crepe, dip anything into chocolate or pan fry something using only wooden skewers? No thank you. I’ll leave that to the professionals.
When I first learned of Freshstreet’s setting up shop inside of Mikey’s Late Night Slice to make takoyaki, I was bitter. Last summer, I’d grown accustomed to their food cart, bearing Japanese-style pork belly crepes, being within walking distance of my house on most Sunday afternoons. My inner trash talk was silenced this past Sunday when I encountered my first-ever taste of their takoyaki.
I was doubly awed by both the product and the process. Making perfectly round, miniature squid-filled dumplings is not a process that someone could fake their way through; one look at the tedious turning of the delightful treats and I knew I was in the presence of true skewer-maneuvering skill.
With each bite balanced on the tiny toothpick-like utensils we were given to eat them, I became more and more hungry for the next bite. Takoyaki is the Osaka-born equivalent of a bag of potato chips; once you open it, you need to have it all. I ordered two kinds. First to our table was the traditional, filled with a hot pancake-like batter mixed with perfectly-cooked squid and topped with Japanese mayonnaise and a ginger-laden sauce and bonito flakes.
The second order was vegetarian, filled with gooey brie and cabbage. It was like okonomiyaki had been covered in cheese and then rolled up into a ball. Though I loved the flavor of the cabbage (and who doesn’t like rich melted brie?) the traditional takoyaki stole my heart.
At five dollars a set (with eight pieces each), I could easily find a place for these guys in my weekly diet. Bonus number one? Their site says they now take credit cards. And number two? If the weather’s rough, diners have access to a small indoor eating area adjacent to the pizza shack. Though I’d love it if they’d still make an appearance or two in my neighborhood, I’ll have to deal with the short commute to the Short North for my fix. I’m willing to go out of my way for skill.
1038 North High Street
(Inside Mikey’s Late Night Slice)