A new East Village Japanese restaurant specializing in okonomiyaki and takoyaki already has plans to expand like wild in the New York area.
Dokodemo opened last week at 89 East 4th Street near 2nd Avenue, with 22 seats and a simple menu of just yakisoba noodles, okonmiyaki, takoyaki, and some sides like matcha potato chips. It’s the first U.S. business for veteran Japanese restaurateurs Shin Takagi and Kazu Kamehara, who own a chain called Yakitateya that has close to 100 locations in Japan. It is similar to Dokodemo.
Takagi tells Eater they plan to turn Dokodemo into a chain here, too. They’re already seeking out locations in the New York and New Jersey area, and he hopes to get 10 or 15 off the ground within the next three years. If all goes well, he’d double the locations in five years.
The plan is to make Japanese food accessible, with prices between $5 and $15 “so that more people can enjoy actual authentic Japanese food,” Takagi says. In the East Village, an order of yakisoba with pork costs $9.50, and an order of the Japanese savory pancake okonomiyaki starts at $9.25.
“There are not fast food Japanese restaurants in the States,” he says. “Even ramen noodles are considered fast food in Japan. Here, they charge at least $15 for one bowl.”
The duo first decided to tackle New York after seeing how popular the sushi burrito was. They loved the idea but were baffled that the owner of the business, Uma Temakeria, wasn’t Japanese. “I was like, ‘Why are Americans using Japanese culture to do business and make money?’” Takagi says. “I figured I could do Japanese food, by a Japanese person.”
Takagi and Kamehara are not the only Japan-based restaurateurs trying to make it big in New York. Tons of chains from Japan have been opening in the last couple years, including Ichiran, TsuruTonTan, and Zauo, a restaurant where people literally fish for their dinner.
Dokodemo’s expansion plan might sound ambitious, but other players are already making headway on growth. Japanese steakhouse chain Ikinari will have seven locations in New York before the end of the year.