Japadog on St. Marks: A First Glimpse

Why does my East Village hot dog look like an abstract painting?

Twenty-four hours ago, Japadog -- a Vancouver hot doggery with one store and four carts -- opened its first American outlet on St. Marks between Second and Third avenues. It specializes in sausages (not just hot dogs!) dressed with a predictable series of Japanese toppings, including shredded nori, grated daikon, miso paste, teriyaki sauce, and bonito flakes.

An arsenal of quality condiments awaits.

The sausages run to all-beef franks, pale unsmoked pork bratwursts, chicken sausages, and a couple more kinds made of pure pork. These links are about 1.5 times the size of the usual New York hot dog, and the price for a dressed dog hovers near $5. A combo with canned beverage and skinny fries included is another $3. This seems rather expensive for a weenie, but then you're paying an extra tariff for zaniness.

The fries, by the way, are none too good by themselves, but are improved 100 percent when they become vehicles for a series of gratis toppings that include powdered seaweed, shichimi and garlic, curry, wasabi, and black pepper. These toppings are incredible, and it's too bad you can't get any of them at places with better french fries. That said, in the context of doggin' it, and with the toppings, the fries are just fine.

At a first glimpse, a friend and I ordered #1 and #2, Terimayo and Oroshi, respectively. The first, a beef dog, sports teriyaki sauce, shredded nori, and "Japanese mayo," which seems a lot like squirtable Hellmann's, only starkly whiter. The second is a bratwurst with grated radish and a relish that seemed to be mainly chopped scallions. #1 was better than #2, but both suffered from a kind of opulent flavor confusion, and the toppings seemed a bit random. (In other words, I think I'd rather create my own combos.)

Bland on bland: The #2 dog is a very plain-tasting bratwurst topped with an even plainer grated radish. An interesting study in reticent flavors.

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