Shiny, happy Japanese animation-influenced art called anime embellishes all corners of the red-and-white Okamoto Kitchen Japanese comfort food truck. A Japanese maid named Haru-chan, based on Japanese maid culture, winks at you while you ponder between the Japanese fried chicken and curry on the menu.
The truck is the result of a partnership among Gerald Abraham, a former gamer; his wife, Chizuru Okamoto, and gamer Shidosha Hodges.
For the Record
Jan. 9, 10:33 a.m.: An earlier version of this article misspelled Shidosha Hodge's name as Shidosa.
Back in 1991, Abraham was an elite member of the Fighting Game Community. Perhaps you’ve seen these video games or even played them yourself. You know, those mano a mano fighting games such as "Street Fighter" or "Mortal Kombat" in which the object is to beat your opponent senseless in close-quarter combat so you can move on to a stronger foe, and so on. Abraham was so good that he ranked among the top 20 in the U.S. in "Street Fighter 2."
The gaming community is where he first met Hodges. Abraham said Hodges was a friendly rival and possessed a special audacity that Abraham admired. On occasion, he’d come to Abraham’s home unannounced and challenge him during practice gatherings. Over time, a strong friendship developed.
After his gaming career, Abraham moved on to start a visual-effects business that serviced commercial clients. He also married Okamoto, a talented home cook.
Hodges continued in the gaming world by acting as a commentator and host for game-related events and promotions.
Abraham may have moved on professionally, but the gaming bug never quite left his system. So along with his wife, who by now had put in time as a pastry and sous chef at Matsuhisa, Abraham reconnected with his former rival and proposed partnering to start a food truck. But not just any food truck -- a truck that combines Japanese comfort food with Japanese pop culture and video games.
After exactly one year of planning, designing and menu experimenting, the Okamoto Kitchen truck rolled onto the streets of Los Angeles.
The curry ladled up at the Okamoto truck is a European-style Japanese curry known as oufuu. It’s rare to find in L.A. and not sweet like the usual Japanese curries.
Other specialty items on the truck include cheese mochi sticks, a pork chasu sandwich between buns of deep-fried rice, parfaits and coffee jelly.
Being a gaming-inspired operation, Okamoto likes to keep score. Customers rack up points by signing up at the truck’s website. Twenty points are given for each visit (with a minimum of four hours between visits). Points are allotted for tweeting and Instagramming. A widescreen leaderboard displays the rankings. The top customer earns a 75% discount on food purchases.
This mobile amalgamation of Japanese comfort grub, cutesy anime-style graphics, gaming spirit and serious culinary cred aims to offer something for everyone. Are you ready, player one?