Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Japanese Comfort Food (food)

Now that the weather has shown clear signs of autumn, soul-warming comfort food is on the agenda. While a bowl of hot noodle soup certainly hits the spot, sometimes I'm in the mood for fried meat and hot rice.

Go-Go Curry (38th St/8th Ave)

One of my favorite places for fast, consistent comfort food at a great value. While Japanese curries in general tend to be a bit sweeter, this one tones down the sweetness and the curry actually seems more like a slightly thickened gravy. Accompanying the curry is rice, cabbage, and your choice of (mostly fried katsu-style) proteins available in four different sizes.

Or you can have it all with the grand slam for only $12.50. Pictured here, it includes one pork katsu (cutlet), one chicken katsu, one hard boiled egg, one shrimp katsu, and two berkshire sausages, along with a huge mound of rice and shredded cabbage smothered in their curry. The most disappointing (perhaps not so because my expectations are often low) is the shrimp katsu, with too much coating for very little meat. The pork and chicken cutlets are crispy, but a little on the thin side. It's perfectly fine when accompanied by the curry, but may disappoint those who (probably expect too much) are looking for particularly moist meat. The flavors are right on point though, and my favorite item is the berkshire sausage. The first thing I eat every time, they just burst with flavor with a delightful snap of the casing.

Katsuhama (preferred: 55th St/btw 5th and 6th Ave, original: 47th St/btw 5th and Madison Ave)

For exceptional katsu, Katsuhama is still my favorite place. While the original seems a bit dingy, the newer one on 55th is quite nice. Very bright and clean. The prices are yet again very reasonable, especially when you consider that the rice, cabbage, and pickles have unlimited refills. I stopped by the other night and saw that they now have a $24 prix fixe which is a great deal.

The mortar and pestle filled with sesame seeds. You grind the seeds yourself and then mix in the katsu sauce. Some tartar sauce because I ordered seafood, and some pickled daikon and cabbage.

For the first course, you get to choose one of five appetizers. I went with the sashimi salad, which was prettier and tastier than I would have thought. The miso soup is also unlimited refills.

For the main course, you get to choose one main katsu, and two side katsus. For the main katsu, I chose king salmon, and added one shrimp and one crab croquette. The salmon had good flavor, and the croquette was creamy. The shrimp here is much superior to the one at Go-Go Curry, and the fry job is excellent for everything.

But the real star of katsu is almost always pork, so I ordered an extra a la carte berkshire pork loin (shown here $20 for 180g). The a la carte is just $2 less than the set, but I already had rice and cabbage from the other set. In this case they gave me some potato salad as well. The pork katsu is fried perfectly. Crunchy, juicy, and full of pork flavor. Be careful that the hot mustard is indeed quite spicy. They also feature the berkshire tenderloin, but I feel that the tenderloin is too tender and does not gain from the expert frying.

There is also dessert included in the prix fixe. I chose the red bean ice cream. While there were red beans in it, the base looked and tasted fruity, which felt a little weird.

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