Cocoron, the beloved soba shop owned by Yoshihito Kira, has a new sibling, and it vends another relatively unusual (at least for this city) Japanese specialty. Goemon Curry (29 Kenmare Street; 212-226-1262) is now open for business, serving, as its name suggests, Japanese curry.
Earlier this month, Goemon unlatched its doors for a soft opening, and it’s currently selling a short list of Japanese curries from the northern region of the country, and cities like Hokkaido and Sapporo.
The roux-based options are best for Japanese-curry newbies. Just four selections are available in either medium ($11 to $14.50) or large portions ($13 to $16.50): plain curry with chicken and beef stock, plain with carrot and potato, vege vege (with vegetable stock tomato, Japanese yam, shiitake, mushroom, zucchini, and okra), and vege neva natto (vegetable stock with fermented soybean, yam, shiitake, zucchini, and okra). With a somewhat similar consistency to thicker Indian variations, these are made from a gravy base with more than 30 spices, including clove, thyme, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, ginger, and coriander. And each one is offered with its own heat level, starting at medium (one) and working up to “Extra Flamey” for an additional $2. If you like heat, start with at least the super hot (five). We ordered the very hot at level four, and were nowhere near breaking a sweat.
In the motherland, most home-cooks purchase a pre-made powder mixture for curry, but at Goemon, chef Mika Oie makes it from scratch. A number of toppings are offered to go along, ranging from spicy Mexican pickles and pickled onion to boiled or poached egg to chicken katsu and boiled beef. On a recent visit, a server suggested we add cheddar cheese, which ended up being kind of lost among the complex spices of the dish. The chicken katsu, however, was tender, crisp, and not the least bit greasy.
The Yakuzen soup curry has more going on in terms of proteins and vegetables, but it is exactly as it sounds, curry in broth. With stock made from chicken, bonito flakes, and the same spice blend, it’s still flavorful, it just doesn’t pack the same punch as the roux-based alternative. The setup is comparable. Five options are featured in medium ($13.50 to $18) and large portions ($15.50 to $20). Each comes with carrot, potato, boiled egg, and rice, but choices include different variations of vegetable, grilled chicken leg, and grilled pork. A separate list of paired toppings are listed under the soup with selections like Japanese pumpkin, spinach, cheddar cheese, natto (fermented soy), and grilled chicken or pork.
Although Japanese curry is hard to find in NYC, it’s been growing in popularity in northern Japan, where Oie is from, since the Eighties or Nineties. So the concept was sprouted from her affection for the dish. “Mika loves soup curry,” says manager Haruki Homma. “She’s never had it in New York, so she wanted to bring it for New Yorkers to try it.”
The menu is matched with a succinct list of beverages including tea, Sapporo on draft, soft drinks, a couple sake options by the bottle, and mango or plain lassis.
Goemon plans to expand its food offerings in the coming weeks.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.