214 E 10th St
(between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Okay, ignore the little turd in the corner of the plate. Ignore the little frozen green beans as well because they taste like the airplane kind (you know, the kind that has that funny aftertaste of frozen vegetables?). Focus on the perfect mound of rice and the gleaming Japanese vegetable curry.
Zoom in. So many veggies! Curry-Ya is a tiny little restaurant in the East Village that serves up a variety of curries, ranging from the original plain curry ($7), to the homemade hamburger curry ($11), to the berkshire pork cutlet curry ($13). You have the option to add toppings like corn, egg, mini hamburger (see turd-like thing in first photo), etc. If you go at lunch, the curry even comes with a nice simple salad with a homemade dressing that tastes like ginger miso dressing.
Before Curry-Ya, I always just made my own curry. With products like S&B Golden Curry being sold in almost every Asian supermarket, Japanese curry is very easy to make at home. So easy that it has become a staple for potlucks and parties, anything requiring mass production. However, Curry-Ya serves up “gourmet” curry (as they call it), curry that is made fresh and not from blocks of frozen paste. According to their website, the curry is made from a base of chicken and oxtail soup with a variety of vegetables, fruits, and spices. Does that make the curry better than the kind I make at home? Not… really. Curry-Ya’s curry tastes very similar to the curry packs that add apple, my favorite kind! The curry was definitely very yummy, slightly sweet and very fragrant. I just couldn’t taste a big difference between Curry-Ya and my homemade curry (I’m so good. Just kidding, S&B is so good).
The main differences between homemade S&B curry and Curry-Ya curry are the high quality rice (their rice is great) and the variety of toppings. Pictured here is the pork cutlet “topping” ($4) and the fried shrimp ($2). Both of these were much better than the mini hamburger ($3). The mini hamburger was quite dense and lacked any real flavor other than … beef. Both the pork cutlet and the shrimp were succulent and fried to perfection. I guess I could attempt frying up pork cutlets and shrimp but when I’m making curry, it’s usually when I’m feeling lazy. Hence, come to Curry-Ya for these great topping pairings.
Curry-Ya is also great because each table comes with self-serve pickled radishes (so good with the rice and curry!) and fried onion/shallot/garlic (not sure what it is exactly… anyone?) chips, pictured above. The fried chips add just a bit of kick to your curry. I like my curry with lots of kick so always sprinkle like a quarter of the jar on my curry.
In case you’re interested, Japanese curry emerged at the end of the Edo period in 1872 when ports were just starting to open up again. Thirsty for Western culture and influence, the Japanese relished the curry that the British introduced (the Brits used garam masala to create the first curry seasoning). However, the curry that was around was very expensive, and so the Japanese began experimenting and created their own (cheaper) version featuring potatoes, onions, and carrots. The curry that was eventually developed was particularly popular in the Japanese army because of the nutritional value and ease of cooking.