Lunch for One: Curry-Ya
Curry-Ya has always been a quiet but reliable spot in the East Village, ever since it opened two years ago. The prices are slightly high Japanese curry, which may explain why this place is rarely full. Owners of the restaurant, however, recently dropped prices across the menu and also added two new non-curry dishes which are also served at lunch. One of those dishes is Hamburg Stew ($11), an "Asian-Western" style dish popular in states like Hawai'i but infrequently encountered in New York.
The order comes in two separate dishes. First, a plate of hot white rice, on which you ought to spoon over the condiments of pickles, ginger and radish, along with crunchy dried onion flakes. There's is a mini Staub cocotte filled with a cheddar cheese-topped hamburg stew. What is hamburg stew exactly? Think of a cross between meatloaf and an obese hamburger patty—though the "hamburg" has a distinctly Asian flavor that sets it apart, a mix of black pepper, minced onions, and garlic, perhaps a splash of soy sauce. The meaty concoction is pan-fried and served in a "stew," a red wine enhanced demi-glace made sweet with tomato sauce.
It's thick and similar to Japanese curry in texture and appearance, though with an unmissable sweet tang. Spoon the hamburg from the cocotte and over your plate of rice. Some people blend the cheddar cheese into the sauce, but I prefer it in one big, intense, melty mouthful nestled between rice and a chunk of the hamburg—a creamy, salty foil to the sauce. The dish almost appears cartoon-ish, as a friend once remarked, and really, that's how so many Asian-Western dishes come across.