Curry Ya is patterned after the numerous curry-style restaurants that proliferate Japan. Curiously, despite the fact that curry really comes from South East Asia, the Japanese consider their version to be Western and specifically English food. Indeed curry in India, for example, can mean a virtually endless combination of spices and colors whereas in England, and consequently in Japan as well, it has been reduced to a single, thick brown sauce served over rice.
The cheapest lunch deal ($8) at Curry Ya includes a house salad and small portion of the house curry (beef, vegetables, pumpkin) served over rice or a special curry that changes monthly. Through the end of February the special curry is a beef served with a sliced hard-boiled egg, dotted with reconstituted raisins. The sauce is not spicy in the least; in fact, it borders on sweet but is still satisfying. When one of the friendly cooks noticed I had eaten all of my heaping portion, still with some some rice leftover, she offered me more sauce. Despite the generous offer, I was already stuffed.
If you go for the $15 lunch special (which on my last visit wasn't listed on the menu but is still available; just ask your server) you will get an appetizer, main course, and desert. The appetizer is the chef's selection of three small amuse-sized portions: a lovely seaweed salad with a tangy sesame ponzu dressing served, a miniature quiche, and either shrimp ceviche or a croquet.
All of the curries come blanketed in the same sauce—a viscous brown affair that can be adjusted from mild to spicy. You get your choice of any of the nine curries available from the regular menu: prime beef, Berkshire pork cutlets, grilled seafood (scallop, shrimp, and squid), chicken, or mixed vegetables. The beef, which I doubt is real prime beef, was inevitably cooked through and consequently a bit tough. I recommend the crispy pork tonkatsu or the grilled seafood instead, or even the "hamburger" curry. Be sure to add the pungent red Fukujin-zuke pickles and the pickled shallots (rakkyo) to add a textural contrast.
214 East 10th Street, New York NY 10003 (b/n First and Second avenues; nycurry-ya.com
The Scene: Clean, modern counter with a menu patterned after Japanese curry houses
The Deal: $8 for house special curry and salad; $15 for any curry from the menu, chef's selection of appetizers, and desert or beverage
Deal Available: 12 to 4 p.m. daily
You can order a soft drink instead of dessert, but I recommend going for the latter—either the yogurt mousse with blueberry sauce, somewhat tart and sour but nicely balanced by the sweetness of the berry compote, or the white wine jelly with sprinkled with blueberries (delicious). The wine has a pleasing spiciness that nicely juxtaposes the tangy berries: a perfect palate cleanse.
The main courses at Curry Ya are decent though not world-beating. The regular prices, between $14 and $18 each, are a bit steep, especially when you can get a more authentic version (at a much better price) at the numerous Indian curry houses on 6th Street. But the lunch specials offer more bang for the buck. The $8 offer is a particularly good value, considering the portion size, but even the $15 lunch is a good deal, considering you get tasty appetizers, a main course, and dessert. While I have a hard time recommending Curry Ya for dinner, I think the lunch deal is worth your time and money.
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