Kirakuya brings Japanese Japanese to Koreatown
I’ve been meaning to stop in for after work drinks at Sake Bar Kirakuya ever since I saw the shimmering curtain sign in the window months ago. By the end of the workday, though, my instinct is usually to get as far from the office as possible and I just keep forgetting to try it.
So, I was excited to find a good excuse to check it out during the day now that they are open for lunch. The other day a friend and I stopped in to see what these new Japanese options are all about.
Regarding the first question that arises when walking into a Japanese place in Koreatown, I can’t say with any measure of expertise whether Kirakuya is ‘really’ Japanese or ‘Korean Japanese,’ but there are plenty of clues, starting with the fact that the website invites emails in English or Japanese, but not Korean. The focus on sake over soju, also clearly sets it apart from the other bars in Ktown – although, duh it is a sake bar.
There’s also the fact that the meal begins without the standard banchan. Instead, our lunch special came with two starters, a salad and this bowl of tofu. I’ve never thought much of tofu, but my recent excursions around Koreatown are slowly changing my opinion. This tofu was soft and custardy, reminding me more of flan than anything else. Of course, being tofu, there isn’t much of a flavor to it, but the bonito flakes and a dash of the soy mixture that came on the side fixed that.
I was so busy with my tofu that the salad went untouched. Really, I never thought I’d ever put those words together, but there you have it.
My friend had the Ten Don ($7.50), tempura fried veggies, shrimp and what he suspected was chicken on rice. I was too busy with my dish to consider encroaching on his, so I’ll have to rely on the fact that it was gone in short order as a signal that he enjoyed it greatly.
I certainly enjoyed my Unagi Don ($8.50), grilled eel on a bed of shredded egg in a bowl of rice. I love eel. The sweetness of the glaze and the texture of the meat always satisfies me.
The other items on the menu under $10 include a sushi plate for $9, hot or cold udon for $7.50 and hot or cold soba noodles for $8.50. It’s definitely not the weather for the hot soup options, but I think I’m going ot have to check out some of those cold noodles pretty soon.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- It’s the closest to authentic Japanese food you’ll find in Koreatown.
- They might actually convert me into a tofu-lover.
- Hello… lunch at a Sake Bar!
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I’m never going to like tofu no matter how you make it.
- I expect banchan in my Koreatown lunches.
- It’s still not Sake Bar Hagi, but it’s getting closer.
Kirakuya, 2 West 32nd Street, 2nd Floor.