Late night dining seemed to be the norm during spring break – after all, I wanted to fit in as many meals as possible over the course of a day! Rai Rai Ken was my favorite late night treat. Though often stuffed from dinner I always managed to make room for a 11pm bowl of curry ramen and curry rice. Curry anything, and I’ll love you for it.
Haven’t been to Tokyo yet (hopefully this August!) but I was told that the setting of Rai Rai Ken is similar to many ramen shops in Japan. A long narrow restaurant that barely seats a dozen, my immediate thought upon walking in was, “man, this feels cozy!” (in a good way, of course) The room was warm and smelled of homey noodles and soup, a slight scent of fried katsu and…onions. There were definitely onions floating in the air.
The Curry Ramen cures everything that doesn’t need to be cured. A steaming warm bowl of thick broth heavy with expected deep warm, just a tad of spicy curry flavors that mark any version of this dish. The noodles had the right bite balance between chewy and soft, and paired well with hearty slices of sweet pork, a perfectly boiled egg and a requisite scattering of green onions.
On another occasion I had the beef curry rice. The rice was preceded by a simple bowl of clear broth (same broth used for the plain ramen?). Though flavorful, I found it to be on the sweet side and unusually oily. Unlike spicy oils often found in Chinese food, the oil here did nothing for the soup. The aroma and rich flavor of the soup was enjoyable but a greasy aftertaste left much to be desired.
Ah, nothing like beef curry and rice with a lots of pickled ginger on the side. I could eat curry rice everyday of my life! This was a warm, cuddly dish. Soft grains of tummy soothing white rice with thick Japanese curry, sweetened by apples and accompanied by chunks of softly stewed beef. The ginger is necessary to provide what I feel to be tart cleansing bites, something to offset the monotony of repeated spoonfuls of curry and rice (not that that’s bad or anything!) Only complaint about this dish was that the curry was served at a lukewarm temperature. Aside from that, it reminded me much of the Curry House back home in Hawaii. A good bowl of reliable curry that doesn’t quite blow you away but leaves you very happy. Sometimes that’s all you need.
Rai Rai Ken
214 E 10th St
New York, 10003