As we've previously noted, those in the Big Apple have quite a few Japanese restaurants to choose from if they want a taste the curry of the rising sun. But more than a few of us know already that the one of the best places to go is actually east of the Hudson, in New Jersey. That's where one will find Mitsuwa Marketplace, which also has locations in southern California and Chicago. Mitsuwa is primarily a grocery store, but also deals in various other Japanese wares, ranging from books to cell phones.
The real attraction, thought, is most definitely its cafeteria. Pack into the shuttle bus at Port Authority and endure the bumpy and sometimes lengthy ride to Edgewater, NJ, and you'll find a cafeteria full of authentic Japanese cuisine from ramen to beef bowls. There's one exception: curry. But, as I discovered during one random Wednesday excursion, that curry can be found in one of the store's food vendors, Kayaba.
The Kayaba weekday curry special is just six dollars, considerably less than the going rate in the city. Your six bucks get you a ridiculously gigantic plate filled to the brim with curry and rice, considerably more than what those aforementioned establishments will offer. There are no toppings to choose from -- sorry, breaded pork cutlet fans -- but it doesn't matter, since what's provided is more than enough and then some. Aside from the gigantic portion, one will find huge chunks of potato and carrots in the mix, and meat lovers will be happy to know that nice cuts of chicken are also part of the roux as well. As for the sauce itself, one will instantly fall in love with the sweet flavoring, nice and smooth with a hint of honey.
Initially, one will simply have a ball with the pure spectacle of it all, but halfway through is when reality settles in. As pleasant as the sauce is, it's also on the thin side: I don't want to use the term "watery," since it's not that bad, but it's still easily the thinnest sauce I've personally encountered. The roux is very much on the mild side and there's no way to bump up the spiciness. You may find yourself struggling to finish the plate, not just due to the volume of food but the fact that it's just boring.
Still, Kayaba's curry has value. It's sort of like what you'd find at an all night curry house in Tokyo near a train station... just not one of the best ones. Still, definitely worth a shot, at least once. Just save yourself some room for Mitsuwa's array of fine desserts..
Kayaba (at Mitsuwa, New Jersey)
595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ 07020
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., 7 days
Toppings Available: None (see review)
Spice Levels: None (see review)
+ Best value in NYC, hands down
+ Gigantic portions
- Not always available
- Sauce is on the thin side
Verdict: Kayaba's curry special is a more than decent alternative to the usual offerings found in NYC. You'll get your money's worth, that's for sure, though you might still feel a bit let down in the end due to the lack of options and thin sauce.