Despite the fact that Japan is quite a few miles away, Californians still have a few dedicated curry houses to chose from. Meanwhile, we New Yorkers have precious few -- only about two, off the top of my head. So what's a Japanese curry fanatic in the Big Apple to do? Well, there are plenty of Japanese restaurants to choose from, which often or not will serve curry, even if their primary focus is sushi.
One such place is Sushi Ariyoshi, near Union Square. It's a fairly nice, almost upscale sushi joint that's reminiscent of what you'll find in the metropolitan parts of Japan, offering a multitude of sushi, yakitori, and udon dishes. The curry plates are only on the lunch menu, but if you ask for one in the evening, the chef will make it -- provided you pay an extra $2. This is a considerable sting given that the lunch prices are already a bit on the high side, from $8.50 to $10.50.
You do get a tremendous amount of food in return. The amount of curry and rice on Ariyoshi's plates is practically ridiculous, so come only if you have a completely empty stomach. You'll also find a decent handful of options. While most places only have one curry sauce, at Sushi Ariyoshi the vegetable, chicken, beef, and seafood curries have their core ingredients simmered for almost an entire day, giving each a completely unique flavoring.
You can't adjust the spice levels of each, but their beef curry is spicier and hotter than the chicken. But it's mostly on the mild side right across the board. (The only one I can't personally vouch for is the seafood sauce, which apparently features sushi-quality shrimp, scallops and squid, because I'm allergic.)
As for the curry roux itself, it's simply phenomenal: thick and rich, thanks to the prolonged cooking period, and a bit on the sweet side. I hear milk and apple are key ingredients, but I definitely detected a hint of honey during my various taste tests. Even in the non-veggie plates, there are nice thick chunks of carrots. And the ratio of sauce to rice is absolutely perfect.
When it comes to toppings, only two options are available, which is where Sushi Ariyoshi falters. The chicken katsu was fine enough, but the pork I had was a total train wreck. Maybe I got a bad cut, but it was extremely dry and filled with nothing but fatty tissue. It was enough to almost singlehandedly ruin the entire meal. Otherwise, Ariyoshi was a fine dining experience -- just avoid the toppings like the plague. Even the chicken, which wasn't bad, wasn't worth the added cost on top of an already expensive plate of curry and rice.
810 Broadway (between 11th & 12th Street), New York, NY 10003
Hours: 11:30 am - 10:30 pm Mon-Sun, 11:30 am - 10:00 pm Sunday
Toppings Available: Chicken cutlet, pork cutlet
Spice Levels: None (see review)
+ Phenomenal curry sauces
+ Massive portions
- High prices, especially for dinner
- Pork katsu topping was no good
Verdict: If you don't mind spending a little bit extra, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the subtle variations in Sushi Ariyoshi's four distinct curry sauces. But the poor-quality katsu really hurt the overall score.