25 Saint Marks Place
You know, I spent a lot of time overseas, in fact four years out of my last 25 I lived in Okinawa Japan. After my first year there had passed, and I had seen and done all the tourist traps, I decided I would view it as a local and not just a Foreigner. It was at this point that I discovered my love for Japanese food. I traveled from one end of the island to the other, going to different restaurants, and not just the Japanese counterparts of American chains such as KFC, A&W, and McDonald’s (which is incredible by the way). I found my way into many Ramen, Curry, and Hibachi restaurants. My favorite in particular though were the Ramen restaurants, the environment was unlike anything I’ve seen. The food was delicious, affordable, and the customer service was unlike anything you could imagine (tipping isn’t a common practice as good service is customary).
So why do I bring this up you ask? Because I was pissed when I came back to the states and had to tip!(lies). Actually it’s because being in one place for four years kinda makes it your home, and while my first home is NYC, my second home is Okinawa; so you can imagine my delight when I came across Kenka. It is the first time since I’ve left Japan that I have not only had an authentic Japanese meal, but a Japanese experience overall.
When I turned into the block I already knew that this was a lively place, crowds of young trendy New Yorkers and foreigners, many of which were Japanese themselves! From the outside the place looks like a culture clash. You have common items seen in many Japanese eating/drinking establishments, but above that looks like there’s a doll cemetery as there is a mass of undressed dolls in a window above. In front of the place is a cut out board where if you stick your head in one end, you look like a Yakuza; if you pick the other side, well….your head will be sticking out of somebody’s ass,literally.
After waiting for about 20 minutes outside and walking in and out of tattoo parlors and head shops on that same strip, my name was called, and my company and I entered the place. It was like if a wave of nostalgia hit me in the face repeatedly. The smells, the electricity in the air from all the lively people, the food on the tables that I passed, I knew this was a hit. Even the way the people greeted me as I entered was authentic…well sorta…close enough. So after a short walk through the dim lit restaurant, we were sat down and asked of we were ready to order (they gave us a menu while we were waiting outside). First order of business was the Sake, and boy did they have quite the list. Names that I hadn’t seen since I left Japan were thrown back in my face. The Sake was warm, and the food was filling.
If you’ve ever been to Japan, you know most places don’t have forks available (unless it’s a curry place), and this place is no exception. I think they may have some, but it’s not set out for you (I’m guessing you gotta ask). The food came and it was delicious, it reminded me of all the times I ate it before. Best part is, when you pay the bill, they give you small cups with sugar to make cotton candy; yes, they have a cotton candy machine.
While the service wasn’t as great as I remembered, the environment paired with the food and great Sake makes it a go to place, and the prices wont make you frown. So check out Kenka and tell em Doom sent ya
*Photo credits to http://bakingmehungry.com*