takoyaki, katsu-don at Tampopo
I was reading the exchanges from 7/12 about Tampopo/Porter Sq Exchange and suddenly developed a craving for katsu-don, despite the ferocious heat outside (a bowl of cold soba ramen would have been more appropriate for the weather). Having negotiated rush-hour traffic, I finally made it to Japantown. I plumped for Tampopo, my decision based on the presence of the older guy manning the deep fryer behind the counter (see link/previous threads). Besides katsu-don, I ordered takoyaki - the fried version with spicy mayo, which the waitress said was better than the steamed version ('regular' takoyaki). It was well-fried - slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, with a decent-sized piece of chewy octopus. It was tasty, but after eating a couple of balls (there were 8) I began to get bored with the sameness of the flavour. The spicy mayo was not too exciting either; I would have preferred a more piquant and sour sauce like the one usually served with tonkatsu, which would've provided a better contrast to the taste of deep-fry. I've had takoyaki only a couple of other times before so I'm no expert, but I did like the ones I had at a Japanese eatery near NYU (whose name I can't remember-sorry!)
The katsu-don was, likewise, tasty but not outstanding. They used a good quality pork cutlet, and the breading was crispy and not greasy, but the sauce and seasonings were just average. I usually get katsu-don at Cafe Mami (on the corner, opposite the Japanese bakery)and while the quality is equivalent to Tampopo's, it's cheaper.
Does anyone have a recommendation for katsu-don (it's comfort food for me)?
For dessert I had mango icecream from C&M IceCream (diagonally across from Tampopo). It was creamy and there were small bits of mango in it, but the mango flavor seemed diluted by the creaminess.
Next time I'll try the Unadon at Ottyi (?sp), the stall next to Tampopo, which was recommended by more than a few hounds in previous posts.
Also wandered into Kotobukiya supermkt and noticed that they sell fresh salmon heads (for making salmon head in miso soup).
I know this is the Boston board, but since you mentioned a Japanese place near NYU, I just couldn't help myself. There's a Japanese bakery off Astor Place called Panya that is similar to Cafe Japonaise but far superior. It drives me crazy that I can't seem to find the same stuff back here that I used to get there. They have buns filled with things like spicy tuna and kimchi/tofu that are so delicious; also this thing called curry potato pan which is a savory donut filled with curried potato and topped with that dark Japanese sauce that Cafe Japonaise uses in their potato croquette sandwich (does anyone know what that sauce is called?). I've gotten the tuna bun at Cafe Japonaise in Porter, and it's serviceable, but not as good. Also they have a curry donut there, but they only seem to make it with beef. I haven't been to the one in Brookline. Do they have more stuff there? Also, if anyone knows of another place in the Boston area that makes these kinds of Japanese treats, do let me know.
The sauce I've usually seen served with korokke is thicker than straight worcester... I've only ever known it as "so-su" (sauce in katakana). A number of varieties are readily available at Japanese markets. I don't know the distinctions between them all, I always get Bulldog just because that's what my friends in Japan bought.
Tamar19: the tuna bun at Cafe Japonaise is their worst-tasting filling. Try the Ham and Egg bun (my favourite) or ham and onion (my 2nd fav). I also like the Ham/turkey ham and cheese croissants. If you like the potato croquette sandwich, I recommend you try the chicken cutlet sandwich. It has the same sauce on top.
I found the curry donut too greasy.
I also like Japonaise's breads which are in total contrast to Clear Flour's - while they have a good walnut, raisin and sourdough loaf, most of their breads are soft white breads like the shoku-pan (heavy cream bread). This makes excellent sandwiches (British-style, with the crusts cut off), or toast. I spread on lashings of butter and kaya (an egg-coconut jam from SE Asia - Limster will know what I'm talking about) and it's SOOOO good!
Yes, the Brookline store has more stuff than the Porter Sq outpost.
Chiba: thanks for the info re: so-su topping. It tastes like it has Worcestershire sauce in it, but is much thicker. Will look out for it next time I'm in a Japanese market.
If it sounds like I spend a lot of time at Cafe Japonaise, it's because I do! I'm there several times a week since I live so nearby.
It's not katsu-don, but, if my eyes don't deceive me, the Taiwanese version of comfort food at Taiwan Cafe seems to be the House Special Pork Chop on Rice Platter, for $4.50...I always see lots of these platters go by; 2 deliciously crispy pork chops with spicy cabbage and an egg, over a pile of rice...It's downright obscene, and lots of people seem to be ordering it...My friends who work down there highly recommend it...
BTW, Kotobukiya also owns Blue Fin Sushi, and the sushi stall in the food court..And Sushi Express on Newbury Street.
Yes - the pork chop special is good stuff and lots of it too!
My favorite touch in the dish is the dark soy gravy that they use to moisten the rice (it's braising gravy from braised bacon dishes). I like it so much mainly because it reminds me of the type of food stall back home (fellow Singaporean ju should appreciate this) where a similar gravy (or a curry sauce) is applied to rice just as it is served with a variety of cooked dishes a la steam table.