tired of the normal lunch places near grand central and prompted by the many postings about japanese curry lately, I decided to find an inexpensive japanese curry dish. After confirming that Hanami was closed, as Eric Eto mentioned, I went wandering north and eventually came across this obscure place called Izakaya Merry on 51st street between 2nd and 3rd).
The place is a total trip, to say the least. It's located directly underneath an indian restaurant called Amma, on the sub-street level. I walked into the place and felt like I walked into someone's living room. I opened the door and found myself alone in a small room with three tables, a wet-bar and a cat sitting on the bar. I had to call out to find out if anyone lived/worked there. A nice Japanese gentleman came from the back and handed me a menu.
The menu said they made "homestyle Japanese" (which I believed in a very literal sense) and offered only a few dishes like broiled eel, teriyaki chicken, beef curry, etc. The lunches are all $6.50 (curry was $7.50). There was a japanese-only menu that remained a mystery to this non-japanese customer.
Anyhow, despite my serious misgivings about eating at a place with a cat hanging out in the dining area, I gave in to my curiousity and ordered the beef curry. While I'm not an expert on Japanese curry, the meal was really good. It came on a huge plate with rice. The curry was sweet, with a hint of something like banana or plaintain. Very interesting, but very good.
Throughout the whole time, I was the only one in the place, aside from the owner and the cat, that is. I entertained myself by watching the guy's VCR that had this Japanese TV show on it that looked like a cross between the Price is Right and Iron Chef.
Honestly, it was just as though I had accidentally walked into this nice Japanese gentleman's small apartment and he offered to cook me lunch. He doesn't even accept tips because, "no waitress, just me. and I just cook."
I'd love to hear about someone else's experience at the place, if anyone has gone. If you decide to go (which I recommend) a couple of caveats: first, don't expect a restaurant experience. Expect to get the kind of meal you would if you joined a Japanese friend at home for dinner. Second, don't go if you are allergic to cats.
246 East 51st Street (Between 2nd and 3rd)