BY CAROLYN ONOFREY
What’s on East 9th Street? (Between Stuyvesant Street & 2nd Avenue) – East Village, NYC
In the heart of the East Village lies this sleepy stretch of 9th Street once home to the Hebrew Technical Institute (1884-1939), a school that was the first of its kind in the United States and Orchidia (closed in 1984), a restaurant and landmark for the Ukrainian immigrants of New York City. Today, the block lives in a thriving area fondly called “Little Tokyo” for it’s many authentic Japanese stops.
Running parallel to the busy St. Mark’s Place, this stretch of East 9th Street is easy to overlook if you don’t have a proper heads up.
210 E 9th Street – Hasaki
Fresh, top quality fish prepared simply is the name of the game at this sushi restaurant. Portion sizes can be small for the price, but most have no complaints when the ingredients speak for themselves so articulately.
212 E 9th Street – Tsampa
In the mood for something a little different? Check out Tsampa for Tibetan cuisine, one of only a handful of Tibetan restaurants in the city. Its Zen like interior is welcoming and cozy and its food is simple and reasonably priced. A cross between Indian and Indonesian, this is a solid place that is a natural choice to wind up at again and again.
214 E 9th Street – La Paella
Established in 1995 La Paella now seems somewhat out of place on a block where Japanese surrounds you. This Spanish tapas restaurant is to most, a welcome interlude to the seemingly endless array of Japanese food in the neighborhood. The comfortable, relaxed atmosphere is good for groups and the food is well prepared. If it’s not sake you’re after, then sangria it is!
218 E 9th Street – Yakiniku West
It might not look like much from the outside, but this no-shoes-allowed Japanese barbecue restaurant that specializes in Kobe beef is sure to please. Try the Kobe beef short ribs (half price on Sundays) or one of the many other cuts of beef with a price point for every budget.
229 E 9th Street – Soba-ya
Specializing in homemade soba and udon noodle soups, Soba-ya is the place to stop if buckwheat noodles are what you can’t get off your mind. Prices may be a bit steep, but for believers, it’s worth every penny. For an extra treat, try the tempura.
230 E 9th Street – Cha-An
You’ll feel like you’re in Japan at this wonderful Japanese tea house located up a narrow flight of stairs. This serene tea house is a popular stop for many, so reservations are suggested unless you have an hour or more to kill before sitting down to sip your tea. Serving small savory bites as well as sweets, expect not your average cup of Lipton.
231 E 9th Street – Robotaya
Select your own fish and vegetables and watch the chefs grill it right in front of your eyes at Robotaya. The atmosphere at this Japanese small plates restaurant is great, the staff polite, and the service attentive yet not overbearing. Sitting at the bar area in the front room is the only way to enjoy this restaurant, but reservations are a must as waits are close to the two hour mark most nights.
232 E 9th Street – Solas
One step above dive, this nicely sized bar/dance club provides NYU types the chance to go out early for drinks and games or late for a laid back dance scene without the hassle of a tough door. The music selection may be a bit tired, but with drinks as cheap as these ($4 and $5 specials) no one is really complaining.
236 E 9th Street – Otafuku
For those who are homesick for real deal Japanese street food, Otafuku is the place to go. Specializing in takoyaki (octopus balls covered in a barbecue-like takoyaki sauce and mayo), this true hole in the wall is about a big as a shoebox and turns out takoyaki as well as wonderful okonomiyaki (a savory Japanese pancake) at record rates. $5 gets you six large balls perfect for snacking, however combo plates are also offered if you’d like to make a meal out of it.
238 E 9th Street – Cloister Cafe
While the faux stained glass interior may be a little hard to swallow, the outdoor garden area is the perfect place to chat with a few friends over dessert and coffee while passing the hookah. Stop by on a warm night to offset the chilly service.
240 E 9th Street – Decibel
Hidden in the basement of the building at #240 East 9th Street is Decibel. A dingy sake bar that dons so much graffiti on the walls that after a few selections off the impressive sake list, you could swear you were in Tokyo in a secret gang lair. Decibel also has a selection of munchies which are best to try when you’ve found yourself one too many sakes deep.
Wall of sake at Decibel