I love walking down St. Marks at night. There’s this liveliness that lingers in the air under the musky yellow streetlights, and all the yakitori and izakaya signs bring back good memories of the time I spent in Japan a couple of years back. Just seeing the street puts me in the mood for a night of drinking Kirin Ichiban and eating meat skewers to my heart’s content.

Enter Kenka: a wild, feudal-sex themed Izakaya that boasts loud Japanese signage and graphic flowing banners. It fits right in with all of the other Japanese spots on St. Marks, but is definitely… unique. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the banner depicting a woman getting her crotch swallowed by an octopus. Yeah, an octopus. Kenka is all kinds of weird and is definitely NOT a good choice for a first date. It is, however, a great place to do sake bombs after work.

The menu is a clusterfuck of food photos, cartoon bondage, and this boisterous font that has the spirit of a Japanese man yelling at you. I had a great time ogling over how cheap the drinks were and skimming through what felt like an endless amount of choices. Kenka definitely has the cheapest beer I’ve found in the city ($1.50 glasses, $8 large pitchers), and the food was pretty cheap too ($8 for a okonomiyaki).

The best part about the food at Kenka was ordering it. We ordered the yakitori platter, okonomiyaki, agedashi tofu, and salmon chazuke. We were starving and tipsy, and we couldn’t even get through a third of the skewers on the platter. The chicken was rubbery and unseasoned, the meatball things tasted like cat food, and the squid was sickeningly fishy. The okonomiyaki was okay at best, and the agedashi tofu was slimy and tasteless. In hindsight, the red flags were obvious. The expansive menu and cheap prices should have tipped us off, but I guess we were just too hungry and excited to realize.

The general consensus on Yelp is that you don’t go to Kenka for the food, you go for the drinks and the atmosphere. Now that I’ve been, I wholeheartedly agree. The food sucks, but you really can’t argue with $1.50 beers. There’s also an atmosphere that seems like it can lead to some rambunctious nights, so if that’s what you’re after, Kenka is a great choice. If I was to rate Kenka on the food alone, they’d get a 0/5 from me, but overall they get 3/5 stars because I’ll definitely be going back for the drinks and atmosphere.

Abiko Curry

The first time I visited Abiko, my mouth was sent to the fiery pits of hell, and my eyes were trying to extinguish the fire by dropping tears from above. I’d muster up some courage to take a bite, and then immediately brace myself for impact. It hurt so bad but tasted so good, I kept going back for more. I was drunk, hungry, and determined not to bitch out. Deep breaths. Ice water. Carefully wiping the tears from my face, I finished the fucking curry.

Abiko is a Japanese curry joint located at the tail end of K-town, and is home to some fantastic curry that really packs some heat. It completely lacks the usual “this is fucking spicy” signals that you’ll find at other restaurants who boast their spice. There are no skull and crossbones, warning signs, or waivers for you to sign. The menu is non-threatening, and covers a lot of ground with it’s rice, udon, and pasta dishes; all of which can be covered in curry and accompanied by beef, herb chicken, or fried cutlets of sorts. The spice levels range from 0-4, or from “baby” to “spice guru”. There are also options for spice free hashed rice and donburi for those with little to no spice tolerance.

When I mentioned that I was spiced to tears earlier, it wasn’t from the level three or four spicy, it was from a level one. Either I’m a huge wimp, or everyone else in the shop was eating mild, because that shit was MAD spicy and my friends and I were the only ones dying. We legitimately thought we were getting pranked at one point, because we could not believe a level one was that spicy. But it was spicy in a good way. Often times, things are made spicy just for the sake of being spicy, and the rest of the dish can get lost behind the spice. Abiko’s curry however, was verbally abusing me, but I couldn’t stop eating it because it was so delicious. The beef was thinly sliced, gyudon style, and gently tucked under the hellfire “medium” spicy curry. It came with some miso soup, which I thankfully drank before I was spiced out, and also some fukujinzuke (pickled veggies) that helped me along my way.

Strangely enough, the second time I went to Abiko, I was actually craving the spice that did me in the week before. I walked in fully prepared to take on the challenge but wimped out at the last second. Shamefully, I ordered a “baby level” curry with pork katsu cutlet. Fuck, it was heavenly. The medium brown curry was so smooth and complex. If the hardworking Japanese spirit had a flavor, it would be this curry. The pork cutlet was beautifully crisp, and only half of it was tucked under the curry so every other bite was flip flopping between crunchy and soft.

Although I enjoyed a pain-free meal the second time around, I am 100% planning on going back to take on the “medium” spicy again. Is it weird that I want to experience that again? Anyways, if you’re planning on going, consider this review a warning. The level one is more like what you would expect a level four to be anywhere else, so plan accordingly. My thoughts and prayers go out to the poor souls who accidentally order the level three or four. Until next time, Abiko!


I’ll just come right out and say that Chuko is now my favorite ramen spot of all time. I’ve tried a bunch of famous ramen spots all over the U.S and Japan, and Chuko takes the cake. I won’t get into arguments of whether it’s the best ramen or not, but it’s made it to the #1 spot on my ramen list. I’m telling you, it’s worth a shot. 

The Food 5/5

The menu is small and simple, and you will inevitably want to order EVERYTHING. I’ve been to Chuko twice now, and here’s everything I’ve tried (I’m already thinking about what I’ll be ordering next time):

  • Miso ramen with spicy ground pork [My most favorite] 
  • Soy ramen with egg and chashu [2nd favorite]
  • Kimchi ramen [This was my least favorite, but it’s still really good] 
  • Chili oil 
  • Spicy pickles [If you like spicy pickles, these are a must] 
  • Pork bun 
  • Kale salad [Probably the best kale salad I’ve ever had] 
  • Soy Chili Wings [These were amazing, and for the quality of wing, very fairly priced. I mean 6 wings anywhere these days is close to $10]

Chuko soy chili wings Chuko Pork Bao Bun

Every bowl is fantastic, so I don’t think you can go wrong here. If you want to stick to something classic, go for the soy. I really love the miso, but my girlfriend thought it was too butternut-squashy. The spicy ground pork is a really awesome, and something that isn’t as common as it should be. I know the appetizers are expensive, but try to order at least one because they’re really fucking good. If you’re going to order just one, I’d go for either the kale salad or the soy chili wings. The kale salad had a tangy miso dressing, some sort of crunchy potato stuff, and white raisins. Legit one of the best kale salads I’ve ever had!

Chuko soy ramenkimchi ramen

The Experience 5/5

  • My favorite thing about the staff at Chuko was that they all seemed like friends. It’s always a better experience seeing the staff joke around with each other and have fun with service. They were all really friendly, professional, and attentive.  
  • They play great music, so I asked our server what song was on. She was so excited I asked about it because it was her playlist and she even wrote down a list of artists for me to check out! 
  • They give you some really high quality napkins. 
  • They use one of the text call back systems so you can wander around 

Price/value 4/5

While not exactly cheap, Chuko isn’t expensive when compared to other ramen shops. It sits at a very average price, and for how good the bowls are, they are well deserving of the price. $14-16 bowls. The appetizers are definitely pricey at $10 each, but they’re all pretty amazing and well worth it. 


Chuko is my new favorite ramen joint. It’s near Barclays center, the food is bomb, service is great, and you have fun when you’re there. 

Side note: If you go to Chuko and have room for desert, swing by The Chocolate Room and grab a slice of their almond cake. It’s to die for.