High times at Hi-Collar
Today, I'm talking about one of my very favorite places in New York. It's one of those old neighborhood favorites you almost don't want to talk too loudly about, lest they get any busier than they already are. My boyfriend actually introduced me to this spot on a morning-after breakfast somewhere around date four or five - at least I was sure he had good taste early on.
Hi-collar is a tiny Japanese haunt in the heart of the east village. Restaurant by day & sake bar by night, the space is only wide enough to seat a single row of guests at it's reflective gold foil bar. The wait staff are cheery & friendly as they bustle along behind the bar - shuttling food back and forth from the kitchen.
Before we even get to the food, lets talk about the coffee. Hi-collar specializes in siphon-brewed coffee, a method of brewing that is as beautiful as it is functional. Siphon coffee was popularized in the mid 1800s by the French, but since then the Japanese have (as they tend to do) refined some of the best equipment to do it with.
Siphon cooking utilizes the physics of vapor pressure to brew a uniquely delicate, almost tea-like cup of coffee. If you're a true coffee snob (owning up to it right now), this is a must-drink, and it's also just so fun to watch. [If you're curious to learn more about siphon brewing - check out this article]
The signature lunch dishes here are the omurice and katsu sandwich - the sandwich is good, but I always come back for the omurice. Omurice is a western-inspired Japanese omelette dish, which I believe is popular among children in Japan. It's simple, but always satisfying - rice is pan-fried with chicken & ketchup and shaped into a small oval round & a fluffly omelette is draped over it. What can I say, Japanese kids really know their stuff.
Another excellent dish on the menu is the mentai cream pasta. The roe brings a salty & briney tang to the cream sauce, while the mushrooms add more earthy notes to the dish. It's overall an incrediblly unique pasta preparation that I come back for time and again.
If you're looking for something on the sweeter end of the palate, order the hot cakes. These are some of the fluffiest pancakes you've ever seen, and the texture is delicate and sponge-like, almost reminiscent of an angel cake. Their speciality butter is the perfect complement - not too sweet, but incredibly creamy & endlessly luxurious.
If you've never been to Hi-Collar, it's absolutely worth your time. But be warned, seating is tight and it's definitely not a neighborhood secret at this point - so show up early or be prepared to wait.