GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Crystal Corpuz presents the sashimi platter served at Kochi by Gulick Deli on King Street.
You can go home and eat until fat
If any of you foodies has kept up with my fashion/lifestyle blog at www.starbulletin.com/blogs/fashiontribe
-- I know, I know, different area of interest -- you might have noted that I once described myself as a clothing chameleon, switching garb to suit locale.
The same is true when it comes to food. I guess "love the one you're with" might be my overall mantra.
In New York, where in Midtown by day people walk five times faster than here, I was walking so much I lost my appetite. One day I walked more than 40 blocks, from 36th to 73rd Street, crossing Central Park from the Upper East to the Upper West Side. It got to a point where I didn't even want to eat because I was getting skinny! I'd end up at a great bistro like Pastis or Balthazar and have only soup and a salad. A friend suggested that I had seen too many models during Fashion Week and was subconsciously trying to look like them.
So what did I do when I got home? The chameleon slid straight from so-called diet food right back into local grinds in a big way at Kochi Restaurant and Lounge by Gulick Deli. Diet food it's not.
There was so much news earlier this year about longtime establishments closing that it's great to see one mom-and-pop moving forward, not only by starting a second okazuya delicatessen on King Street, but expanding in a new direction next door as a full-blown local-style Japanese restaurant and lounge.
The 30 years of experience gleaned through the original Gulick's Delicatessen has paid off in good food; generous portions; decent prices; a bar and dining room more pristine than your typical lounge, and with some elegant etched-glass touches; and a capable, friendly and helpful staff.
I couldn't eat a lot when I first got back, and Kochi is well suited to address appetites of every size. That means enough greens to satisfy anyone on a perpetual diet, as well as heavy-duty Gulick Deli barbecue ribs and steak for those who must eat like a man. Small appetites are accommodated with half orders, but even those are big enough for two or three, eating family style.
I started simply with their sashimi moriawase (market price), a platter of thick-cut ahi, hamachi and salmon, just the kind of meal that made me happy to be back in Hawaii, considering my first couple of fish experiences in New York were not so good. I once ended up at an Irish bar where I swear the "snapper" on their menu was trout. Later, I saw yellowtail on an Upper East Side cafe menu and got ahi. Oh well.
Beyond the sashimi, and perhaps not wanting to think, I followed our Kochi waiter's recommendation to try the wafu tofu salad ($10.95), a stack of greens with a center of soft tofu topped with light sesame dressing; and butteryaki scallops (market) dredged in flour, seared and served with a lemony ponzu sauce.
I loved it all, so, acclimating quickly, I returned the next day for an "arranged" laulau ($4.95) of salt-brined butterfish, layered over chicken and a minimum of luau leaves, sprinkled with a mince of lup cheong. Butterfish, as good as it is plain, doesn't really need brining, so the laulau registered as being very salty. I loved the luau-infused chicken, though, and thought a bigger piece of chicken and smaller piece of fish might have provided more balance.
The idea of eating vegetables is foreign to many local diners, so Gulick has evolved to respond accordingly. Spinach salad ($11.95), therefore, is drenched with dressing. I can't fault them if that's what most people want, but my feeling is lighter is better, and people should learn to appreciate vegetables for what they are. More unusually, they've combined crumbled feta with crumbled boiled eggs to add more flavor to the salad.
I also ordered the tempura soft-shell crab, expecting to get one for the $9.50 price, which would be typical of a Japan Japanese restaurant. In Hawaii style, three arrived, cut in half, on a platter. With the same fluffy-crisp batter used with shrimp tempura on the deli side of the operation, the crab seemed to puff up to double size, which made the dish daunting, knowing it had to be eaten ASAP, while still hot.
If you have room for dessert, options include an azuki bean sundae ($6.95), flourless decadence chocolate cake ($7.50) and old-fashioned English Trifle ($6.95). I tried the strawberries Romanoff ($6.95) of fresh strawberries tossed in Grand Marnier, topped with whipped cream and served over vanilla ice cream in a parfait glass.
If my stomach was flat for a week, it's not anymore, and there's no going back now.