I remember the first time I saw Win49. It was a few years ago when I was roaming around Houston Street with my mum (although I can't remember why we were doing this, so obviously this memory is kind of fuzzy). The tagline "Homey Japanese Food" (my favorite foods tend to be homey "anything", especially Japanese food) in the bright pink sign caught my eye and differentiated it from every other Japanese restaurant I had seen, none of which said "homey" or had a weird pig face for a logo.
In the past few years, I've eaten here a grand total of...twice. It's not all that far from my dorm or school and the food is really yummy and inexpensive, but I ate there on Wednesday only because I was in the area (buying Explosions in the Sky tickets and evading online service charges!). In addition to being in the area, it really would've helped if I had been hungry.
How often am I not hungry? Not. For the love of god, I will never eat a scone for breakfast again. Maybe they expand in my stomach; I can't explain why they make me so un-hungry.
There are about 12 seats inside. The first time I ate here, one of the tables was filled up with six (or more) high school students. Annoying high school students. Don't come here in groups; it ain't cool. If you're alone though, you can grab a seat by the window and stare at East Houston Street. There weren't any customers when I got there around 1 PM, but over the next half hour other loners came in for lunch or take-out.
Remember how I said I wasn't very hungry? Well. Despite that, I got a bento box (a main dish plus two sides, miso soup, some pickled vegetables, seaweed, and edamame), which only costs $7.59, easily one of the best deals I've ever seen. You see that photo, right? This is a CRAPLOAD of food! It's too much for one person (unless the person is starving), but maybe good for two people who aren't that hungry. The first time I ate at Win49, I distinctly remember not being able to finish my rice, which was weird because I love rice. I mean, I love carbs. I've never been to a place that put curry in a cup (although I recall eating curry in nice restaurants in Japan where they'd put the curry in a separate dish and give you an assortment of condiments, not something I've seen in quite the same presentation as in the US) but it's a good idea, as it ensures that the katsu stays crisp under its layer of golden panko.
As someone who doesn't eat much deep fried food or pork, I ignore any kind of strive towards healthy eating (HAHAHAHA...whoa, what am I talking about?) in lieu of my love for pork katsu, cultivated over many years of eating pork katsu from Mitsuwa and a family friend's local Japanese take out. It's definitely my favorite kind of pork/fried meat. However, I'm not a fan of meat on sticks, specifically long sticks that seem like they could rip a hole in my throat if I'm not too careful. The other problem is that I'm not too well versed in eating things off sticks. I mean, it's awkward, isnt it? Trying to eat the meat from the side while hoping the other side doesn't plop off, turning the stick around so you don't suffer the aforementioned "throat poking" problem, all while looking like you have the eating habits of a human and not some idiot who doesn't know how to eat meat off a stick. Long after going through this process, I've decided that this is the best way to eat meat off a stick:
- Take the meat off the stick. THIS IS IMPORTANT!
- Eat the meat. Revel in its lack of poking danger.
- Throw out the stick or use it to impale someone you hate.
Oh, I really liked the meat. Just not the stick. However, the place is called Win49 because of the whole meat on a stick thing. In Japanese, 4 is shi and 9 is kyu. Kushi! ...actually, it only kinda makes sense, but there you go. But don't worry, they have craploads of other homey Japanese food: tempura, soup, udon, sushi, gyoza, chicken wings, croquettes, onigiri, donburi, and SO MUCH MORE! You can't go wrong. They have a gazillion sides that I don't feel like listing.
For my two sides, I picked seaweed salad and edamame. Why? I didn't think very hard. With so many side order choices, I ordered one of the same things I had gotten the first time I had gone (seaweed salad) and I don't know what compelled me to get edamame, as that would count as the second time I've eaten them from the pod all year. The edemame isn't very salty (I don't care either way, but it's safer to be unseasoned) and the three-seaweed salad is awesome (not like a typical seaweed salad you find in most places), if you like seaweed. The purple one was quite crunchy and had an interesting taste I can't describe. Yeah, I'm full of helpful descriptions.
I ate almost all of it. Yes. Horror. With each spoonful of rice and curry I shoved into my mouth after finishing the katsu, my stomach pleaded, "Whyy Robyn, WHY JUST STOP JESUS OW I'm gonna explode," to which I responded "Uh, I like rice and curry, go away." I love this kind of food so much that the deliciousness obliterates the part of my brain that understands moderation, replacing it with ...well, nothing. My brain just gets smaller.
I wouldn't say that Win49's food is something you should go out of your way for, but they serve my favorite kinds of food, prepare it fresh and quickly, and sell it at a great value. The only reason I'd avoid it is because of my propensity towards testing the limits of my stomach lining's elasticity. Even though I had spent about $15 the day before for some sushi and a small salad, my digestive system at least felt peaceful afterwards. After my rice/meat/curry/edamame/seaweed binge, I had to walk quickly to my cooking class, about 15 minutes away. Surprisingly, I didn't have any digestive system problems all day, but the initial "Oh god, did I just eat all that?" wasn't such a great feeling.
Uh. In conclusion, I love Win49. As tempting as it is, I just have to avoid the bento box, or fast for 24 hours before going there. They have mini donburis on the menu, which I didn't notice while looking at their adorable fake food display. It'd probably be better to get a mini donburi and one side, although that could cost about as much as the bento box. Ah. Well.