I love the Hi-Collar Cafe which opened at 214 East 10th Street about a year ago. Hi-Collar is a kissaten, which is the Japanese version of a Western coffee shop. Kissaten are places where people can go to relax over a coffee, breakfast, lunch, a sandwich or a sweet.
There are no tables at Hi-Collar–just a counter with about 10 backless stools–so you can’t get too comfortable. During the day, Hi-Collar serves breakfast and lunch. They used to open early for breakfast, but currently are opening at 11:00–so check their hours before you go. At night, it turns into a bar with a long list of sakes to choose from.
During the day, you can find many typical kissaten items on its menu: omurice, which is fluffy omelet over rice, Japanese-style pancakes (i.e. thick and fluffy), and katsu (pork cutlet) sandwich. Of course, they also serve coffee. You can choose from three methods of preparation: pour over, aeropress, or siphon. I’m not sure what the differences are, but they all look like variations of science experiments with beakers and tubes and bubbling liquids and flames. They have several beans, and if you don’t know which bean you want they will serve as your coffee sommelier, asking: Do you like your coffee strong or medium? More or less acidic? More or less fruity?
Big confession: I LOVE this place, and I have NEVER had a coffee here. I’ve had a few of the food items and they have all been very nice, but what brings me back here is the kissaten style daily pasta special. The first time I went there I asked about the daily pasta–I was told “roe.” I had no idea what that would mean, but I ordered it. I got a plate of spaghetti in a very light creamy sauce, some enoki mushrooms with lots of tiny orange flying fish roe. The taste was subtle and delicious. It was good as many of the best dishes I had had from some very expensive Japanese restaurants.
Yesterday when I asked about the pasta, I thought the answer was “bonito” followed up with “garlic” and “pepperoni”. Of course I ordered it, that’s what I was there for. I’m not sure where the bonito was in the dish and pepperoni was in fact tiny rings of red peppers (sliced pepperoncini). It doesn’t matter. The dish was fabulous. The spaghetti was perfectly al dente. I don’t know how they cook it so perfectly especially in the tiny kitchen in the back. The pasta was in oil. When they were preparing the dish, the smell of garlic sautéing in oil reached me from the kitchen. But what came out was a delicate taste, with just a hint of garlic. There was also some spinach, fresh tomatoes, enoki mushrooms and shredded dried seaweed. Every once in a while I got a taste of something sweetly pungent. And don’t forget the sliced red peppers which gave the dish a perfect amount of heat. This is a dish that could go up against Del Posto’s pasta dishes–in particular it called to mind Del Posto’s spaghetti with jalapeño and crab. But there is nothing Italian about the pasta dishes at Hi-Collar. Spending time at Hi-Collar is like taking a trip to Japan. Hi-Collar’s slogan is “Flirting with the West”, but on 10th Street, it allows us to flirt with the East.
By the way, the pasta dishes at Hi-Collar are $8.50 if you also order a beverage or $10.50 a la carte.
214 East 10th St. New York, NY 10003