Tuesday, February 21, 2006


"Kenka" means "fight" in Japanese, and while I am scared of violence, I LOVE this izakaya on St. Mark's Place. I don't need to justify WHY to you people, but here is a biggie up top:

$1.50 large pints of Sapporo.

And get this: it is CHEAPER to order INDIVIDUAL pints than it is to order a PITCHER. Forget that the Japanese are a people reputed to be "good with numbers." I know it makes no sense at all, but I will happily forego rationale and stereotypes if it means I can imbibe fermented hops at wholesale prices.

Kenka also serves all manner of tasty treats: they've got sweet, rich okinomiyaki (a cabbage-filled omelette/pancake studded with grated ginger), agi dashi dofu (fried tofu in bonito-flake fish broth), and bull penis (a bull's ding-dong). I haven't tried the latter, nor have I tried the turkey testicle, but they are legitimate menu items, so SOMEONE is ordering them.

The menu is extensive; vegetarians, meat-lovers, AND turkey tea-baggers will find something to eat and enjoy. But it's not JUST Kenka's awesome menu that keeps me coming back, nor are its CHEAPO prices. No, I keep coming back to Kenka for a little thing I like to call AMBIENCE.

Let's start with the music: It BLASTS through old MTA subway speakers and is exclusively AXIS-ERA JAPANESE PROPAGANDA SONGS. Even though I don't speak Japanese I've frequented Kenka enough times that I'm starting to think that Emperor Hirohito might have been on to something.

Then there's the crowd: It's a mix of East Village hipsters, Japanese expats, and Japanese tourists. And here's some trivia for you: alcohol turns Asian people ruddy. Every time I go to Kenka it seems as if the entire crowd just became collectively embarrassed. Not so: the entire crowd is merely drunk. Raucously so.

Other miscellaneous ambient details include: vintage pornographic illustrations on the menus depicting beastiality; a working cotton candy machine with free mini-cups of sugar; a glass-enclosed "outdoor" smoking room in the back of the restaurant; low wooden chairs and butcher-block style tables.

I last visited Sunday night. My companions were Becca and Jed, my married friends who somehow make me NOT feel like a third wheel even though I clearly am, and our friend Brian. Brian was CRUCIAL to this Kenka visit, and here's why:


Basically, Brian is to Meeting People as Steven Hawking is to Quantum Theories on The Origin Of The Universe. Brian is to Making Friends With Strangers as William Shakespeare was to Writing Plays About Hubris and Revenge. Brian is to Getting People On Board For Fun as Analaogies Are To The SAT's. He is A Total Dude!

So we're all drinking beer and sake and ordering up yummy yum yums, and our polite foursome is having a perfectly fun time. And though Brian trusts me in my menu suggestions, I can tell he'd like another opinion. A more JAPANESE opinion. I can tell because he begins talking to the five-top of Japanese students next to our table. And literally, within 10 minutes, we have become an impolite ninesome by combining tables, and now we are drinking glasses of Sochu, a Korean potato liquor, and better bottles of sake, and more beer.

The Japanese students are red in the face. They are funny and they think that WE are funny, and they flatter me by telling me that I look like Riv Tyrer and by asking me to "show us your tits, please!" It's only adorable because immediately after their request, they get completely embarrassed, cover their faces with their hands, apologize, and shake their heads...but a couple of minutes later they ask again. I don't indulge them because I am a lady not a tramp. I do, however, take pictures with all of them, as do Becca, Jed, and Brian, and each time we take a picture we are made to take another one, "this time, with crazy face!" We all comply. Happily.

So it's a madcap good time. And then our new Japanese friends start teaching us Japanese. They start simply, with numbers. They teach us how to count to ten. They are smart, because they apply mnemonic devices to the words, pointing to their knees when they say "ni," and looking to the sky when they say "san." But at number ten things take a turn. Ten in Japanese is pronounced "jew." Their mnemonic device for "jew" is to make like they have yarmulkes on their heads and to laugh hysterically.

Which is...HILARIOUS.
Because their new American friends ARE ALL JEWS.
Like, Bar and Bat Mitzvah'd JEWS!

We didn't make any Hiroshima jokes because you know what? Hiroshima was NOT FUNNY!

But Nagasaki...now THAT was comedy gold!

No, no.

Boooo, Megan.

I made no such joke.

My new friends were too good for that.
I am too good for that.

And besides: I really love Kenka, but I'm not looking for a kenka.


Blogger Lockheed Hayheehoo Macedon said...

Yes, Yakiniku Matsu on St. Marks is a perennial joy. The chicken skin skewer is a blatant unhealthy crime, but a 'virtuous' crime, like kids spraying silly string at each other at a 'Tween Party'.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous arch-ie said...

I thought I could control myself. I got through most of the description of your St. Marks Place hysterical food happening pretty well. I was proud. I survived. Until I got to the Nagasaki thing. That's where me and the chair took leave and I burst out in overload laughter. Good grief girl, didn't you lecture us enough to be nice to people and not to offend? But such guilty pleasure; it WAS funny! OhMyGosh, it hurts......

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Mom said...

Oh, I'm so glad you didn't show your tits.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Mom: you are awesome!

5:09 PM  
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