Review: Kuriya’s good food clashes with bad cocktails
Note: This is a Just a Taste review, which the Express-News does soon after a restaurant or bar opens to give our first impressions.
If you like the food at Kimura, you’ll probably like the food at Kuriya. That was my main takeaway after a meal at the freshly rebadged izakaya and ramen bar located a stone’s throw from the Alamodome inside The Cherrity Bar on San Antonio’s East Side.
There’s good reason for the connection.
Kuriya is a new venture from Ernie Bradley, who’s served in a management role at restaurateur Michael Sohocki’s properties, including his longstanding downtown ramen shop Kimura. In fact, Kuriya launched as Ramen Bar, an expansion of the Kimura brand, in September. Bradley took the venture over this month, and has started making his own mark on the restaurant.
He has his work cut out for him. Where Kimura feels rooted and confident in its East Pecan Street location, Kuriya is shoehorned into another concept.
The feelgood Cherrity Bar donates a portion of its profits to area charities. It’s an architectural hodgepodge of houses and shipping containers. It’s a civic-minded patio hangout with fire pits.
Kuriya is focused, disciplined and devoted to traditional Japanese cuisine. It’s a menu with headings penned in Japanese characters. It’s broth that’s been simmered for hours with a fierce attention to details.
It’s easy to like The Cherrity Bar for what it is. Ditto Kuriya. But they come off as awkward bedfellows.
While trying to focus on the nuance in a bowl of noodles, my attention strayed to a cat wandering freely in and out of a dining room. She was a cutie named Sakura (cherry blossom in Japanese), and she didn’t seem to mind that customers were eating dinner in her living room, but her presence left me wondering what she was hunting.
Where Kimura has a refined cocktail program, Kuriya serves drinks shaken to The Cherrity Bar’s standard, and it’s a low one: Lots of ice shards in ungarnished plastic cups that did little to support the refined food.
It was icehouse chill and fine dining chops knocking each other out in a sloppy headbutt. But oh, was the food good.
On the menu: Ramen Bar’s greatest hits live on at Kuriya. The newcomer’s tonkotsu ramen ($14) was every bit as silken and savory. A quartet of gyoza ($7) was ably delivered on the same slate board with the same wispy skirt of crunchy batter connecting them. The tofu yakisoba ($10) delivered the same delightful crisp over a flavorful bowl of noodles and cabbage with flakes of bonito gently waving in the dish’s rising steam.
But Kuriya is more than a cover band, and Bradley has a voice of his own that shows up in a tight lineup of new menu items.
Don’t miss the steamed buns ($7), a trio of plump and pale spheres stuffed with a generous patty of ground pork, ginger and green onions. They’re one of the more satisfying parcels of bread and meat I’ve had in some time.
Another solid win is Bradley’s new shumai ($9). Instead of a flimsy dumpling skin stuffed with meaty paste we’ve come to expect on a dim sum platter, these are robust with coarsely chopped shrimp and mushrooms tucked inside a pouch of dough that can handle the heft.
And who wouldn’t love the karaage ($8)? They’re what chicken nuggets should aspire to be, juicy meat and ginger under a flaky potato starch shell with a spicy and sweet dipping sauce on the side.
Bradley obviously has all the poise and experience to make Kuriya a success. Whether he can do that in his restaurant’s current setting is yet to be seen.
Location: 302 Montana St. (inside Cherrity Bar), 210-598-0946, Facebook: Kuriya at Cherrity Bar
Hours: 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday, 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday.
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Paul Stephen is a staff writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen