Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When in Doubt, Pinky Out: Hi-Collar

TL;DR: ★★★★★

Truly a hole in the wall in the East Village, Hi-Collar has great food, amazing coffee and affordable prices. Love the decor as well as the minimalist menu. 

Food: ★★★★★
Ambiance: ★★★★★
Staff: ★★★★☆

Price: $-$$
Number of visits: 1

10th St. Between 1st & 2nd Aves.

Andddddd now, we're finally back to the normal reviews (yay!).

While I had heard about this place from a couple friends, I never had a chance to check it out until recently when my roommates and I went out for brunch. Funny thing is, we were supposed to go to Peels — another place I was curious about — but had to change places last minute and ended up at Hi-Collar. And though I still want to check out Peels someday, I'm glad we came here for the time being!

Walking in, the first thing I noticed was how tiny the space is. It only has maybe 8 to 10 seats at the bar with barely any space for people to get through behind you. Definitely wasn't joking when I said it was a hole in the wall.

The tight space isn't a big deal, though, especially when you try their food and drinks. Hi-Collar is known for their high-quality coffee, so I had to order a cup — Japanese iced coffee with a side of soymilk.

Japanese iced coffee with soymilk

There's a reason why this place is known for coffee. This cup of joe was really, really great. It was incredibly smooth, with a rich and earthy flavor, and the aroma was intoxicating. I also absolutely loved that they served the coffee and milk in such beautiful cups. They made the experience much classier — I felt like I should drink this with my pinky up. I seriously wanted to take these home!

While sipping on the amazing coffee, we ordered 3 dishes from their 9-item food item (minimalist FTW) to share: the daily pasta, omurice and pork katsu sandwich.

They didn't really explain what the daily pasta was (though I'm sure they would've if we asked), so when the dish came out, we were very pleasantly surprised to say the least. This was a plate of spaghetti with a sweet, tomato-based sauce with bell peppers, onion and bacon. I'm about 95% sure that this was the best tomato-sauce pasta I'd ever had — certainly one of the best pastas overall. The sauce was perfectly sweet and tangy, the pasta was al dente, and the bacon, of course, was a great addition to the dish. I wish this was a permanent item on Hi-Collar's menu (and not just one of the rotating daily pastas) because I would vouch so hard for this to everyone.

Daily pasta ($8.50)

One of the classic Japanese dishes (that is ubiquitous in Korea as well) is the omurice, which is a fusion term of omelet and rice. And that's just what this is — fried rice with a plain omelet on top. This dish totally took me to Nostalgia City as it reminded me of the days I lived in Korea (oh god, it's already been almost 15 years!). It tasted just like how I remembered: the rice was sauteed w a sweet, ketchup-based sauce, with bits of onion and bacon inside, and the egg provided a creamy finish to every bite. And to make the dish even sweeter and more flavorful, they squirted more ketchup on top. Though this wasn't my favorite dish out of the bunch, it was still a really good omurice.

Omurice ($9)

And lastly, we got the katsu sandwich, which came with a side of egg salad. This was really yummy as well — the katsu was fried to perfection; you could really tell that they put a lot of thought and effort into making the meat impeccable. The skin on the katsu was great too — crunchy and salty, which went very well with the sweet brown sauce and the super-soft and slightly toasty bread. The egg salad, although good, was nothing to write home about; it was just your typical egg salad, but it served as a good palate cleanser between bites.

Pork katsu sandwich ($9)

A couple more things to note here: As for the service, the servers were nice and accommodating, but they weren't outstanding (hence the -1 star). But the decor was beautiful! I loved that they had decorative tea cups and pots and sake bottles and glasses on display — a lot of them were really gorgeous — and the simple interior design, which still maintained the Asian flair, was incredibly classy and aesthetically pleasing.

I think it's pretty obvious that I loved this place, so yes, I definitely will be coming back here. While I was here last time, I saw one of the servers preparing the hot cakes, which looked really good, so I would love to try that next time, along with a hot drip coffee.

They also have drinks and late-night snacks, so this would also be a good place to bring a date or a small group of friends after dinner. Due to the space and atmosphere, this is a very intimate and romantic setting that'll impress the hell out of whomever you're trying to impress :)


  1. I love this place!! Have been at night for drinks and snacks several times and the bartender was great with letting us taste a few sakes before ordering and the kitchen even made my friend a special vegan plate! I'll have to go for brunch sometime...

    1. Wow, what amazing service! I'll have to try coming here for drinks sometime — anything you'd recommend?

      Thanks for reading :)